Dawah (Outreach) History Prophet Muhammad

Can a non-Muslim person be in the Masjid?

Question: Can a non-Muslim person be in the Masjid?


Thank you for your question.

From the Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet ﷺ, peace be upon him)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyenero/4884032971/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 verse 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

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


    • Over thirty years ago, I, as a (then) non-Muslim wanted to learn something about Islam. In the (US) city where I then lived, opportunities to do so in person were limited. I found a small mosque and asked to attend a discussion group on Sunday afternoon for my own learning. I would sit quietly on the side of the circle, occasionally asking polite questions for my own information and understanding. Before long, however, the word was passed to me that I was not welcome and that I was not to come back. So much for presence in the mosque for the sake of da’wah. Many years went by, and a move across the continent, before I had much contact with Muslims again.

      • Brother Paul, I am deeply saddened to hear how you treated in the house god. I’m not a scholar or anyone of any religious significance but in my opinion, everyone who wishes to enter the mosque should be allowed to enter. Islam teaches us respect and tolerance for other faiths, and to not allow a person in to the mosque especially for the purpose of dawwah in my opinion is unislamic. Please accept my apology on behalf of the ones who wronged you with their ignorance and disrespect.

        • Salaam. Apology accepted. Thank you. I acknowledge that the men in that mosque of over thirty years ago were young foreign students who could speak some English but who did not really understand westerners. They were of an ethnic group sometimes known for its rigidity. I admit this. Nevertheless, their attitudes did nothing to help me toward Islam. It was as if their own concern for their own purity was more important than spreading the message of Islam.

          Again, it was about another ten years clear across a large continent before I had any more contact with Muslims and Islam. Suppose I had died in the meantime? And even after I did have that contact and did profess myself a Muslim, it was not long before I became alienated from an unwelcoming community. It is not surprising that I almost (not quite, but almost) embraced a non-Islamic religion a few years ago, because the people there were warm, friendly, welcoming, and made me feel accepted and wanted, which the Muslims did not.

          Not everyone is able to live on abstractions. If the life of the deen is not a reality in real people’s lives toward others, some of us are not going to stay.

      • The loss was not yours but those in that masjid, Allah still guided you. Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps they felt afraid of you as there have been cases of people posing as converts but were undercover agents. But the point is still the same you are right most masjids could and should do so much more for dawah.

        • Salaam. I doubt that over thirty years ago Muslims were much worried about undercover agents, as they might today.

          As for more mosques doing da’wah, yes, but not just “any old” da’wah. It has to be in a form understandable by westerners, most of whom have a rather non-Islamic mindset. It just will not do to deal with westerners as if one were in a predominantly Muslim country trying to help non-observant individuals who are at least nominally Muslims themselves and who are, to some extent at least, immersed in a Muslim society. The frame of mind of so many westerners is so different that a lot of “callers” probably do not comprehend the mental gap. It is beyond them that westerners do not think as they do.

          I speculate that a lot of Muslims from “traditional” societies are actually rather naive. They seem to assume, if subconsciously, that another person either understands Islam or he does not. If he does understand Islam and does not immediately embrace it, he is just being sinfully stubborn. However, suppose he innocently does not understand Islam. Maybe he was never properly exposed to it. Well, Islam is so simple, so obvious, so immediately true that all that is necessary is to make a brief exposition, and then if he does not immediately embrace it, he is just being sinfully stubborn. Traditional Muslims just cannot comprehend the issue. It seems to be beyond so many of them, so a lot of da’wah fails (when it takes place at all).

          And Allah (swt) knows best.

  • Does anyone know how the questioner got in contact with Imam Suhaib, does he have a e-mail address you can send questions to, or something like that?

  • Yes he can.
    He should follow the way how people pray in masjid (pray). It is just for uniform way and not look mesh or irregular movement.
    If one want to take a rest, he can just politely sit.

    It also the same principle when the non-muslim would like to take haji or hajj in Makkah.

  • Salam,

    Does this mean that Abu Hanifa allowed Non-Muslims to enter Mecca?

    The reason why I ask this is because the article lists non-Muslims not entering Mecca as 1 of 4 opinions.

    • Yes. I don’t know if that is the position of the Hanafi school as a whole, but that was Imam Abu Hanifa’s personal interpretation of the Ayaah. He read it to mean non-Muslims could no longer approach the masjid as in no longer approach it with pagan hajj rituals during the hajj or at any time within the mosque. That from that point forward only Islamic rituals as laid out by Rasulallah(S) would be permitted.

  • Thank you Paul for sharing your experience, proving the absolute importance of this post!

    While I think in many Muslim communities things are improving, I am certain there are still mosques where some people might hold this opinion, and almost panic if someone who isn’t Muslim wants to enter.

    Imagine being female! Then it’s double panic because of what she is or isn’t wearing.

    I think many Muslims cannot understand the strong need for someone curious about Islam to enter into the masjid. All other houses of worship are open, at least Christian ones, to anyone, so to think a mosque is any different is incredibly odd. (And as you said, the “other faiths” understand their da’wah message VERY well – good manners, welcoming smiling faces, and the feeling you belong just for showing up) If I am going to leave one house of worship for another, it makes sense to want to experience it first!

    Allah knows best – in my heart of hearts I cannot imagine having anyone in a masjid be something that is bad when they are coming to learn and experience our community, learn about Islam, or meet Muslims.

  • Where would one take shahadah if they could not enter a masjid to take it? As one of the five pillars, this would present quite a paradox, wouldn’t it? Sometimes we think too much in pursuit of scholarship.

  • Asalamualaikum to all especially Paul Bartlett! This is my first visit to this website and I’m so sorry you were marginalized only because these people see you as a Westerner. Islam never condone to segregation. But, I’m so glad your faith is in Allah SWT

    • Wa alaikumus salaam. Thank you for your reply. However, as I have made clear in various responses on Suhaib Webb’s site, I am one of those many, many, many western converts who have mostly fallen away from Islam. Estimates run from half to three-quarters (literally) apostasy rate among western converts.

      Situations and places differ, of course, but my personal experience with the Muslim community — and I am not alone!! — was so bad that when I began to run into problems many years ago, I had no one in the Muslim community to turn to that I felt comfortable with, so I just drifted away from frustration and, to be honest, no longer practice Islam (I still have a few nebulous contacts). I suspect that most apostate converts never show their faces in a forum like this. They just disappear. Probably I am one of the few who still appear from time to time.

      Do Muslims in North America not know how bad the convert dropout rate is? Do they not care? There are those of us who would dearly (almost desperately) like to be part of a believing, worshiping, brotherly community, but because of our sad experiences and the personal problems we have had without real support, we drift away.

      • As-salaamu ‘alaykum Paul,

        I am from North America, so cannot comment on the revert apostasy rate, or what the general population over there think about it/are doing about it.

        However, I’m interested to know why/how Islam and the practices of some of its adherents are tied up in your approach to the religion.

        As a point of entry for your reply, I always think about articles such as http://www.virtualmosque.com/relationships/withthedivine/will-you-turn-away/

        They tend to remind me of how we get caught up in the actions/thoughts/feelings, “doings”, in a word, of others when it comes to, well, most anything in life, but more pertinently and specifically, our spirituality and religion.

        I am especially to interested to hear this because of your words – “And Allah (swt) knows best.”, juxtaposed with “[I] no longer practice Islam”. To truly believe the former statement, one must indeed falsify the latter. The best Muslims are those who truly believe – the Mu’min.

        Please note that my comment is in no way a vindication of the way Muslims have treated you, nor is it meant to trivialize your experiences. I think all of us here can agree that da’wah, and more importantly how to go about, is something which is not well understood. And this is by people who are _not_ apathetic about it.

        • Wa alaikumus salaam. I apologize that I am tardy in responding.

          You wrote, “I am especially to interested to hear this because of your words – “And Allah (swt) knows best.”, juxtaposed with “[I] no longer practice Islam”. To truly believe the former statement, one must indeed falsify the latter. The best Muslims are those who truly believe – the Mu’min.”

          I must respectfully disagree, in this regard. There are those who in the abstract can acknowledge this or that, but in the reality and practice of their everyday lives as real, flesh and blood human beings, the matters are otherwise. There are individuals who are weak, sick, hurting, troubled, all alone (due to the dislocations in the Muslim community in some places), and sometimes even elderly.

