Is it permissible for non-Muslims to volunteer to provide for Muslim children, build mosques, and establish charity projects such as hospitals, educational institutions, and other similar avenues of social welfare?
The principle of coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims is derived from the Qur`anic verse:
Allah does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: Allah loves the just [60:8]
This verse refers to all kinds of human relations which include [social] support, co-operation, and interchange both on the individual and group levels.
The prophet accepted gifts from non-Muslims
• Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "The ruler of Persia sent the messenger of Allah a gift and he accepted it; Caesar sent him a gift and he accepted it; kings sent him gifts and he accepted them" [Ahmed and al-Tirmidhi. Al-Tirmidhi graded it fair].
• Anas ibn Malek, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "Ukaydar Duwmat gave the Messenger of Allah [P.B.U.H] a cloak made of fine silk" [Muslim and Bukhari]. He also said: "Malek Dhi-Yazin presented the Messenger of Allah [P.B.U.H] with a suit worth thirty three camels or she-camels and he accepted it" [Abu Dawud].
• ‘Amr ibn ‘Abdallah ibn al-Zubayr said: "Futayla, went to her daughter Asama` bint Abu Bakr with gifts. Asma` refused to accept or even take the gifts into the house because her mother was a polytheist. Asma`’s sister, ‘Aisha, asked the prophet [P.B.U.H] about this, so Allah revealed the verse:
Allah does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: Allah loves the just [60:8].
Then, the prophet [P.B.U.H] ordered Asmaa` to accept the gifts and take them into her house" [Ahmed].
• The prophet [P.B.U.H] accepted a gift from Salman al-Farsi (may Allah be pleased with him) before he became a Muslim. The hadith scholar, al-‘Iraqi, mentioned in Tarh Al-Tathrib: "This demonstrates [the permissibility of] accepting a gift from a non-Muslim.
Salman was not a Muslim at that time—he [only] embraced Islam after recognizing the three signs of prophethood of which he had previously known."
Position of the different schools of Jurisprudence
It makes no difference whether the donations made by non-Muslims benefit the religious or worldly interests of Muslims:
• The Shafi’i scholars maintain this position by permitting endowments established by non-Muslims for the benefit of both the religious and worldly interests of Muslims. They base this on the condition that the endowment be an act of worship in itself regardless of the faith of the person making it.
• The Malikis stipulate that the endowment established by a non-Muslim must be intended for worldly benefits only.
• The Hanafis stipulate that the endowments must be regarded as acts of worship by both Muslims and non-Muslims living under Muslim rule.
Position of some scholars
– Al-Dusuqi, the Maliki scholar, stated that endowments are invalid in the following cases:
• When they are established by non-Muslims at war with Muslims.
• When the beneficiaries are mosques or charity projects for religious and worldly benefits.
• When they include building mosques.
According to him, endowments are valid when used for worldly pious acts such as building aqueducts and digging streams [Dusuqi’s commentary on Al-Sharh Al-Kabir (4/122)].
Ibn Najayim, the Hanafi scholar, said that the apparent meaning of Imam abu Hanifa’s statement, only concerns non-Muslims living under Muslim rule. The purpose is to eliminate endowments that are regarded as a pious act by Muslims alone, such as endowments towards pilgrimage, mosques, and endowments regarded as acts of worship only by non-Muslims such as endowments for churches. These are different from endowments established towards the Sacred Mosque in Jerusalem which is regarded as a pious act by Muslims and non-Muslims alike [al-Bahr al-Ra`iq Sharh Kinz Daqa`iq (5/204)].
• Al-Khatib Al-Shirbini, the Shafi’i scholar, said: "The condition for an endowment is the validity of the statement [meaning his ability to articulate his intention- meeting the requirements for endowments] that affects it. This includes endowments established by non-Muslims. Endowments are valid when they are made by non-Muslims where the beneficiary is a mosque. The reason is that we consider it an act of worship even though they do not [Mughni al-Muhtaj 2/510].“
The meaning intended by the verse:
It is not right for the idolaters to tend God’s places of worship while testifying to their
own disbelief [9:17]