Fatwa from Al Azhar in Cairo, Egypt

A community member requested and obtained a fatwa from Al Azhar in Cairo, Egypt. The original fatwa, written in Arabic, is at the end of this post. Following are the questions and answers in English (the answers were translated by the European Center for Translation):

QUESTIONS:

Dear respected scholar,

Assalamu Alikum,

I live in the United States in a multi-ethnic Muslim community (Indo-Pakistani and Mid-East) in the Detroit area. The community is contemplating on expanding their mosque.

The current mosque is ~30 years old. It has a weekend school, social hall, gymnasium, and the prayer sanctuary. This prayer sanctuary has been in use since the first time this mosque was built.

The administration of the organization is contemplating an expansion. The plan they are proposing to the community, involves building an attached, new 2-story structure with a basement. The first and second stories would be for a new sanctuary, and the basement would be used as a multi-purpose area. This structure and the original building will be connected with shared corridors on both stories.

The plan involves converting the current sanctuary (used for daily, Friday & Eid prayers for the past 30 years) into a social hall. This raised the concerns of the community at large.

The social hall is used by the organization and rented out for a variety of activities including weddings, private parties, and “Dawa” events (inviting followers of other faiths, including Hindus, Baha’is and the general public to the masjid). While the organization stipulates no dancing and/or music in private parties and weddings, there is no dress code enforced at any of the organization’s activities. A large segment of the community does not observe Islamic dress-code. In addition, the social hall has a dividing wall that can be used to segregate men and women, but it can also be left open for mixed gender (family) gatherings.

Funds to build the current mosque and the proposed expansion are raised through donations from the community and are often earmarked for the purpose (e.g.; for the building as a whole or for the sanctuary, etc).

While the expansion plan proposed by the administration involves converting the old sanctuary into a social hall, the community is not limited by space as it owns sufficient adjacent properties. The organization’s own expansion committee turned down a plan that would have expanded the current sanctuary and moved the social hall. Furthermore, a group of concerned members presented additional plans to the administration. None of these plans require the conversion of the sanctuary into a social hall; all of these plans build on what exists and provide the same expansion needs at approximately 30% lower cost. One of these three plans involves converting the sanctuary into classrooms as a compromise to the administration’s plan. The community has also raised concerns regarding the maintenance cost of the administration’s proposal, at a time when our state and region are suffering economically.

Other factors that may affect your FATWA;

  1. The expansion the administration proposed provides for a much larger community than the alternative three plans. No demographic study was done. The local economy is in a significant downturn (which may lead to people moving away from the area for work).
  2. The current sanctuary is rarely full except for three days; “Laylat-ul-quadr”, “Eid-ul-Fitr” and “Eid-ul-Adha”. There are two jammat every Friday to accommodate those who are not able to get time off work and to encourage attendance by school children. On the Eids, we have two (sometimes three) jammat, to accommodate the once a year visitors and late comers. These are common practices by the majority of the mosques in the area.
  3. When our mosque was built 30 years ago, there were no other mosques in the area. The next mosque at that time was 20 miles away. In recent years, at least 4 other mosques and several musullas have sprouted up and many members of our community frequent those locations as well (since they are closer to their offices and homes).

Questions:

  1. Is it permissible from a “Sharia” point of view to convert the sanctuary into a social hall?
  2. Do the earmarked donations qualify the sanctuary, or even the building as a whole as a “waqf”?
  3. Does the fact we’ve called this a “masjid” for 30 years and the fact that donations were earmarked for a masjid, qualify this as a “waqf”?
  4. If the building qualifies as a “waqf”, then does anyone have the right to demolish, sell, dispose of in any way or even change the use of any of its components? (e.g., Moving the location of the sanctuary to another part of the overall compound/building)
  5. If the administration builds their proposed expansion plan and a large portion of it could fall into disuse (as suggested by the economics of the area) would it be a “fard kefaya” for the community to debate the issue with the administration today “with wisdom and good advice” to avoid building more than can be sustained in the future?

Please provide your official FATWA regarding this matter.

ANSWERS:

Al Azhar

Islamic Research Complex

General Department of Convocation & Religious Media

Counseling Committee

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate

If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message. (The Bees43)

(685 on 25/9/2012)

The Counseling Committee has got the following question from citizen, which its copy is enclosed.

