Is it Allowable to Pray (Ṣalāt) in Churches Where Images are Present?

Al-ʿAllāmah Ibn Taymiyyah

A brief point of benefit from Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah concerning praying in churches/places that contain images.
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These places are not considered to be houses of Allāh. Actually, the masājid are the only houses of Allāh. (The places asked about) are houses (where people) disbelieve in Allāh, even though He may be mentioned in them. The houses are classed according to the people that inhabit them. If these houses are occupied by non-Muslims then these are houses where the non-Muslims worship.

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah

Shaykh Al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allāh have mercy upon him) was asked: Is it allowable to pray (Salāt) in churches where images are present, and is it (correct) to say that these places are houses of Allāh?

He responded: 1 These places are not considered to be houses of Allah. Actually, the masājid are the only houses of Allāh. (The places asked about) are houses (where people) disbelieve in Allāh, even though He may be mentioned in them. The houses are classed according to the people that inhabit them. If these houses are occupied by non-Muslims then these are houses where the non-Muslims worship.

As for praying in these areas, then there are three opinions held by the scholars, those who adhere to the madhab of Ahmed and other than this madhab.

1. That it is absolutely impermissible. This is the stance of Mālik.
2. That it is absolutely permissible. This is the opinion of some scholars
who follow the madhab of Ahmed.
3. (The third opinion) and this is the correct stance: If images are
present, then it is impermissible to pray in these buildings because the angels do not enter a house where images are present, and the Prophet would not enter the Ka’bah until the images were eradicated.

‘Umar also said: ‘We do not enter their churches whilst images are present.’ These places are to be treated the same as a Masjid that is built upon a grave. This (verdict) has been narrated upon ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattāb and others; it has also been recorded from Ahmed and others other than him.

In Bukhari and Muslim, it is reported that someone made mentioned to the Prophet the beauty and images present in a church in Ethiopia. He responded by saying: ‘If a righteous person dies from amongst them they build a place of worship upon his grave, and they make those types of images. On the day of Judgement, the people responsible for this act will be the most immoral of the creation with Allah.’

Conversely, if there are no images present, then the companions prayed in this type of church. And Allaah knows best.

Endnotes:
[1] Majmū’ Al-Fatāwa 22/162

Published: August 18, 2007
Edited: September 1, 2022

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