Question # 461: Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu Shaykh, what is the status of the narration in Seerah where we find that Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) permitted the Christian delegation from Najran to pray in Masjid an-Nabawi?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: This narration of Christian delegation from Najraan praying in Masjid an-Nabawi is quoted only in the Tafseer Ibn Katheer, on the authority of Ibn Is-haaq. The scholars say that some narrators are missing in its chain of transmission indicating its weakness.

In any case, even if this report is proven authentic, it does not indicate that it is permissible for non-Muslims to perform their prayers in the masjid without restrictions. Nevertheless, it is permissible to allow the non-Muslims to enter the masjid (except al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah) if there is benefit in this, such as making them see and hear the salah and Qura’nic recitation of the Muslims or for the purpose of inviting them to the Deen of Allah, as in the story of Thumaamah, who was taken a prisoner of war before his conversion to Islam, and detained in the masjid while being tied to one of its columns.

Lastly, we should pay attention to the rule that there should be no mixing between men and women inside the mosque, and no women should be dressed in a provocative fashion.

Long Answer: Ibn katheer wrote: “Ibn Is-haaq said, ‘Muhammad ibn Jaʻfar ibn Az-Zubayr narrated that the (Najraan) delegation came to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in Madeenah and entered his masjid wearing robes and garments after he had prayed the ʻAsr prayer. They accompanied a caravan of camels led by Bani Al-Haarith ibn Kaʻb. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah who saw them said that they never saw a delegation like them after that. When their time of worship came, they stood up to perform their worship in the Prophet’s masjid. He (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, ‘Let them (worship),’ and they prayed towards the east.’” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer)

We could not find a chain of narration for this story except for this one on the authority of Ibn Is-haaq which has some narrators missing in its chain of transmission indicating its weakness. In any case, if this report is proven authentic, it does not indicate that it is permissible for non-Muslims to enter the masjid and perform their prayers therein without restrictions. On the contrary, it is restricted to a clear benefit such as inviting them to Islam. In the story of Thumaamah  when he was taken as a prisoner of war before his conversion to Islam, he was detained in the masjid and tied to one of its columns. The story was cited in Saheeh Al-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim. [It is recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) sent a group of horsemen towards Najd and they brought a man from Banu Hanifa named Thumamah Ibn Athoal. The Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) companions tied him to a pole in the Mosque. Muslim’s narration reads that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) left Thumamah for one day and then the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asked him: “O Thumamah! What do you think of?”. Thumamah replied: ‘As I said before, if you set me free, I will be thankful, and if you kill me, know that you have killed a man who ranks high. Then, if you want money, we’ll give you what you want’. So, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) left him. The next day, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asked him: “O Thumamah! What do you think?” The reply was like before. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) ordered his companions to free him. So, Thumamah went to an orchard of palm trees and washed there. Then, he entered the Mosque and said: ‘I bear witness that La Ilaha Illa Allah and Muhammad Rasullul Allah'”] Some scholars held that the reason that he was tied to a pillar in the masjid was to make him see the Muslims while performing the prayer and reciting the Qura’n.

Shaykh Al-Fawzaan  said, “It is permissible to allow the non-Muslim to enter the masjid if there is benefit in this, such as making him see the prayer and recitation of the Muslims, as in the story of Thumaamah .”

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem Aal Ash-Shaykh wrote, “It is impermissible to allow them to enter the mosques, regardless of whether that be in Madeenah or elsewhere, unless there is a guaranteed benefit in allowing that. If there is a guaranteed benefit, then it is permissible, as was narrated in the story of the Christians of Najraan when they entered the mosque of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and their prayer was due, so they recited their prayers therein. This took place in the year of Delegations.”

[In summary,] …the dominant opinion in this concern is it is permissible for non-Muslims to enter all Mosques except al-Masjid al-Haram [in Makkah and the sacred areas around it] as long as there is a need or some interest for Muslims and Islam.  Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: “O you who believe! Verily, the Mushrikun (polytheists) are Najasun (impure). So, let them not come near Al-Masjid Al-Haram (at Makkah) after this year” (Soorah al-Tawbah, 9:28)

[Hence,] if some non-Muslims ask to enter the mosque so that they can see how Muslims pray, so long as they have nothing with them that could make the mosque dirty, and there are no women among them who are dressed in a provocative fashion, or any other reason not to let them in, then there is nothing wrong with allowing them to enter and sit behind the Muslims so they can see how they pray. If we fear that there is someone who may rebuke them (for not praying etc.) without realizing that they are not Muslim, we should point this out to them.

[Lastly], we draw attention to the rule that there should be no mixing between men and women, especially in the Mosque, and women are to abide by the full Hijab [or modest dressing in case of non-Muslim women].

(Most part of the above reply is based on the following resources:

  • Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar
  • Various answers provided by Islam Q&A on similar topics)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam