Praying in places of worship other than Mosques

A question was asked about praying in places of worship other than a mosque: Is it permissible to pray in a church, synagogue, or monastery if there is a need to do so; there not being an available place to make prayers or to pray Jumuah?

Answer:

Praying in a church is permissible due to the following:

1- The Prophet said “The earth was made a place of prayer for me…”; Churches and similar places are included in the generality of this hadeeth.

2- Applying this hadith, Ibn Abbas would pray in Christian monasteries, except those that contained pictures or statues [this is narrated by al-Bukhari].

3- The permissibility of doing so has also been narrated from other Sahabah, such as Umar and Abu Musa. Other pious people of the past were seen praying in churches and monasteries, such as Umar ibn AbdulAziz. [Reference the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah for more information].

Some scholars disliked praying in these places due to the pictures and statues, and others due to them being places in which Allah is disobeyed. This view correlates to ability and necessity when choosing a place to pray (please see below).

Certain considerations should be made if prayer is to be performed in a church or similar place:

1- It is preferable that no pictures, statues, or crosses be located in this place.

a. If this is unavoidable, then preferably they should be removed from the direction of the qiblah while praying.

b. If this is not possible, then they should be covered up, and the Imam should not face any pictures or statues when leading the prayer.

2- This is understood from the Prophet’s actions in Makkah, when he would pray facing the kabah even though there were still 365 idols surrounding the Kabah.

3- However after Islam entered Makkah and the people accepted Islam, he did not enter the Kabah until the idols and pictures were removed. This shows us a differentiation between ability and necessity when choosing the place to pray and the surroundings therein.

And Allah knows best

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