Respecting, protecting places of worship

Laiq Ahmed Atif, president, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta, Ta’ Xbiex

Religious places are built to worship in them, and wherein the name of Allah the Creator of the entire universe is oft commemorated. Places of worship are very sacred and holy irrespective of the denomination to which they belong; Jews, Hindus, Christians or Muslims, they are all worthy of respect and protection.

During the last few months in some countries, some churches were attacked and set on fire by some fundamentalist Muslims. The Ahmadiyya Community as always very strongly condemned such violent actions, at that time. But what does Islam say on this subject?

Islam teaches its followers to defend places of worship belonging to different religions against desecration or destruction. Having laid down the principle that all religions have their origin in Divine revelation and that the founders of all religions were divine messengers and should therefore be equally respected, the Quran has enjoined upon the Muslims to defend, even with their lives, all the places of worship – the churches, the synagogues, the temples, the cloisters, the mosques, etc. And Islam always instructs to establish freedom of belief and worship.

During the wars it was forbidden to kill religious leaders – priests or rabbis – in their respective places of worship, and to attack and demolish places of worship. Muslims have been made to promise that they will help defend the followers of other faiths from unjust and cruel attacks as well. For example, in his charter for all time to come addressed to all Christians living as citizens under Muslim rule, the Holy Founder of Islam, states:

“I promise that any monk or wayfarer who will seek my help on the mountains, in forests, deserts or habitations, or in places of worship, I will repel his enemies with my friends and helpers, with all my relatives and with all those who profess to follow me and will defend them, because they are my covenant.

“And I will defend the covenanted against the persecution, injury and embarrassment of their enemies in lieu of the poll tax they have promised to pay. If they prefer to defend their properties and persons themselves, they will be allowed to do so and will not be put to any inconvenience on that account.

“No bishop will be expelled from his bishopric, no monk from his monastery, no priest from his place of worship, and no pilgrim will be detained in his pilgrimage.

“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.

“Monks and Bishops will be subject to no tax or indemnity whether they live in forests or on rivers, in the East or in the West, in the North or in the South.

“I give them my word of honour. They are on my promise and covenant and will enjoy perfect immunity from all sorts of inconveniences.

“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).

These few lines should be enough to condemn such actions of so-called Muslims who are raising guns and attacking the places of worship which belong to other religions. Such barbaric actions have no place in Islam; these should also be sufficient to tie the bonds of love, respect and brotherhood. May Allah enable us to spread love, peace, respect and tolerance throughout the world.

The Times: Saturday, 6th March 2010

About Laiq Ahmed Atif E: Mob: +35679655255
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