The Answer

1. Thanks to Allah and Peace Be Upon His Prophet, his relatives and followers.

The Counseling Committee states the following: The mosques are the homes of Allah on His land. He ordered their construction, performing the prayers in them and considering their sanctity and sacredness. It is a matter of fact that if a piece of land is endowed for mosques, its ownership devolves from its owner to the Property of Almighty Allah. Therefore, nobody should get a part of it or use it for any other purpose than the mosques, even if there is an interest for the people in this, as His saying: “Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid His cause for verily Allah is Full of Strength. ( Al Haj 40). Allah said: “And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of Allah, His name.” (Al Baqarah 114). He also said: In houses, which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in them, of His name: in them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings, again and again. (El Nour 36) He Whose Name is blessed, also said: “And the places of worship are for Allah (alone): so invoke not anyone along with Allah.” (Al Jenn 18).

Therefore, regarding that question, it is forbidden to cut off any part of a mosque to use it for social hall whether there is another one close by or not.

2. The financial donation, conditioned with a certain purpose, is like an endowment for this purpose unless the purpose is a forbidden one, except if its owner gave permission to change it to another purpose. This is because the believers should fulfill their conditions. Fulfillment of a covenant is essential in Islam unless it allows what is forbidden and forbids what is allowed. Almighty Allah said: “And fulfill (every) engagement, for (every) engagement, will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).” (Al Esraa 34).

3. The hall which is built for prayer throughout 30 years, should be an endowment for prayer as long as we can do this and it is not taken from us by force.

4. A mosque cannot be sold, abolished or used for another purpose as it is above-mentioned. This is legally forbidden because this s out of the purpose of maintaining mosques. This is one of the greatest purposes of Shari’at, so that the mosques do not become a puppet in the hands of people.

5. The money should not be wasted in useless things because this is considered a corruption of the earth and wasting the money of the Muslims. Almighty Allah said “But Allah loveth not mischief.” (AI Baqrah 205). Setting a matter in its proper place is what the jurisdiction ordered, when Allah said “O ye who believe! fear Allah, and (always) say a word directed to the Right.” (Al Ahzaab 70).

The Prophet (PBUH) said “Allah did not like for you the gossiping and wasting money.” The Muslims have become weak because of the disputes and not to use things properly. We recommend all in this country to exploit the opportunities, disposing Islam in a good way, exploiting their resources and not to waste them uselessly. We invite them to the unity of opinion and working well. Matters should be in consolation among all and argument should be within the good advice, resorting to the Law of Allah and punishing the spoilers. Almighty Allah said: “And remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love.” (Al-Imran 103)

This is according to what is mentioned in the question and Allah knows best.

Secretary of Committee:

Dr. Saeed Amer

Members of Committee:

l. Sheikh: Dr. Eid Mohamed Mohamed Youssef

2. Sheikh: Mahmoud Mohamed Azzam

3. Sheikh: Elsayed Elkassas

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on October 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    subhanullah, The ulema are unanimous when it comes to this issue.

    Reply

  2. Can somebody forward this to mr ZULFIQR ALI SHAH.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Anonymous on October 21, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Mr Chairman (Board of Trustees) ,may I ask you how do you compare your candid religious opinion from an unknown guy ,with this decree ,given by a respectful body of scholars.
    May Allah give you the guidance to understand the true path of ISLAM.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Anonymous on October 21, 2012 at 12:30 am

    HELLO ……Another example what a real Fatwa looks like ……not an informal email from a personal address can be termed as a religious opinion…DID YOU GET IT !

    Reply

  5. Posted by Syed Sajjad Asghar on October 21, 2012 at 10:40 am

    AlhamdoLilah!
    May Allah SubhanahooTa’Ala guide all of us and keep us on the RIGHT PATH. Amen.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Maulvi Bashar on October 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Jazak’Allah sister Ann. I commend the great work you do. I personally know that people from other countries are reading your blog. Muslim ummah from all over world should benefit from all this. May Allah swt give you and your family reward in this world and hereafter.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Stalwart 1 on October 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Reply

  8. Posted by Dr. Hadi A Akeel on October 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    JAK Dr Sharif for seeking the truth from the noted Ulama.
    As we know, Fatwas apply to the specific situation we pose to the Mufti; please advise of the original question posed to the Fatwa Agency of Alazhar as introduction to the response.

