converted into

Conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques

Conversion of non-Muslim houses of worship into mosques began during the life of Muhammad and continued during subsequent Islamic conquests and under the Muslim rule. As a result, numerous churches, synagogues, Zoroastrian and Hindu temples became mosques.

Islamic law

The word "masjid" is found throughout the Qur'an, most frequently with the reference to the sanctuary of Kaaba in the city of Mecca. The Qur'an applies the term "masjid" to places of worship of different religions, including Judaism and Christianity; in the same general meaning of a place of worship, the word is used in the hadith, collections of Muslim traditions about the deeds and saying of Muhammad and his companions.

It is related of the Arab commander Amr ibn al-As that he performed the salat (prayer) in a church and Zayd ibn Ali says regarding churches and synagogues, "Perform thy salat in them; it will not harm thee", meaning that churches and synagogues can safely be used as mosques.


According to The Encyclopaedia Britannica, "before the rise of Islam it was revered as a sacred sanctuary and was a site of pilgrimage.. According to Tabarī's account, the pre- islamic deites included Allāt, al-'Uzzā and Manāt, three goddesses worshiped by the Meccans. The Black Stone (al-Hajar-ul-Aswad), still present at the Kaaba was an object of veneration even before Muhammad. A number of poems Mu'allaqat used to be hung around the Kaaba, because it was a major cultural center. Majnun was taken by his parents to visit the shrine after he had become mad with love for Layla. The pagan pantheon of Ka'aba, located in Mecca, was the first non-Muslim sanctuary to be converted into a mosque; this was done by Muhammad himself after he conquered Makkah in January 630.

According to the Islamic beliefs, Muhammad's actions were not a conversion, but a restoration of a mosque established on that site by Abraham, who is considered to be a prophet in Islam. Ka'aba thus became known as the Masjid al-Haram, or Sacred Mosque, the holiest site in Islam.


According to the early Muslim historians, the towns that surrendered without resistance and made treaties with the Muslims received permission to retain their churches and synagogues, while in the towns taken by conquest Jewish and Christian places of worship were seized by the Muslims. Modern historians do not consider the process of transformation of churches into mosques to be as regular as the Muslim historians describe it, but in the course of time, the Muslims appropriated many churches to themselves. From the beginning of the Muslim conquests, the Christians had ceded to the Muslims half of their churches, which were turned into mosques. One of the earliest examples of this kind was in Damascus, where in 705 Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik took the church of St. John from the Christians and had it rebuilt as a mosque, which is now known as Umayyad Mosque; overall, Abd al-Malik is said to have transformed ten churches in Damascus into mosques. The process of turning churches into mosques was especially intensive in the villages, with the gradual conversion of the people to Islam. During his persecution of the Copts, Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun turned many churches into mosques, both in Cairo and in Egyptian villages, which had no mosques in the earlier generations of Islam. Fatimid caliph al-Hakim converted numerous churches and synagogues into mosques. During the Reconquista, Christian warriors would just as often appropriate and convert mosques to churches as the Muslims would convert them to their capture.. Some of them had been earlier Visigothic churches and even built on the location of Roman temples. The chief mosque in Palermo was previously a church. After the Crusades, several churches were turned into mosques in Palestine. Ottoman Turks converted into mosques nearly all churches, monasteries, and chapels in Constantinople, including the famous St. Sophia cathedral, immediately after capturing the city in 1453. To make the buildings fit for the mosques, the Turks destroyed the icons, plundering their precious plating in the process, and defaced the frescoes. The Ottoman sultan Mehmet II was the first to perform a Muslim prayer in what had previously been the St. Sophia cathedral. In the winter of 1543-1544 the Toulon Cathedral was transformed into a mosque for the 30,000 crew of the Turkish-Barbary admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa, who were wintered in this Mediterranean port as allies of François I of France.

Biblical holy sites

In many instances mosques were established on the places of Jewish or Christian sanctuaries associated with Biblical personalities who were also recognized by Islam; the practice was particularly common in Palestine. Caliph Umar laid the foundation of Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism; Dome of the Rock, another Muslim mosque, was also built on the Temple Mount which was an abandoned and disused area for more than 600 years. Upon the capture of Jerusalem, it is commonly reported that Umar refused to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for fear that later Muslims would then convert it into a mosque in spite of a treaty guaranteeing its safety.The mosque of Job in Ash Shaykh Sa'd, Syria, which previously was a church of Job. Cave of the Patriarchs, the second most holy site in Judaism, was converted into a church during the Crusades before being turned into a mosque in 1266 and henceforth banned to Jews and Christians. In October 2000, during the Al-Aqsa intifada, the tomb of the Hebrew patriarch Joseph, and the yeshiva inside Od Yosef Chai, located in Nablus, was destroyed by a Palestinian mob and immediately rebuilt as a mosque with a dome painted green.

