sacred space

Is it right to allow Muslim prayers or Qur'an readings in church?

Image: Daniel Burka,  Unsplash

Image: Daniel Burka, Unsplash

Is it right to allow Muslim prayers or Qur'an readings in church?

Carl asked the following question off the back of a meeting for better understanding (MBU) with local Muslims:

Is it right to allow Muslim prayers or Qur’an readings in church?

Dear Mahabba,

MBUs have built good relationships and sown the Gospel among Muslims. It has also resulted in requests for the use of our places of worship for Muslim events. One of them was for an Eid el Adha event.  This would include the reading of the Qur'an and Muslim prayers. What would your response be to this request?


Our response

This is a tricky one, and has caused quite a bit of debate and controversy recently, as we explored in a blog, 'Islam in church: some questions'. Rather than lay out a definitive answer, here are some responses from individuals on our online community area, The City.


How strongly do you feel?

"I’d be quite happy with the idea, although I know that some Christians strongly feel that such acts are totally unacceptable. Maybe believers from a Muslim background might be more strongly of the latter persuasion."

What is your perspective on the consecration of space?

"We have churches that meet in schools and pubs. We also have church traditions that consecrate space. I think to invite Muslims to confess that Muhammad is God’s messenger in consecrated space violates that consecration.

"Whether we like it or not, we tend to be secular Christians, and so we don’t take the consecration of space very seriously. We don’t do symbolism. But Muslims do, much more so than us anyway.

"I think the question is much more about how we regard our church space. Would you invite a Jehovah’s witness to preach there? How about a militant atheist? Would you allow Hindu gods to be praised in it?

"The question of whether to allow or invite Muslims to pray and confess their creed needs to be set alongside this sort of question to give it context. If space is just space, then you have no problem. If consecration means something, that is another matter."

Provision for personal prayer

"If the space is consecrated: I would not make provision for another deity to be worshipped. I would tend not to give a platform for another religion to be preached and lifted up without a counterpoint or moderation by a Christian.

"But someone who wants to personally pray, I would have no problem with, especially if they are meaning to seek the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, even if their idea of Him is corrupted.

"If their prayers are together in community and include a led confession or declaration about Muhammad, in a Christian consecrated space… that's another question."

A former Muslim's viewpoint - what does God say?

"My response would be: 'what is God asking me to do?' Bearing in mind Scripture such as Peter’s vision that all food was now clean or that circumcision or non-circumcision was not the deeper spiritual issue. Is God trying to lead us to think and react differently to the changing society we now live in?

"Having come from a Muslim background and being able to see both sides, I would drench that church in prayer and plead protection over it through the blood of Christ and then invite another faith to hold their event. If just one heart is changed through that event, if seeds are sown, would it not be worth it? I think the answer to this dilemma lies in prayer and isn’t that what we as the Mahabba Network do? And do so well, might I add!"

"I agree that we need to pray without ceasing, for discernment and for God to use the relationship to His glory. Here is an example of a church that opened its door to its Muslim neighbours on a more permanent basis."

What does Muslim tradition say?

"According to traditions, the Prophet invited Christians to worship in his mosque.

"As to whether this is a practice that Muslims emulate, Muslims have been known to say this too.

"Some Christians have often prayed quiet individual prayers in a mosque, explaining that they are making their own dua, and had no problems.

"I have known this to happen in a more public or congregational way. 

"In a dialogue meeting, Christians had an impromptu prayer meeting in the mosque, while the Muslims perform their prayers (salaat). The Muslims did not have a problem with that."

Gracious hospitality vs. faithfulness to truth

"I think there are two quite different themes at play here. One is gracious hospitality and the other other is faithfulness to truth.

"If we come across people who are marginalised and excluded, trying to find space to honestly meet their religious obligations, how could we not offer them space? That is an application of loving our neighbour and we do so in the name of Christ.

"However, if we so order things that our actions seem to communicate that obedience to Muhammad is the same thing as faith in Christ, if we seek to join the two, blurring the differences then we are being unfaithful and no longer witnesses to the truth. Nor do we witness to the Muslim guest.

"Our love for the other and our security in Christ should enable us to be hospitable, but it should not lead us to bend over backwards so that we affirm the denial of Christ."


Since you're here...

... we have recently reached a total of 40 local Mahabba prayer groups in the UK - awesome news!

With your help, though, we would like to continue to sow, plant and support Mahabba groups.

Our work involves a small team of regional reps and central hub personnel investing in local coordinators and groups, as well as spreading the word.

To continue this vital mission to Muslims, we need to increase our regular monthly income.

Our initial target is to raise up 100 individual regular donors, giving an average of £10 to £15 per month.

Could you be one of the 100?

