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Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Destruction of Statues Displayed in an Islamic State


Statues have been severely condemned in numerous verses of the Holy Quráan and an abundant number of Ahaadith of Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam. To mentioned these in detail would require a few volumes. We suffice here with a few examples.


What, do they (the mushrikeen) take gods (made) of earth, which they carry about. (Surah Ambiyaah Aayat 21).

Surely those that are worshipped besides Allah (i.e. the idols), they cannot create anything, (but) are themselves created, (and they are) dead (and) not alive. (Surah Nahl Aayat 21)

Surely those that you call out to (i.e. worship) besides Allah (i.e. the idols), they cannot create a single fly, even if all of them had to gather for this purpose. And should a fly snatch anything from them they cannot prevent the fly from doing so. (Surah Haj Aayat 73)

What, do they attribute as a partner (unto Allah) that which cannot create anything (i.e. the idols), whereas they (i.e. the idols) are themselves created, and they are unable to assist anyone, nor are they themselves assisted. If you had to call them towards guidance, they will not follow you. It is both equal to them that you call them or you remain silent. Surely those that you (O Mushrikeen) call out to (i.e. you worship) besides Allah (i.e. the idols), they are slaves like you. Therefore call onto them and see if they reply, if you are true (in your claim). Do they have feet by means of which they may walk, do they have hands by means of which they may grab, do they have eyes by means of which they may see, do they have ears by means of which they may hear…. (Surah A’raaf Aayat 179)

Allah Ta’ala has mentioned the incident of Hazrat Ibraaheem Alayhis Salaam breaking the idols a number of times in the Quráan.


Narrated Ibn `Abbas (Radiyallahu anhuma): When Allah's Apostle came to Makkah, he refused to enter the Ka`ba with idols in it. He ordered that the idols be taken out). (Bukhari 2.671)

Narrated `Abdullah bin Mas`ud (Radiyallahu anhu): The Prophet entered Makkah and (at that time) there were three hundred-and-sixty idols around the Ka`ba. He started stabbing the idols with a stick he had in his hand and reciting: "Truth (Islam) has come and Falsehood (disbelief) has vanished." (Bukhari 3.658)

It is reported from Abul al-Hayaj al-Asadi who said 'Ali bin Abu Talib (Radiyallahu anhu) told me: "Should I not instruct you to do as the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam instructed me? Do not leave a statue standing without removing it. Do not leave a grave raised without leveling it." (Naylul Awtaar vol.4 pg.83)

Hazrat 'Amr b. 'Abasa Sulami (Radiyallahu anhu) reported: (Before becoming a Muslim) I said to Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam: Who are you? He said: I am a Prophet (of Allah). I again said: Who is a Prophet? He said: (I am a Prophet in the sense that) I have been sent by Allah. I said: What is that which you have been sent with? He said: I have been sent to join ties of relationship (with kindness and affection), to break the Idols, and to proclaim the oneness of Allah (in a manner that) nothing is to be associated with Him. (Muslim Book 4, Number 1812 Chapter 142: HOW 'AMR B. 'ABASA EMBRACED ISLAM )

There cannot be anything more abhorrent in Islam than statues and idols. It was one of the primary duties of Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam to destroy idols. He was sent for this purpose. He instructed Hazrat Ali (Radiyallahu anhu) not to leave any statue standing. At the very first opportunity, he demolished the idols found in Makkah Mukarramah. Therefore, any person with a clear mind, unclouded by ramblings of those that deny Allah, can understand that there can be no place whatsoever for idols in Islam. It is the very antithesis of Islam. The very doctrine of the Deen is in diametrical opposition to the keeping of statues and idols.

Most unfortunately, some Muslims of weak Imaan have been put into doubt over such a clear-cut issue. To remove their doubts, we will discuss a few arguments in favor of non-interference with idols.


The primary argument presented is that the destruction of idols is offensive to the religious convictions of certain communities. Islam teaches us to respect the religious beliefs of non-Muslims.


It is wrong to say that Islam teaches us to respect the religious beliefs of non-Muslims. To respect the beliefs of others means to respect kufr and shirk. This is totally unacceptable.

Yes, what we do respect is their right to practice their religion. In other words, despite the fact that we intensely abhor their beliefs, should they wish to practice on those beliefs, we will grant them the freedom to do so. This too is on condition that it does not conflict with our interests.

As far as our attitude being offensive, well, if the truth be told, the whole of Islam is offensive to some of the kuffaar. Even our kalimah is offensive to the mushrikeen. Our kalima denounces all deities besides Allah Ta’ala as false. This emphatically implies that the gods of the mushrikeen are false.

So are we going to abandon our kalima because it is offensive to some of the kuffaar? Certainly not!

In the same light there are numerous teachings of Islam which are offensive to one community or the other. Are we then going to discard these teachings merely because someone is offended?

Are we then going to court the pleasure of the kuffaar at the expense of earning the displeasure of our Creator Allah Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala?

It is obvious that by acting on the law of Allah Ta’ala we will be earning the rebuke of the kuffaar, for Islam and kufr are two diametrically opposed ideologies. There is thus no surprise in their criticism.

