Churches

Posted on 03/22/2012 by marina

CHURCHES. Arabic Bia’h and Kunisah, which terms include equally churches and synagogues. The construction of churches or synagogues in Muslim territory is unlawful, this being forbidden in the Traditions: but as for places of worship which belonged to the Jews or Christians before the country was conquered by the Muhammadan power, they are at liberty to repair them, because the buildings cannot endure for ever, and, as the Imam of the Muslim army has left these people to the exercise of their own religion, it is a necessary inference that he has engaged not to prevent them from building or repairing their churches or synagogues, however, they attempt to remove these, and to build them in a place different from their former situation, the Imam must prevent them, since this is an actual construction. Monasteries and hermitages are under the same Law. Places of prayer within their dwellings are allowed to be constructed because they are merely an appurtenance to a private habitation. What is here said is held to be the rule with regard to cities, but not with respect to villages, because as the “tokens of Islam” (i.e. prayer, festivals, &c.) appear in cities, zimmis (i.e. those paying tax for protection) should not be permitted to exhibit the tokens of their infidelity in the face of Islam. But as the tokens of Islam do not appear in villages, the erection of churches and synagogues is not prohibited there. But the Imam Abu Hanifah held that this exemption merely applied to the village of Kusa, where the greater part of the inhabitants were zimmis. He adds that in the country of Arabia, Jews and Christians are prohibited from constructing synagogues and churches, either in cities or villages, according to the saying of the Prophet, “Two religions cannot exist in the country of Arabia.” (Hidayah, book ix. c. viii.)
If a Jew or a Christian, being in sound health, build a church or a synagogue and then die, such building is an inheritance, and descends to the heirs of the founder. According to Abu Hanifah, it is a pious appropriation; but his two disciples hold such erections to be sinful, and only to be considered as ordinary property. If a Jew or a Christian will that his house after his death shall be converted into either a synagogue or church, the bequest is valid. (Hidayah, book lii. c. vi.)
The following tradition related by Talaq Ibn `Ali (Mishkat, iv. c. viii. 2) exhibits Muhammad’s determination to destroy Christian churches: “We told the Prophet that there was a church on our ground; and we requested the favour of his giving us the water which remained after he had performed wazu. And the Prophet called for water, performed wazu and washed out his mouth; after which he poured the water for us into a vessel and ordered us to return, saying, ‘When you arrive, destroy your church (Arabic bi`ah), and pour this water on the spot, and build a mosque there.”

Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam