Prepared by Abu Ibrahim J. Starling
As Muslim communities in America, the prophetic model of the mosque has been revitalized in many ways. To stay connected with each other, our masjids have become central hubs which provide a safe environment and help tie our minority population together. In recent times the masjid has become a place of intrigue for many non-Muslims. At times we are called to open the doors of Allāh’s house to peoples other faiths in order that they may learn more about the Muslim community. Before accommodating such requests we must consider the following important factors in light of our tradition.
- The masjid is a place or worship.
The masjid is a sanctified place dedicated to the remembrance of Allāh who says what means, “In houses (mosques), which Allah has ordered to be raised, in them His Name is glorified in the mornings and in the afternoons or the evenings. Men whom neither trade nor sale diverts them from the Remembrance of Allah, nor from performing As-Salat, nor from giving the Zakat. They fear a Day when hearts and eyes will be overturned.” This primary purpose must never be impeded as Allāh says, “And who is more unjust than those who forbid that Allah's Name be glorified and mentioned much (i.e. prayers and invocations, etc.) in Allah's Mosques and strive for their ruin? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them (Allah's Mosques) except in fear. For them there is disgrace in this world, and they will have a great torment in the Hereafter”.
- The masjid is a symbol of pure monotheism.
The masjid serves the entire community as a guiding sign of true faith and monotheism. Therefore, Allāh has commanded that His house remain pure from the defilement of polytheism by saying, “And when We designated for Abraham the site of the House, ‘Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House (from idolatry) for those who perform Tawaf and those who stand and those who bow and prostrate’”. This was certainly true for the holy sanctuary in Makkah and applies to all other houses of worship belonging to Him! These facilities are dedicated to Allāh and act as symbols of pure monotheism which should never be compromised as Allāh says, “And the mosques are for Allah (Alone), so invoke not anyone along with Allah.”
- The masjid is a place of purity and cleanliness.
Due to the nature of the facility and its activities, attendees should be clean and pure. Allāh prohibits the faithful from staying in the masjid while intoxicated or ritually impure with His statement, “O you who believe! Approach not As-Salat (the prayer) when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning) of what you utter nor when you are in a state of major impurity, except when travelling on the road (without enough water, or just passing through a mosque), till you wash your whole body. And if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes after answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (by sexual relations) and you find no water, perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands. Truly, Allah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.” Therefore, out of respect for the masjid, visitors of all backgrounds should be both pure of mind and body.
- The masjid is a place of dignity.
Visiting the masjid is to be done in a dignified manner. Appropriate attire suitable for a house of worship is required when entering. Allāh says what means, “O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” This verse was revealed in refutation of the polytheist who circumambulated the holy house while in the nude. Both men and women should adhere to the Islamic code of dress when visiting a house of Allāh out of respect and to avoid indecent and shameful behavior.
- The masjid is managed by the God-fearing believers.
The masjid is the sanctuary of the faithful and it is they who have been charged with its care and management. Allāh says, “The Mosques of Allah shall be maintained only by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day; perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat and fear none but Allah. It is they who are expected to be on true guidance.” Only God-fearing righteous believers should be in charge of masjid management, especially when it comes to setting policy and enforcing rules. It is only they who are expected to make guided decisions when it comes to facility usage.
The houses of Allāh are not like any other facility and cannot be treated as such. These dedicated spaces of devotion have very particular rules, more numerous than previously mentioned, in order to preserve their sanctity. These rules must be considered not only by their faithful patrons but also by their managers when opening the doors to guests. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) on several occasions permitted peoples of other faiths to enter the masjid. Their visitation was for very specific purposes; mainly their own guidance. The Prophet (peace be upon him), divinely guided, was able to keenly weigh the expected benefits and potential harms and as a result the majority of those invited into the masjid eventually accepted Islām. We too must consider not only who we allow in our mosques but the goal of their visit. If the goal is for them to discover Islam and their guidance is likely, their entrance is permitted. All visitors should be expected to adhere to the rulings of the masjid unless exception is legally permitted. If someone wishes to visit the masjid for a fruitless purpose, their visit should be discouraged due to their breach of protocol greatly outweighing any possible benefit. If someone were to seek entrance to the masjid to harm the congregation by misleading, misguiding, abusing, or mistreating them, there is no doubt that they should be prevented.
As stewards of these houses and callers to Islām a great deal of knowledge and wisdom is required to achieve a guided balance of properly managing our mosques, maintaining their sanctity, protecting the interests of their believing patrons, and inviting people of other faiths to join us in OUR houses of worship. Due to the sacred nature of the location we should never feel pressured to compromise its sanctity for the sake of accommodation.
Allāh knows best…
Footnotes with active links where available:
 Abu Huraira narrated that “The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent some cavalry towards Najd and they brought a man from the tribe of Banu Hanifa who was called Thumama bin Uthal. They fastened him to one of the pillars of the Mosque.” Sahih al-Bukhari, 4372, Book 64, Hadith 398
 On the authority of ʿUthmān ibn. Abī al-ʿĀṣ, “A delegation of Thaqīf approached the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) and he had them enter the masjid in order that it may soften their hearts…” Musnad Imam Ahmad, 17913, Vol. 29, pg. 438
 Al-Muwaffaq opines, “…If the (Muslims) permit their (non-Muslims) entrance it is permissible according the correct position of the (Ḥanbalī) school, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) entered a delegation from Al-Ṭāʾif into the masjid before they accepted Islām…”. Al-Mughni, Ibn Qudamah, Vol. 9, pg. 359