Can a Muslim Country Prevent Non-Muslims From Building New Places of Worship?
Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.
I pray you are well.
The Classical Ruling
Yes, according to the Hanafi school, a Muslim state can prevent Non-Muslims from building new places of worship in a city established by Muslims and in a place that was conquered by Muslims. However, if there was a treaty stating that the land remained the property on Non-Muslims but the Muslims would have a right to the crops grown there, then establishing new places of worship is permissible for them (al Mawsu’a al Kuwaitiyya).
Contextualizing This Historically
Historically, people lived with those who shared their faith and values, in general. The idea of nation-states, which is the dominant form of social contract in countries, is a relatively new one.
This is why invasion and establishing empires is not a concern of countries today. The world sees things as being inherently different.
In the past, the idea was the Muslims would live amongst themselves and establish just societies to promote justice and a way of life according to the standards of Islam. This was not due to the notion that a particular political system was superior. It was rooted in the reality of this life being a test, and the Afterlife being the true life.
Muslims wanted to live in a way that promoted the best standard of living for them in this life and the next. So, if a Non-Muslim wanted to benefit from the amenities of such a place and enjoy the freedom of practicing their own religion at the cost of a tax, they were free to do so.
For Non- muslims to establish new places of worship in that place would undermine the purpose of such a country. Therefore, the classical ruling made sense. You will see the same understanding in the Vatican and in other places. Democratic countries don’t usually accept the promotion of Fascism for the same principle.
Can a modern Muslim country choose to apply the same ruling now? The simple answer is: yes. They are free to establish any laws they see fit for the promotion of the wellbeing in their country. Every state has that right – as long as it doesn’t involve compromising basic human rights.
Could a Muslim country allow the establishment of these places of worship? This could be argued, but I feel it is something that a legal body, such as a Fiqh Council should decide, and consider its wider implications.
I hope that helps.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.