- Question: [Monday, 27th MarCheshvan, 5783]
Is there any prohibition involved in entering a Mosque? To explain the context, we are going on a trip to a foreign country which has a Muslim majority and some of the tourist sites include mosques, and I would like to know if there’s any issue for us tourists to enter into them?
There is no Halachic prohibition to enter a Mosque as a tourist together with a tour guide on a group, so long as there is no established local custom in the Jewish community otherwise to prohibit and restrict entering mosques. However, one should not enter the mosque on his own outside of a tour group if he appears like a Jew due to Maras Ayin.
Explanation: It is a clear Mishneh in Miseches Avoda Zara that it is forbidden to even enter a city of idolatry, let alone to enter a house of idolatry. As for the reason for this prohibition, primarily it is due to Chashad as it appears to the onlooker that one is going to prostrate to an idol and worship idolatry. In addition, when entering into the house of idolatry it is forbidden due to that it appears that one is paying his respects to the idol. In addition, it is forbidden for one to benefit from the walls and roof of the house of idolatry, such as to get shade from the rain or the sun. Accordingly, it is clear that it is absolutely forbidden to enter into a temple of idolatry, and according to some authorities it is forbidden even in the case of danger of life, as it is included within Yaharog Veal Yavor. Accordingly, it is forbidden to enter into a church, being that Christians are considered idol worshipers for Jews. However, Muslims are not considered idol worshipers as clearly delineates the Rambam in a response that regarding unity of God they have absolutely no blemish in their faith and belief and they have no remnant of idolatry in their religion. Accordingly, one cannot define a mosque as a house of idolatry regarding the above prohibition, and hence a number of Poskim of today explicitly rule that there is no prohibition to enter a mosque. Nonetheless, in truth there still remains the issue of Chashad, as by the Jew entering the mosque it may appear that he has become an adherent of Islam which is certainly forbidden for a Jew to leave his faith. Accordingly, we concluded as above that only in cases where it is apparent to all that one is a mere tourist, or one’s Jewish identity is hidden, is it permitted to enter a mosque, otherwise it should be forbidden due to Chashad. It should also be noted, that while the final ruling remains as stated above that entering a mosque is permitted from the letter of the law, there is a minority of Poskim who are stringent and prohibit entering a mosque just as it is prohibited to enter a church under the basis that the prohibition is not against entering a house of idolatry, but rather against entering a house of worship of any foreign religion. To also note, that the same dispute applies likewise to entering the Mearas Hamachpeila, and entering in praying in the section known as Heichal Yitzchak which is an active mosque. When Israel first conquered the area during the six day war in 1967, the Rebbe mentioned in a public talk that the Rabbanim must verify whether it is permitted to enter and pray in the Mearas Hamachpeila being that it is used as a mosque. As we concluded above, majority of the Gedolei Haposkim concluded that it is permitted to do so, and themselves would enter and pray in Heichal Yitzchak, even though a minority of Poskim took a stringent approach to forbid it.
Sources: Poskim who permit entering a mosque: Iyun Yitzchak O.C. 11; Avnei Yashpei Y.D. 1:153; Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:12; Shevet Hakehasi 5:152; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:35; Opinion of Rav Elyashiv; Opinion of Rav SZ”A; Rav Chaim Kanievsky; Asei Lecha Rav 1:59; Poskim who suspect for Chashad when entering a mosque and only permit when no Chashad: See Teshuvos Yisrael 1:59; Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:69; O.C. 2:40 regarding Maras Ayin and Chashad to enter a shul without Mechitza; Poskim who forbid entering a mosque just like a church: Tzitz Eliezer 10:1; 14:91 [forbids entering Heichal Yitzchak of Mearas Hamachpeila]; Divrei Yatziv O.C. 90, Y.D. 40; Opinion of Rebbe: Yechudus Kelalils 5728, printed in Heichal Menachem 3 p. 246; Toldos Admur Rayatz 4:33 that he Davened at the Mearas Hamachpeila See regarding the general prohibition against entering a house of idolatry: Michaber 149:1; Shach Y.D. 149:1 in name of Rambam in Pirush Hamishnayos that it is forbidden to enter the home of idolatry, and Shach 149:2 that possibly one must even give up his life before entering; Michaber 150:1; Rama Y.D. 149:2 regarding a dispute if one may enter the courtyard; Rama Y.D. 150:1 and 3; Shach 150:2-3; Rambam and Raavad Avoda Zara 9:10; Rambam in Pirush Hamishnayos on Mishneh Avoda Zara 11b; Kesef Mishneh and Lechem Mishneh on Rambam ibid; Tosafus Avoda Zara 17b; Rashba Avoda Zara 12a, Ritva Avoda Zara 11a, and Tur Y.D. 149 that even by Pikuach Nefesh such as to get a drink its forbidden and its Yaharog Veal Yavor; Yireim 102; Rosh Kelal 19 permits in case of Pikuach Nefesh; Tosefta Avoda Zara 1:1; Chaim Bayad 26; Darkei Teshuvah 157:6; Ruach Chaim Y.D; Peri Hasadeh 2:4; Kol Yehuda 28; Darkei Teshuvah 150:2, 6; See regarding the prohibition to enter into a church: Yechaveh Daas 3:65; Tzitz Eliezer 10:1; 14:91; 18:47; Mareh Bezek 1:22; Bnei Banim 3:35; Teshuvos Yisrael 1:59; See regarding the prohibition to enter a city of idolatry due to Chashad: Mishneh Avoda Zara 11b and Rashi and Rambam there in Pirush Hamishnayos; See regarding the status of Christians as idol worshipers: Rambam Machalos Assuros 11:7; Avoda Zara 9:4; Pirush Hamishnayos Avoda Zara 1:3; Teshuvas Harambam 448; Rama Y.D. 148:12 [in uncensored editions] lists Xmas and New Years as Holidays of idolatry; Likkutei Sichos 37 p. 198; Rebbe in handwritten editing remarks to a letter “Christianity is Avoda Zara, is in contrast to the seven Nohadite laws, as opposed to Islam. However, the Christians of today are simply “Maaseh Avoseihem Beyadeihem”. See regarding the status of Muslims as non-idol worshipers: Rama Y.D. 246:5; Rambam Machalos Asuros 11:7; Teshuvas Rambam 369 ; Tur Y.D. 124; Rashbatz 2:48; Rashba in Toras Habayis 130b; Other opinions who rule they are idol worshipers: Eshkol 3:58; Meiri Avoda Zara 57; Ran Sanhedrin 61b; Radbaz 4:92 in name of Ritva