Islam in church: Some questions

Image: defenceimages,  Flickr

Image: defenceimages, Flickr


Islam in church, the sacred space and interfaith is a divisive topic. By opening up the discussion here, Mahabba Network is seeking to help Christians to pause, consider the facts and pray before commenting.
We trust that as you read you will weigh Scripture and invite the Holy Spirit to bring you discernment in the issues.
Mahabba seeks to make space for those who are more interfaith and ecumenical-minded as well as the evangelically-minded who want to see Muslims discipled to Jesus.
Mahabba’s vision is to see Jesus unveiled to Muslims, but we believe that dialogue and understanding of ‘the other’ are important on that journey.
The two are not mutually-exclusive, but it does mean that there is tension in holding both together.


What is church?

How do we think about church space, nevermind Islam in church: is it simply a building that homes us while we join together for communal worship, so that we may even meet in a school and call it ‘church’?
To what extent do our churches belong to the community as a whole – whether they’re Christians or not – so that they may visit and learn about our Christian history?
Is the church the house of God in the sense that we all may enter but only the sanctified may express themselves?


Qur’an and adhan in church

This January saw two events where Islamic presentations took place in a church space, causing uproar and raising some of these questions again.
First there was the Qur'an reading at an Epiphany service in Glasgow and then there was the adhan at Gloucester Cathedral.

[See below for more on the Qur'an reading in Glasgow from the Pfander Centre]

There has also been controversy surrounding Rev Giles Goddars and St John’s Waterloo where a progressive Muslim group was invited to use the St John’s space.


Fed up of religious people

On January 14, I visited the launch of an art exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral by a self-proclaimed atheist artist.
He had painted 37 huge portraits depicting people of different faiths, explaining that he had become intolerant of ‘religious people’ and this project was his way of connecting with people of different persuasions: Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Rastafarian, Wiccan and others, so that he may understand them better.


Fire-eating vicar and the pagan rock band

I don’t usually attend these kinds of events, but had a personal stake in this one. My friend, a Muslim, was the subject of one of the portraits.
The launch promised a variety of demonstrations by different religions, and of course, there was food.
The portraits were placed around the cloister walls and the launch events took place in the Chapter House, a side room off the cloister area.
I only stayed long enough to hear the Jewish Klezmer band, the Buddhist meditation and the Muslim call to prayer, adhan. I missed out on the fire-eating vicar and the pagan rock band.


Cathedral attracts criticism

Sadly, neither I nor my Muslim friend were surprised the next week when local papers reported that the cathedral had removed a video clip of the adhan from its Facebook page because it had attracted abuse.
The cathedral attracted further criticism and the issue then made the front pages, was reported on regional BBC TV news and went national.


Constructive approaches to different faiths

Interfaith contact often causes debate or accusations of syncretism. But the Gloucester controversy differs from the Scottish furore in ways that might help us think about constructive approaches to different faiths:

  1. The Gloucester event did not take place in the usual Christian worship space but in an adjacent room which is also available for hire to the general public. In contrast, the Glasgow cathedral event had the Qur'an reading as part of the worship service
  2. The Muslim call to prayer was one religious expression among many, including Buddhists, Wiccans, Rastafaris and others so that people could learn, not only about similarities between faiths, but the fundamental differences between them
  3. The call to prayer was made in Arabic and translated afterwards in English so that everyone could understand what was being said

The event was not part of regular Christian worship, but an open educational or artistic event hosted on the cathedral grounds


Media-consuming public

Rather than revealing something about the state of Christendom in Britain, it says something about us as a media-consuming public when the Muslim call to prayer is singled out from a list of other religious expressions to make headlines.
I was certainly glad that I had a long established relationship with this same Muslim friend in Gloucester so that we could continue meeting the next Saturday, where we reflected on the comfort promised to us in Psalm 121.


A different perspective

Our friends at the Pfander Centre had an interesting perspective on the reading of the Qur'an in church.

Here are a few points, and do read their blog in full.

  • Christians should e encouraged to sit down with Muslims and study the Qur’an and the Bible together
  • If we believe the Bible to be God’s word, why is the Qur’an given the same status as the Bible, when it teaches the opposite of core Christian doctrine?
  • Ayahs 35-36, which were read out, are direct denouncements of Jesus' divinity and sonship, in a gathering where people were worshiping him as the unique Son of God

Your turn

Do you want to find out more about Islam and Muslims – request someone from Mahabba to come and speak at your church.

Name *

The author

Georgina is part of the Network Team and is involved with her local Mahabba prayer group. She also wrote all the entries for our recent Mini-Lovefast campaign during Eid al-Adha! (Find out more about who’s who in Mahabba.)



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