Destroying the ‘Buddha’ Statues
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

What is the justification of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues by the Taliban in the name of Islam? In your opinion, does Islam allow such destruction?


There is absolutely no justification for destroying the Buddha statues as the Taliban have done. Religious freedom for the minorities demands that these statues be given full protection.

The argument that the Taliban present in support of this stance is that the Prophet (sws) destroyed the idols that were placed in the Baytullāh. This analogy, I am afraid, is incorrect and seems to have arisen by not understanding the specific position occupied by Arabia.

Pre-Islamic Arabia was conquered and given in the possession of Muhammad (sws) and his companions by the Almighty in accordance with His established scheme regarding His Rusul. According to this Divine scheme, a Rasul always triumphs over his nation:

Those who show hostility to Allah and His Rasul are bound to be humiliated. The Almighty has ordained: ‘I and my Rusul shall be dominant’. (58:20)

It is the Almighty who actually takes control of matters and sees to it that this scheme is implemented. The Rusul and their companions act as no more than the implementers of His will.

So in accordance with this law, specifically meant for the Rusul, Muhammad (sws) was also informed that he would triumph over his nation. He and his companions were told that they would have to fight the idolaters of Arabia until the supremacy of Islam was achieved:

And fight them on until there is no more persecution and there prevails the religion of God everywhere [in this land of Arabia]. (8:38-40)

This Qur’ānic directive has been referred to by the Prophet in the following words:

No other religion than Islam should be allowed to be practiced here. (Mu’attā, Kitābu’l-Jāmi‘)

With the implementation of this divine scheme, Arabia was required to become a symbol of monotheism. Here every trace of polytheism was to be uprooted. Therefore, all idols were destroyed. Consequently, in Arabia no one was and is allowed to practice polytheism.

In other words, the stress in this directive is on the land of Arabia. It is only here that no religion is allowed to be practiced according to 8:38-40. The directive is not related to other countries and territories in which non-Muslims can live and practice their religion. So we find the Companions of the Prophet (sws) giving full religious freedom to their subjects in conquered areas outside Arabia.

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