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.”
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
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.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION
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
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
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.