Hindu temples

The destruction of Hindu temples in India during the Islamic conquest had occurred from the beginning of Muslim conquest until the end the Mughal Empire throughout the Indian subcontinent.

An inscription at the Quwwat Al-Islam Mosque in Delhi states:

This Jamii Masjid built in the months of the year 587 (hijri) by the Amir, the great, the glorious commander of the Army, Qutb-ud-daula wad-din, the Amir-ul-umara Aibeg, the slave of the Sultan, may God strengthen his helpers! The materials of 27 idol temples, on each of which 2,000,000 Deliwal coins had been spent were used in the (construction of) this mosque.

Alberuni in his India writes about the famous temple of Multan:

A famous idol of theirs was that of Multan, dedicated to the sun, .. When Muhammad Ibn Alkasim Ibn Almunabbih, conquered Multan, he inquired how the town had become so very flourishing and so many treasures had there been accumulated, and then he found out that this idol was the cause, for there came pilgrims from all sides to visit it. Therefore he thought it best to have the idol where it was, but he hung a piece of cow’s-flesh on its neck by way of mockery. On the same place a mosque was built. When then the Karmatians occupied Multan, Jalam Ibn Shaiban, the usurper, broke the idol into pieces and killed its priests. .. When afterwards the blessed Prince Mahmud swept away their rule from those countries, he made again the old mosque the place of the Friday-worship, ..

An inscription of 1462 Jami Masjid at Malan, in Banaskantha District of Gujarat states:

The Jami Masjid was built by Khan-I-Azam Ulugh Khan, who suppressed the wretched infidels. He eradicated the idolatrous houses and mine of infidelity, along with the idols with the edge of the sword, and made ready this edifice. He made its walls and doors out of the idols; the back of every stone became the place for prostration of the believer

Mughal Emperor Jahangir wrote in his Tujuk-i-Jahangiri:

I am here led to relate that at the city of Banaras a temple had been erected by Rajah Maun Sing, which cost him the sum of nearly thirty-six laks of five methkaly ashrefies. ...I made it my plea for throwing down the temple which was the scene of this imposture; and on the spot, with the very same materials, I erected the great mosque, because the very name of Islam was proscribed at Banaras, and with God’s blessing it is my design, if I live, to fill it full with true believers

Zoroastrian temples

After the Islamic conquest of Persia, Zoroastrian fire temples, with their four axial arch openings, were usually turned into mosques simply by setting a mihrab (prayer niche) on the place of the arch nearest to qibla (the direction of Mecca). This practice is described by numerous Muslim sources; however, the archeological evidence confirming it is still scarce. Zoroastrian temples converted into mosques in such a manner could be found in Bukhara, as well as in and near Istakhr and other Iranian cities.

The practice today

The conversion of non-Islamic places of worship into mosques has abated in modern times, as no major territorial acquisitions have been made by Islam in recent times. However, some of the Greek Orthodox churches in Turkey that were left behind by expelled Greeks in 1923 were converted into mosques. A relatively significant surge in church-mosque conversion followed the 1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus. Many of the Orthodox churches in Northern Cyprus have been converted, and many are still in the process of becoming mosques. This practice has sparked considerable contempt in the Greek Cypriot community, and is likely to complicate reconciliation with the Turkish Cypriots.

During World War II, the authorities of the Nazi puppet Independent State of Croatia tried to ally with the Bosniaks, whom they considered to be "Muslim Croats". As a token, the Artists' Gallery museum (by Ivan Meštrović) in Zagreb was furnished with minarets and ceded to be used as a mosque.

In many areas with surges in a new Islamic population (e.g. the United States and the United Kingdom), buildings once housing churches and other religious congregations have been converted into mosques due to a decrease in Christian religiosity.

See also

  • Mithraism: Conversion of Mithra temples into churches

Conversion of Hellenic temples into Churches:

Conversion of Churches into Mosques and converted back into Churches:

Conversion of Hindu temples into Mosques and converted back into Hindu temples:


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