Churches, synagogues and mosques are all places of worship, wherein the name of God the Creator and Lord of the entire universe is oft-commemorated. Thus, they all are very sacred and holy and deserve to be respected and honoured fully, irrespective of the denomination to which they belong.
But, unfortunately there are some countries which do not allow the building of churches or other places of worship in their countries. Also, there are some people who are not paying full respect to the places of worship which do not belong to them or which are not the symbols of their religion. But, I believe that all places of worship, whatever the religion they belong to, whoever are the worshipers, whatever the way they worship God, they are sacred and holy and must be respected fully, in every country, in every part of the world and by all people.
I always find the news I am going to mention of great discomfort, in which I read sanctions on building places of worship or attacks on the places of worship. I read such news with great grief, sadness and sorrow whenever any place of worship is attacked, damaged, demolished and disrespected. Or any religious symbol has been dishonoured by the people of other faiths.
I have been asked many times questions, also I have read many comments and writings about these subjects, that: ‘‘Why churches are attacked in Muslim countries? Why Muslim countries do not allow the building of churches?’’ Both these are very important and valid questions, and I will try to shed some light on these issues.
- The burning of churches in Muslim countries:
Recently I read that some churches were attacked in some Muslim countries. In September there was an attack on Christians at their congregation from HKBP church in Bekasi, Indonesia, by some hard-line Muslims. On September 12, a church in Mardan, north-western Pakistan was bombed and two Christians were injured, one of them seriously.
And on 18th September a Pentecostal church in Karachi was attacked and vandalized by unidentified Muslim men at around midnight; nine copies of the Bible, three hymn books and three wooden crosses were found burnt on the spot. Some musical instruments were also found damaged; hurting the sentiments of the local Christians.
These all are very sad and heinous attacks, they all are against the freedom of faith and against basic human rights. We condemn these attacks categorically, with the strongest terms and we appeal to the authorities to bring the culprits, who have taken the law into their own hands, in front of justice.
These attacks are completely against Islamic teachings, Islam does not provide any cover or justification to such inhuman and uncivilized attacks, but, on the contrary Islam teaches Muslims to protect and defend places of worship which belong to other religions. The Quran mentions that Muslims are to defend churches and synagogues if they are attacked, even before defending their own mosques.
‘‘Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly, only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ – And if Allah had not repelled some people by means of others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft remembered, would surely have been destroyed. And Allah will, surely, help him who helps Him. Allah is, indeed, Powerful, Mighty.’’ (Quran: 22:41)
Such heinous attacks were not allowed even during wars and it was forbidden to attack and demolish places of worship. In the charter addressed to all Christians living as citizens in Muslim countries, the Holy Founder of Islam, states:
“None of their churches and other places of worship will be desolated or destroyed or demolished. No material of their churches will be used to build mosques or houses for the Muslims; any Muslim doing so will be regarded as recalcitrant to Allah and His Prophet.
“Every help shall be given them in the repair of their churches. They shall be absolved of wearing arms. They shall be protected by the Muslims. Let this document not be disobeyed till Judgment Day.” (Quoted from Balâdhar)
- Building churches in Muslim countries:
There are many Churches in present day Muslim countries e.g. Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, and Indonesia. This is in line with the freedom of religion given in Islam. Islam believes in full freedom of faith and rejects any sort of force or violence in the matters of religion, the Holy Quran says:
‘‘There should be no compulsion in religion’’ [2:257]; ‘‘for you is your religion and for me is my religion’’ [109:7].
That is to say, that no one has the right to force others into complying with their demands or compelling others to follow their line of thinking. These verses have clearly showed that no one has the right to force anyone against his will to believe or to deny any faith or religion. But the choice of faith is a personal matter of someone. And everyone is allowed fully to build the place of worship according to his beliefs and he can pray freely.
However it is right to note that some Muslim countries have gone against this Islamic injunction and prohibited collective worship by non-Muslims. This is wrong and completely unacceptable. Never did the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) forbid the building of a church, nor did he order the demolition of a church.
Once during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, a Christian delegation from Najran came to Medina to have inter-faith dialogues with Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad showed them great hospitality, had discussions, with them for many days in his mosque in Medina, which is called ‘‘Mosque of the Prophet’’. At one time during the discussion the Christian delegation asked for permission to go out for some time. The Prophet Muhammad asked them, ‘‘Why do you want to go out?’’ They replied, ‘‘It is our prayer time and we would like to go out and to pray outside this mosque.’’ The Prophet said: ‘it is also a house of Allah; you may pray and worship in this mosque’. And he spared them the place in his mosque and went out with his companions so that the Christians could pray easily according to their faith and beliefs.
This incident and above mentioned teachings of Quran clearly show that not only building churches is permitted in Muslim states but also it is permitted that Christians can pray in Muslim mosques. In the light of these teachings the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has opened the doors of its mosques to all, and to the people of different faiths, and tries to tie the bonds of love, respect and brotherhood.