From the very first day of Islam they have been ridiculing and rebuking Muslims, then this has continued through the ages, and will continue until Qiyaamah. Thus these criticisms will not deter us in the least. Regarding the true Mu’mineen, Allah Ta’ala says in the Holy Quráan: “And they do not fear the rebuke of any rebuking person”. (Surah An’aam Aayat 54)

What we Muslims should only be concerned with is whether our actions are within the laws of Allah Ta’ala.

Thus the offense of the kuffaar holds no weight with us.


The Islamic State extracts a tax from the non-Muslim citizens of the state. By virtue of this tax they are granted complete freedom of religion. Thus if their religion supports idols, we have no right to interfere with the idols for this will be in conflict with the freedom of religion which they are guaranteed.


Firstly, let us not be fooled by the term “freedom of religion”. There is no absolute “freedom of religion”. There is not a single state on earth that grants it’s citizens absolute freedom of religion. Even though such clauses appear in the constitutions of many States, it is a relative term. Should anyone’s personal religious convictions and practices conflict with the interests of the state, then such religious practices will be outlawed.

So just as every other state on earth gives preference to its own interests over the religious convictions of any citizen, similarly too does the Islamic state give preference to its own objectives.

An Islamic state is established with the sole purpose of establishing the Deen of Allah Ta’ala on Allah’s earth. The prime object is to entrench Islam in the land. Should any individual’s personal interests be in conflict with this objective, preference will obviously be given to the Deen. The Islamic State is established for the Deen, and not for any particular individual or group. This will apply to even Muslim citizens. Should their personal ideals be in conflict with that of Islam, the ideals of Islam would reign superior.

While the non-Muslim citizens do have the right to practice their religion in Daarul Islam, this is subject to certain conditions. The need for these conditions arises from the fact that, should they be granted absolute freedom, some of their actions would come in conflict with the objectives of the State. Some of these conditions will be discussed below.

The Jizyah which the non-Muslim citizens of Daarul Islam (an Islamic State) pay does not grant them “complete freedom of religion” but rather guarantees them three rights:

Security of life: It is the duty of the Islamic State to guarantee the sanctity of life.
Security of property and honour. Similarly the Islamic State has to provide security to their property. No one has the right to usurp their wealth. In the same light, no one may attack their honour; e.g. no one may backbite or slander the non-Muslim citizen. Retribution will be taken from anyone violating their rights.
Their right to practice their religion, subject to conditions.

While the conditions under which non-Muslims are granted citizenship of Daarul Islam are many, at this juncture we refer to only those that are relative to our discussion.

Some of these conditions are:

They may practice their religion within the privacy of their homes

They may not build any new churches, synagogues etc.

Should any church, synagogue etc. be destroyed or require repair, they may repair or rebuild such buildings.

They may not celebrate any religious festivals in public

They may not display in public any item having particular religious purport, e.g. bible, Cross, statue, etc.

Such items should also be removed from the exterior of their places of worship i.e. No idol, Cross etc may be displayed on the outside of their places of worship.

They may not ring the church bell, nor read their religious books so loud that it is audible in public.

They may not invite towards their religion.

The reason for these conditions is that the purpose of Daarul Islam is to entrench Islam on the earth. Thus the salient features in religion must only be that of Islam. No features of other religions may be observable in public.

It is only when Muslims firmly enforced such laws that Islam reigned superior on earth. Thus the object for which Daarul Islam was established had been achieved.

Early in Islamic history, the khalifas were mindful of enforcing these laws, hence Islam was the only religion to be seen in public. The result of this was that over the generations, non-Muslims entered into Islam in droves There was absolutely no forced conversions, but the air was filled only with Islam. The atmosphere was only of the Deen of Allah, as it rightfully aught to be. Thus, while freedom of choice existed, the kuffaar voluntarily entered into Islam in such large numbers that Islam soon conquered the major lands of the civilized world of that time.

May Allah Ta’ala in particular reward the two Umars, Ameerul Mu’mineen Hazrat Umar bin Khattaab (Radiyallahu anhu) and Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (rahimahullah), for they were vigilant in enforcing these essential rules of the state. Thus Islam flourished under their leadership.

Regarding the conditions under which non-Muslims will be allowed to reside in an Islamic state, Ibn Taymiyyah writes that there exists a unanimous consensus of the fuqaha, and the entire Ummah on these conditions. He then mentions:

“And from amongst these conditions are those that are related to the kuffaar concealing the evils of their religion, and not exhibiting these evils. Examples of these are the prohibition of them displaying Khamr (wine), or the church bell or yoke; the prohibition of publicly celebrating their festivals and the like thereof. … Also, they may not expose any of the salient features of their religion. E.g. they may not raise their voices when reciting their scriptures.…..

Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) and all the Muslims after him, including all the Ulama, are unanimous that the non-Muslims are prohibited from exposing in Daarul Islam (an Islamic state) anything that may be particularly associated with their religion. Particular emphasis was placed on the injunction that no feature of the mushrikeen (idol worshippers) should ever be displayed in Daarul Islam…. This was in obedience to Allah and His Rasool (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), and in conformity to the Quráan, while holding firm to the Sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam)” (I’laa-us sunan Pg. 520 Vol. 12; Idaratul Qa’raan)

Some of the conditions under which the non-Muslims had willfully adopted citizenship of Daarul Islam, and which were proposed by Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu), are:

We will not sell liquor.

We will not display the Cross on our churches, or any other public place.

We will only ring our church bells softly, and only from within [and not outside] our churches.

We will not raise our voices during prayers.

We will not display the yoke at any public place.

We will not celebrate the festivals of Easter and Palm Sunday.

We will not call towards our religion.

(Al Mughni Vol. 10 pg. 606 as quoted in I’laa-us sunan pg. 520 vol. 12.)

When Abu Ubaida ib Jarraah (Radiyallahu anhu) conquered Shaam (Syria), he stipulated similar condition on the non-Muslim citizens as Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) used to stipulate. The Christians thereafter requested to be allowed to celebrate one day of festivity within the year, in which they are allowed to display the Cross. Hazrat Abu Ubaida-tubnul Jarraah wrote to Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu), and received this reply:

“They may celebrate one day of festivity within every year. They may only display the Cross outside the city. As far as within the city, or the Muslim public, they may not display the Cross. This is only for this particular day. They may not display the cross on any other day. (Even outside the cities)” (I’laa-us sunan pg. 520 vol. 12)

Umar bin Abdul Aziz (rahimahullah) wrote to his governor such:

“Do not leave a cross exposed. Should you find one, demolish and efface it.” (I’laa-us sunan pg. 520 vol. 12; Idaratul Qur’aan)

These quotations bear ample testimony to the fact that religious symbols may not be publicly displayed in Daarul Islam.


Some have claimed that when Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) conquered Egypt, he allowed statues to remain. Hence they are standing till this day, e.g. the sphinx or the thousands of artifacts on view at the Egyptian National Museum. This indicates that we should not interfere with such statues.


The fact that these statues “are standing today” does not imply that Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) “allowed statues to remain”.

Almost all the statues found today in Egypt were unearthed in the last century. Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) conquered Egypt in 20 AH. At that time these statues were unknown of, both out of sight and out of mind. Thus it cannot be claimed that Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) condoned the display of statues.

The only statue that may have been in public display would have been the sphinx. But it would have been impractical to destroy such a huge mass of rock. Consider the size of the sphinx. It is about 20 m (66 ft) high and about 73 m (240 ft) long.[1]

At that time there were no modern implements, hence it would have been impractical to remove this rock by mere pick and shovel. The impracticality can be gauged from the fact that French canons could not demolish the sphinx, but only managed to cause some damage.

Furthermore, consider the hard facts. Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) strictly enforced the rule of not allowing non-Muslims to display their religious symbols in public. He refused the Christians permission to display the Cross within the city, even if only once a year.

Would he then condone the public display of statues?

The assumption that he “allowed statues to stand” is in conflict with his general position, a position attested to by many historical facts. Thus the assumption must be dismissed as baseless.

Bear in mind that we have only discussed his attitude towards the Cross. The cross is a religious symbol, and not an idol or image. Yet since it is a salient feature of the Christians, they were not allowed to publicly display it in Daarul Islam. All publicly displayed crosses were to be demolished, as has been established from the decree of Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (rahimahullah).

When this is the position of symbol, then to a far greater degree should this apply to statues which are intended to be images of and represent false gods, and which have become objects of worship within themselves.

Thus, to a far greater degree should their display be outlawed. Is it within reasoning to claim that Hazrat Umar (Radiyallahu anhu) would forbid the display of the Cross but condone the display of idols? The stupidity of such a claim is self-evident.


Some have quoted the Aayat of the Quráan.

“And do not swear those that call upon deities besides Allah (i.e. the idols), for they (the mushrikeen) will swear Allah out of enmity (and retribution), without having knowledge.” (Surah An’aam Aayat 108)

In this Aayat we are prohibited from instigating the kuffaar towards being antagonistic to Islam. By destroying idols, we are provoking a negative response and eliciting enmity towards Muslims. Hence we should not do so.


There is absolutely no need for Muslims to swear the mushrikeen. Thus Muslims are prohibited from doing so when their action creates a negative reaction. The swearing of the mushrikeen serves no other purpose besides invoking enmity.

On the other hand the demolishing of idols displayed in Daarul Islam is a religious duty. Unlike swearing the mushrikeen, it has a purpose, which is to ensure that the atmosphere in Daarul Islam is only that of Islam. Thus it is a necessary duty. In carrying out our Islamic duties we fear not the rebuke of anyone.

Yes, if our futile acts may cause enmity, we should desist from these futile acts, as they serve no Islamic purpose.

Secondly, if this aayat implied that we should not destroy the idols, then why on the occasion of conquest of Makkah did Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) destroy the idols? Do the defendants of idols wish to claim that they understood the Quráan better than Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam)?

In brief, we thus conclude that the destruction of idols displayed in Daarul Islam is an incumbent duty of the Islamic government, and doubts on this issue are founded on baseless arguments.


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