By: Ansar Raza
O ye who believe! Surely, the idolaters are unclean. So they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year of theirs. And if you fear poverty, Allāh will enrich you out of His bounty, if He pleases. Surely, Allāh is All-Knowing, Wise. (9:28)
Islām is a universal religion and invites everyone to its fold. There is no discrimination on the basis of religion, race, or culture. However, based on a wrong interpretation of the above verse of the Holy Qur’ān, some Muslim scholars believe that non-Muslims cannot visit the Holy Ka`aba or even enter in the two holy cities Mecca and Medina. However, a simple study of the above verse and the perfect and sublime example of the Holy Prophetsa shows that the above interpretation is incorrect.
First of all, we need to understand that apparently, only those who associate others with God, I’ll call them idolaters, are declared unclean and prohibited to approach the Sacred Mosque. Their uncleanness or impurity is not physical but spiritual, based on their belief in other gods beside God, their old rituals during Hajj and Umra of naked circling around Ka`aba and having their idols with them. According to Hadrat Imām Abū Hanifārh and certain other Hanafī scholars, these idolaters can enter any mosque, even the Sacred Mosque. However, they are not allowed to perform Hajj and Umra with their idolatrous rituals. A scholar, Wahbā Al-Zahīlī, teacher of fiqh and head of department of Islāmic Shari`a in Damascus university, Syria has explained in Vol.6, pg. 434-435 of his “The Islāmic Fiqh and its Arguments”, published by Dar-ul-Fikr, Damascus:
that it is not the meaning of the verse (surely, the idolaters are unclean. So they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque) these people are prohibited to enter Sacred Mosque. The meaning is that they do not perform Hajj or Umra as they used to do in the time of ignorance.
Secondly, the above verse explicitly declares the idolaters ‘unclean’ and specifically forbids only them to enter the Sacred Mosque and perform idolatrous rituals. Consequently, the followers of monotheistic religions, e.g., Jews and Sikhs, are not prohibited to visit the Holy Ka`aba and enter in the two holy cities, i.e., Mecca and Medina.
Another argument in favour of this explanation is that this House of Allāh has been declared in the Holy Qur’ān to be made not only for Muslims but for all of humanity.
Surely, the first House founded for mankind is that at Becca, abounding in blessings and a guidance for all peoples. (3:97)
Therefore, a place, founded for all of humanity from day one, cannot be limited to one particular section of people.
It is very well known fact that the Mosque of the Holy Prophetsa in Medina is also a Sacred Mosque. During the life-time of the Holy Prophetsa, a group of Christian priests visited Medina. This group was not only allowed to enter in the Mosque of the Holy Prophetsa but also allowed to worship there according to their faith.
In the light of the above verses of the Holy Qur’ān, the best example of the Holy Prophetsa, and the Islāmic Fiqh rule, non-Muslims are allowed to enter in Mecca and Medina and visit the Sacred Mosques there provided they respect the sanctity of these places and do not perform idolatrous rituals worshipping somebody other than One True God.