Are Non-Muslims Allowed to Enter Makkah & the Sacred Mosque?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Are Non-Muslims Allowed to Enter Makkah & the Haram? and answered by: Ustadz Faraz Khan.

Why is it that non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians, cannot enter Makkah or the Haram?  The short answer is that historically, there was disagreement among jurists with respect to the matter.  Imam Abu Hanifah’s (r.a.) opinion was that non-Muslims can enter Makkah and even the Sacred Mosque, al-Haram, as long as they do not do so for the sake of the hajj or ‘umrah, which they are not allowed to perform.  This is the opinion of the Hanafi madzhab, which historically, up to the present, has been the largest juridical school of Islam.  Other schools of thought, however, differed on the legal ruling.

This ruling is based on the Qur’anic verse:

O ye who believe!  Truly the polytheists are impure; so let them not, after this year of theirs approach the Sacred Mosque... (Surah at-Tawbah:28)

This verse was revealed in the 9th year after Hijrah, which is therefore what is meant by the phrase, “this year of theirs.”  The year is ascribed to them in the verse to emphasise the fact that the legal ruling therein is specific to them alone.  This is the opinion of Imam ibn Ashur (r.a.), as recorded in his Tahrir wa at-Tanwir.

Most Qur’anic exegetes, mufassirun, interpreted the first statement as metaphorical, that is, polytheists are not literally impure, but their creed of associating partners with Allah Most High is so base and vile in the Sight of Allah (s.w.t.) that it is akin to filth itself, so much so that it is as if those who adhere to such beliefs are themselves filth.  This is the opinion of Imam ibn Ashur (r.a.) in his Tahrir wa at-Tanwir; Imam al-Aluwsi’s (r.a.) Ruh al-Ma’ani; Imam an-Nasafi’s (r.a.) Madarik at-Tanzil; Imam Abu Su’ud’s (r.a.) Irshad al-‘Aql as-Salim; Imam Abu Hayyan’s (r.a.) Bahr al-Muhith; and Imam as-Suyuthi’s (q.s.), Tafsir Jalalayn.

As for the legal rulings derived from the verse, as mentioned above, there was disagreement among jurists historically.  Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) interpreted the verse to mean that after that year, polytheists were not allowed to enter the Sacred Mosque of Makkah, yet they could enter other mosques, as only the Sacred Mosque was specified in the verse.  This was the opinion of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) as well.  Imam Malik (r.a.) understood the verse to be more general and therefore maintained that polytheists could not enter the Sacred Mosque of Makkah nor any mosque whatsoever.

Also, according to Imams ash-Shafi’i (r.a.), Imam Malik (r.a.) and Imam Ahmad (r.a.), the term, “Sacred Mosque,” used in the verse linguistically refers to the entire Sacred Precinct, that is, all of Makkah as well as its outlying areas; hence, the legal ruling of barring non-Muslims from entry would apply to that whole area, not just the Sacred Mosque of Makkah.  Imam Abu Hanifah (r.a.) understood the verse to refer only to the actual pilgrimage, not to mere entrance, and therefore maintained that polytheists could enter any mosque, even the Sacred Mosque of Makkah.  According to him, they simply could not perform the pilgrimage, neither hajj nor ‘umrah, as was customary among the polytheists of Makkah before the revelation of the above verse.  This is found in Imam al-Jassas’ (r.a.) Ahkam al-Qur’an; Imam al-Aluwsi’s (r.a.) Ruh al-Ma’ani; Imam al-Qurthubi’s (r.a.), Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an; Imam ash-Shirazi’s (r.a.) al-Muhadzdzab; Imam an-Nawawi’s (r.a.) Majmu’; Imam ibn ‘Abidin’s (r.a.) Radd al-Muhtar; Imam al-Kasani’s (r.a.) Bada’i as-Sana’i; and Imam al-Buhuti’s (r.a.) Kashshaf al-Qina’a.


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