By Mohammad Sabrah, IOL Correspondent
Qaradawi said he based his view on the Muslim principle of equal treatment.
DOHA—Prominent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi approves building churches for Christian citizens of or residents in Muslim countries to meet their needs just as Muslims are being allowed to build mosques in the West.
“There is nothing wrong in building churches for Christian citizens if there is such a need because their numbers have multiplied or because they lack a place to worship as long as it is authorized by the ruler,” Qaradawi said.
“This also applies to non-Muslims who came to a Muslim country for work or residence and have grown in numbers and need a church to worship.”
The fatwa came in response to a question regarding the building of the first-ever church in the Gulf emirate of Qatar.
The land was given by Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
Qaradawi, the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), said the presence of a Christian minority, whether it was of a local community or of expatriates, justifies this.
“It is completely permissible that they should be allowed to have churches.”
Catholics comprise the majority of Qatar’s estimated 70,000 Christian expatriates.
The Gulf region has in recent years set out an example of religious tolerance as several countries have been allocating pieces of land to Christian minorities to build their own churches.
Bahrain, who has about 1,000 Christian citizens including a woman member of an appointed consultative council, hosts the first church of the Gulf region, founded in 1906 by American Anglican missionaries.
Other Gulf states, like Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have churches that cater to hundreds of thousands of expats and, in some cases, tiny local communities.
Sheikh Qaradawi, the IUMS president, also approved for Muslims to participate in building churches.
“If we allow them (Christians) to build churches in Muslim countries, then participation in the construction is also approved though many scholars would not like Muslims to do that.”
Sheikh Qaradawi noted that scholars have been divided on the issues of allowing churches in Muslim countries and Muslims participating in the construction.
He noted that of the four main schools of Islamic thought only Imam Abu Hanifa approves this.
Qaradawi based his view, which goes in line with Abu Hanifa’s, on the Muslim principle of equal treatment.
“Just like they allow Muslims in their countries to build mosques for prayers.”