    Reply

    • Posted by Sharif on November 1, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Assalamu Alikum Dr. Hadi,
      Following are the questions in Arabic. JAK for following up on our discussion. Sharif

      جالية مسلمة من الهنود والباكستانيين والعرب تقطن الولايات المتحدة , للجالية مركز اسلامي يحتوي على مسجد ومدرسة وقاعة مناسبات. المركز يعمل منذ 32 عام وتقام في المسجد الصلوات الخمس والجمعة والعيدين منذ انشاء المركز.
      تعتزم ادارة المركز القيام بتوسعة .
      هناك عدة تصميمات لاتمام هذه التوسعة.
      احد هذه التصميمات يقتضي تحويل المسجد الحالي الى قاعة مناسبات وبناء قاعة صلاة مجاورة وتوصيلها بالمبنى الحالي من خلال ممر.
      الى جانب هذا التصميم توجد ثلاث تصممات اخرى لا يستوجب ايها تحويل المسجد الى قاعة مناسبات , ولكن احدها يقترح تحويل المسجد الى مدرسة
      اما التصميمان الاخران فيقترحان ابقاء المسجد على ما هو عليه مع توسعته الى المساحة اللازمة , ثم بناء قاعة مناسات جديدة في موقع اخرمن المبنى.
      مع العلم بان
      1- المركز لا يسمح بالموسيقى او ما شابه في قاعة المناسبات عند تاجيرها للافراد , ولكن ليست هناك امكانية لفرض الزى الاسلامي
      2- قاعة المناسبات تستخدم ايضا في اغراض الدعوة حيث تعقد فيهامحاضرات يحضرها غير المسلمين ومن بينهم هندوس وبهائيين رجال ونساء
      3- بالرغم من ان قاعة المناسبات يمكن تقسيمها الى قسمين بفاصل للفصل بين الرجال والنساء , الا انها غالبا ما تستخدم ايضا بدون هذا الفاصل
      4- التصميم الاول الذي يقتضي تحويل المسجد الى قاعة مناسبات يكلف اكثر من 40% من تكلفة اى من التصميمات الثلاث الاخرى الى جانب انه بؤدي الى توسعة لاتبررها الحاجة المستقبلية للجالية , بالاضافة الى تكلفة الادارة و الصيانة الدورية
      5- التصميمات الثلاث الاخرى وان كانت تؤدي الى توسعة اقل قليلا من التصميم الاول الا انها تتناسب مع التوقعات المعقولة لنمو الجالية , فلا يتم اهدار المال فيما قد لا يستفاد به مستقبلا.
      6- يكون جمع المال لهذه المشاريع بطريقة التخصيص , وذلك بان يحدد المتبرع النشاط الذي يريد ان تودع فيه امواله مثل المسجد..المدرسة..قاعة المناسبات..وهكذا.

      برجاء افتاؤنا بالتالي
      1- هل يمكن من الناحية الشرعية ان يحول المسجد الى قاعة مناسبات , وان جاز هذا فتحت اى ظروف?
      2- هل يكون التبرع المالي المشروط بغرض معين بمثابة وقف لهذا الغرض?
      3- اطلق لفظ المسجد على قاعة الصلاة في هذا المركز طيلة الثلاثون عاما السابقة . وباعتبار ان الاموال التي تم انشاؤها بها كانت مخصصة لهذا الغرض , فهل يؤهل هذا هذه القاعة لان تكون وقفا?
      4- اذا اعتبرهذا المركز , او اى جزء منه , وقفا فهل يجوز لاى فرد او جهة ان تتصرف فيه بيعا او ازالة او بتغيير الغرض الذي انشأ من اجله?
      5- في حالة شرعية تحويل المسجد الى قاعة مناسبات , وتم تنفيذ التصميم الاول وكما توقع الكثير بقى الجزء الكبير من التوسعة بلا استخدام , فهل تأثم الجالية كلها على ضياع المال فيما لا فائدة فيه? وهل تكون مجادلة انصار هذا الحل بالحكمة والموعظة الحسنة الآن من قبيل فرض الكفاية?
      ولكم جزيل الشكر,
      مقدمه
      د. شريف الجندي
      Islamic Association of Greater Detroit
      Detroit, Michigan, USA

      Reply

  9. Posted by Dr. Hadi A Akeel on October 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I noticed that the Fatwa mentions the original question as attachment but is not included.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Dr. Hadi A Akeel on November 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    JAK this is most informative.

    Reply

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