Demolishing idols in a non-Muslim country
Fatwa No: 190575

Question

Assalamu Alaikum, In the Quran, Allah says that Abraham destroyed the idols to teach the people that idols don't have any power. In another place, Quran asks to follow the religion of Abraham. Is it required for a muslim living in a hindu country to destroy the idols. Will this not cause religious hatred and communal violence? Is it allowed to construct hindu temple in an islamic country?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

There is Islamic evidence that it is an obligation to demolish idols and statues, among which is the Hadeeth narrated by ‘Amr ibn ‘Abasah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him that he asked the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ): ''What did Allaah send you with?” He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “He sent me to keep ties with kinship and demolish idols, and that Allaah Alone should be worshipped without associating anything with Him.” [Muslim]

Also, Abu Al-Hayyaaj Al-Asadi  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said: “ ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said to me: “Shall I send you for a mission once the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) had sent me for: Do not leave an idol unless it is destroyed, nor you leave an up leveled grave unless you level it down to ground.'' [Muslim] 

However, this is restricted to the ability of the Muslims in doing so and them being safe from causing a greater harm. Our best example is that of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) as he used to go to the House of Allaah and perform Tawaaf (circumambulation around the Ka‘bah) while there were 360 idols around it but he did not cause harm to any of them until after the conquest of Makkah and after the Muslims became strong and the polytheists were no longer ruling over Makkah; it was then that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) destroyed the idols. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) prodded the idols with a bow while saying: “The truth has come and falsehood has vanished.” The story is narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim.

The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) used to take into consideration the prevailing circumstances and leave that which could lead to a greater evil despite the fact that it was permissible in principle. The evidence about this is the Hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her who said: “I asked the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) about Al-Hijr (the area adjacent to the Ka’bah enclosed by a low semi-circular wall), is it from the House (of Allaah)? He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: ’Yes.’ I said, ‘Why did they not include it in the House?’ He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: ’Your people did not have enough resources to spend on it.’ I said: ’Why is the level of its door raised high?’ He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: ’Your people did so, so that they would let whomever they want to enter it and prevent whomever they want from entering it. Your people are close to the Pre-Islamic Period of Ignorance; so I fear that they would reject if I included the Hijr in the House and make its door at a level with the ground.’ ” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Besides, what the Prophet Ibraaheem (Abraham)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention did does not contradict what we have stated, as he did not do that matter until he was capable of doing it and being secure from being harmed. Ibn ‘Aashoor  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said while interpreting the verse (which means): {And [I swear] by Allaah, I will surely plan against your idols after you have turned and gone away.} [Quran 21:57]: "He conditioned that his plan (agaist their idols) be after they depart in order to indicate that he will inflict harm on the idols as soon as he will be able to do so. This proves his strong determination to change evil, because taking the initiative to change evil although it is by hand (physically), is a rank of strong determination, but he would not be able to do so in the presence of idolaters. So, if he were to try to demolish it in their presence, then his act will be in vain. What is meant from changing evil: is to remove it as much as possible, so removing it by hand can only be done with the existence of the ability to do so."

Finally, it should be noted that it is not permissible for the Muslims to allow non-Muslims to establish one of their temples in a Muslim country, let alone the Muslim country establishing it itself. The conditions that ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him put on the non-Muslims living safely in a Muslim country under Muslim rule included: “….that we will not erect in our city any church….”

Allaah Knows best.

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