Is it permissible for a contractor who lives in a non-Muslim country to participate in a tender for building a church or a synagogue and for cleaning them?

Details of the Question

Is it permissible for a contractor who lives in a non-Muslim country to participate in a tender for building a church or a synagogue and for cleaning them? 

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In general, it is permissible for a Muslim to work for a dhimmi at a time when and in a place where a non-Muslim does not insult and despise him. Hz. Ali worked for a Jew and earned a date for every bucket of water he drew from a well. He took the dates to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and he ate from them. A companion who was from Ansar worked similarly, brought the dates to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and he did not refuse them. (see Tirmidhi, Qiyamah 34; Ibn Majah, Ruhun 6) For, there is nothing that despises a Muslim in it. However, as for working with a binding work contract based on a period of time like one day, one month, etc., Islamic fiqh scholars have different views about it. Some scholars say it is not permissible because the unbeliever becomes dominant over the Muslim and he despises the Muslim as if he has bought him. Other scholars hold the view that it is permissible because it means working in return for a wage based on his own will. It is not like being owned by the unbeliever but working for his own because to own somebody means to possess him in all aspects. According to Ibn Qudama, the second view is more appropriate. (Ibn Qudama, Mughni, IV/294) This is the sound view. For owning can be possible even in an hour’s work. There is only a difference of period between working for an hour and working for a year, etc.

Form this point of view, if we think about the Muslims working in Europe and in similar places, it is not appropriate for them to work there in general according to both views. For, they sign a binding contract for a period of time and they are insulted and despised due to the work they do and in terms of the way they are treated. The state of those who get rid of this bad state by attaining a certain status is still not appropriate according to the first view but appropriate according to the second view. However, it is still makruh. Besides, Islamic scholars deduce those decrees based on the Muslims’ working for dhimmis in an Islamic country. There are additional prohibitions related to going to the land of unbelievers (dar al-harb) and living there.

It is not permissible for a Muslim to work for the private services of a dhimmi. This is the view of Ahmad b. Hanbal. He says it is permissible to work in order to do a certain task. This is one of the two views of Imam Shafii too. He also has a view that regards special service permissible. The explanation of Hanbalis regarding the issue is as follows: This is a contract that makes a Muslim dependent on an unbeliever and it despises his personality. To serve him is as if he has been sold to him. However, it is permissible for him to do a certain task in return for money. The evidences for it are the hadiths about Hz. Ali and Ansar mentioned above. (Ibn Qudama, ibid, V/554)

As it is indicated above and due to the same evidences, there is no difference of opinion about the permissibility of a Muslim working for a dhimmi in return for a wage if it is in a Muslim country and if the Muslim is not despised. (ibid) There is no drawback to working in the construction or repair of a synagogue or church; the money he earns from it is halal. For, the work itself does not include any bad things. (Qadihan, NI/426; Hindiyya, IV/450 (from Muhit); Jaziri, NI/125)

However, that it is permissible and possible does not indicate that it is something good. Besides, the phrase "there is no drawback" is used in the sense of it is better not to do it in fiqh.

"If a Muslim makes a contract with a Christian to ring a church bell every day in return for five dirhams and if he finds another job that he will earn one dirham a day, according to Ibrahim b. Yusuf, it is not appropriate for him to ring the church bell; he should seek his sustenance in the other job." (Qadihan, III/404, 426)

Accordingly, it is permissible to construct a synagogue.

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