From the Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet ﷺ, peace be upon him)
It is reported in authentic collections of hadith (narrations of the Prophet ﷺ), such as al-Bukhāri’s, that the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) allowed Thumāma bin Athāl to be held in the mosque in Medina before his conversion to Islam. This is used by the majority of scholars to prove that people of other faiths can enter mosques. It is also well established that the Christians of Najrān visited the Prophet’s mosque.
Both of these reports are important in understanding the following part of Qur’an,
“Indeed the polytheists are filthy so do not let them near the sacred mosque after this year” (Qur’an 9:28).
Opinions of the Fuqahā
Regarding people of other faiths being refused entry into mosques, the scholars had four opinions:
1. It was only for the sacred mosque in Mecca
2. It was for Mecca
3. It was for all mosques
4. It was for the Hajj and ‘Umra only (meaning they are not allowed to make Hajj or Umra)
The first opinion was that of Imam al-Shāf’i, the second Imam Ahmad’s, the third Imām Mālik’s and the fourth was Imām Abū Hanifa’s.
The Stronger Opinion
The stronger opinion is Abu Hanifa’s based on the authentic hadith of Thumama mentioned above and the statement of the Caliph ‘Ali after this verse was revealed, “No polytheist should observe pilgrimage after this year.”
What Does Filthy Mean?
As for the word “filthy” majority of the scholars hold that it is a spiritual filth not a physical one, since there is a legal consensus that all humans are considered pure. Hence a Muslim man is allowed to hold his non-Muslim wife’s hand without making wudu and even engage in intercourse with her, the ghusul (ritual bathing) being for their sexual relation, not because of her faith.
Sh. Sābouni wrote:
“The majority opinion is correct (that they are not physically filthy) because we are allowed to interact with them (even buy things from them like food) without prohibition.”
A Crucial Point
Even scholars who forbade Non-Muslims from entering the mosques allowed it if there was a benefit of da’wah (outreach) or creating good relations.
“If there is a benefit of da’wah, increasing good relations or improving the image of Islam, it is allowed.”
We at the ISBCC strive to dedicate ourselves to an authentic expression of Islam that best suits our realities here. Showing others our faith and our community is from the objectives of shariah (Islamic law) and it is in upholding them that we follow the fatwa (ruling) of Imām Abu Hanifa radi Allahu anhu (May God be pleased with him).
Allah knows best.
Imam William Webb