          It is all very fine and nice to say that “The best Muslims are those who truly believe – the Mu’min,” but this does not take into account real human weakness. There are those who fall down and who are too weak to get up, because they have no one to help them up. This can especially be true of converts who were weak and shaky in their faith to begin with, totally and absolutely sincere and honest but just barely “there” from the beginning. Yes, there are people who sincerely and honestly profess themselves Muslims but who were shaky from the start.

          Not everyone is strong in faith, especially some converts in the beginning. Not everyone is a spiritual hero(ine). The blunt fact is that there are weak and hurting people in this world, who may acknowledge truths but who are too weak to carry them out in their own lives without the support of a loving, caring community.

          And, yes, Allah (swt) knows best, even if I do not.

  • Assalamualaikum Paul,

    Yes ,its sad. It’s happening in my country Malaysia. Many are turning away from Islam.
    May Allah bestow his blessing to you.

    • Wa alaikumus salaam (and peace be unto you). Thank you for your kind words. It is very sad that there is so much sickness in the Muslim ummah today that so many(!) Muslims, “born” and convert, fall away, and I say this as a convert (many years ago) who has for almost all practical intents and purposes fallen away. I have tried to make contact with groups here in my own continent (USA and Canada) who supposedly deal with converts or potential converts, and yet again and again I have been disappointed.

      I am not a scholar, but I seem to recall from my reading that there is a hadith (I don’t know whether it is sahih or not) that before the Hour there will be little left of Islam but the name (going from a possibly faulty memory here). There will be many of those who call themselves Muslims but little true Islam.

      Yes, many of us who thought we came to Islam as mature adults have been left all alone to flounder, and yes, some of us in our isolation have not “made it,” to so speak. Some of us barely hang on by the slightest thread, frankly admitting that we do not really live according to Shariah, almost hoping forlornly almost beyond hope that sometime, somewhere, somehow maybe somebody will pay attention.

      And may Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala have mercy on us all.

      • Assalamualaikum

        I am still weak although I pray 5 times a day, fast in the month of Ramadan, never once had the temptation of drinking alcohol and run away from zina.

        Sometimes I tend to get tired, lose hope and feels as if my du’a is not accepted. This battle is extremely frustrating . I feel as though Satan is whispering negative thoughts in my head. Then I remember ..as recorded in Buhari and Muslim: The Prophet SAW said:
        “Whoever Allah wants good for him, he puts them to test. He puts them through difficulties. Like a diamond or some metal that has to be burnt and then that which is bad form it is removed so that you have that which is the pure diamond or pure gold or whatever. Put them to test, trials and difficulties.”

        Be strong Paul.

        • However, the reality of life is that some people who are left all alone simply “fail the test.” Are they just to be casually written off? I seem to recall a hadith, “None of you believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself.” (Going from memory.)

          If the dropout (literally, apostasy) rate for converts especially, in the western countries at least, is so appallingly high, it seems to me that a lot of new Muslims are not receiving from their brothers and sisters what some of those brothers and sisters might take for granted in their own communities, i.e., fellowship and support. I have a hard time with the idea that it is “all the converts’ fault” because they just are not strong enough or do not try hard enough.

  • My late mom is a convert too. Yes, every new brother and sister needs support after taking the sahadah. Feeling abandoned by their old friends , isolated from new ones and getting enough supports is a serious trial that a lot of new Muslims go through.

    I am truly sorry . I realized that I am one of them who are not doing my part and leaving the responsibility to others assuming that there is enough support when in fact, the new Muslim has absolutely no one to support.

    No matter how long we have been a Muslim, we have our ups and downs in our iman. Never get discouraged when we are feeling our iman at its lowest.

    I am going for my Umrah this December, I will ask Allah for peace and faith in this world and in the hereafter for you and your family Paul. Pray for me too .


    • Assalamualaikum,
      Hello sister. I am from Malaysia too. I read your comment from 2014. I am writing to ask how you are. And I extend my friendship for the sake of Allah. We are never alone as long as Allah is with us.

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