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Its well known that the prophet Muhammad PBUH emptied the Ka’bah of its idols and stabbed them,

The Prophet entered Mecca and there were 360 idols around the Kaba. He started stabbing the idols with a stick he had in his hand and reciting: "Truth has come and Falsehood has vanished." [ Sunnah ref: Sahih Bukhari 2478 ]

but we also know that the Meccan Idol worshippers were guilty of persecuting the Muslims and the Islamic Religion for a long time, so I thought its possible this action was a specific retaliation and not a General sunnah to break idols regardless of whether the idol worshippers are enemies of Islam.

however, there is this Hadith where the prophet said he was sent to break the idol

Amr Ibn Abasa said to the Prophet: “Who are you?” He said: I am a Prophet I again said: Who is a Prophet? He said: “I have been sent by Allah”. I said: “What is that which you have been sent with?” Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been sent to join ties of relationship, to break the Idols, and to proclaim the oneness of Allah nothing is to be associated with Him” [ Sunnah ref: Sahih Muslim 832]

And the context of it indicates this is one of the primary missions of the Prophet and he did not qualify it on the condition the idol worshippers attack Islam first, so the generality of this statement caused me to consider that idol smashing is a praiseworthy sunnah regardless of the idolators’ enmity or neutrality.

Can someone clarify on this Thanks

2 Answers 2

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The ruling on breaking of idols depends on who owns those idols.

  • Muslims. It is not lawful for a Muslim to possess an idol (Bukhari 2236) and so any such idol has to be destroyed. We know that Moses عليه السلام destroyed the golden calf (Quran 20:97). We also know that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ defaced images which were not idols (Tirmidhi 2806) and an idol is worse than that since it is used for shirk. Some of the scholars have noted that destroying such idols is a form of نهي عن المنكر and have stated that legal punishment and financial compensation is not applicable if someone destroys such idols.

  • Dhimmis. Polytheist subjects of an Islamic state would be permitted to keep idols for the purpose of their religion, such as inside their homes and temples - and it is not permitted to destroy these. This is similar to the case of the cross and images of saints and prophets inside Churches, see Are non-Muslims living under Islamic rule allowed to make idols or possess crosses? . Also see الرد على دعوى ما ترك المسلمون هدمه من التماثيل.

  • Harbis. Destroying idols and temples is permissible during war. Also after a location is captured by military force all the properties in it become spoils of war and come into the legal possession of the Muslims. Hence after a forceful military conquest it is permissible (and according to some madhabs even obligatory) to destroy the idols and temples in them. We know of several incidents which support this:

    • Abraham عليه السلام destroyed the idols at Ur (Quran 21:57-58).
    • The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ destroyed the idols in the Kaabah at the conquest of Makkah — Bukhari 4720
    • Khalid bin Waleed was sent by the Prophet ﷺ to Nakhlah to demolish the idol of al-'Uzza — Raheeq Al-Makhtum
    • Amr ibn al-'Aas was sent by the Prophet ﷺ to demolish the idol of Suwaa' — Raheeq Al-Makhtum
    • Sa’d ibn Zayd al-Ashhali was sent by the Prophet ﷺ to al-Mashallal to demolish the idol of Manat. — Raheeq Al-Makhtum
    • Ali ibn Abi Talib was sent by the Prophet ﷺ to demolish Qullus the idol of Tai' tribe — Raheeq Al-Makhtum
    • Mughira ibn Shu'ba was sent by the prophet ﷺ to to Ta'if to demolish the idol of al-Laat Raheeq Al-Makhtum
    • Jarir bin Abdullah was sent by the Prophet ﷺ to demolish Dhul-Khalasa — Bukhari 4355
    • The Prophet ﷺ gave Ali ibn Abi Talib the following command:

      لا تدع تمثالا إلا طمسته

      Do not leave an image without obliterating it

      Muslim


For further reference see معابد الكفار وأحكامها في بلاد المسلمين. This book goes into depth on the laws regarding places of worship of the disbelievers and their idols.

في آية {جاء الحق وزهق الباطل} دليل على كسر نصب المشركين والأصنام وجميع الأوثان

Tafsir al-Qurtubi - Tafsir al-Munir

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  • thank you so much for your answers, they are always very helpful. but can you provide an authentic reference in Hadith or early sirah book for the prophet sending Amr ibn al As to demolish the idol of suwaa? (or any idol)
    – Hisham
    Jun 12 at 22:36
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    shamela.ws/book/1686/484
    – UmH
    Jun 13 at 9:00
  • Again just to emphasise all these demolition orders were carried out after Muhammed(ﷺ) assumed statehood. So essentially these actions are to be done under the supervision of authorities.
    – Riyaz
    Jun 15 at 12:16
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Firstly, Prophet Muhammad(ﷺ) was a leader of the state. It is not upto the individuals to take up these matters on their own. Hence these are affairs of the state and only concerned authorities can carry out such actions.

Secondly, benefits must outweigh negative consequences.

Prophet (ﷺ) said: “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” Narrated by al-Haakim (2/57-58)

If the harm outweighs the benefit or is equal to it, then it is not allowed, because of the hadith, “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm,” and because warding off harm takes precedence over achieving interests.

If the benefit outweighs the harm, then it is permissible with condition(Should be implemented by concerned authority), because it is a well-established principle that greater benefits take precedence over lesser harms.

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  • But the Prophet Ibrahim destroyed his villages’ Idols even though he was not a head of state
    – Hisham
    Jun 15 at 2:30
  • We follow the shariah of Muhammad (ﷺ). Emulation of prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) takes precedence over Ibrahim action. We can see that he (ﷺ) didn’t destroy a single idol around the kaaba until he(ﷺ) conquered makkah
    – Riyaz
    Jun 15 at 2:57
  • What is the Evidence that idol breaking is only allowed of you are a head of state ?
    – Hisham
    Jun 15 at 11:11
  • I already provided the evidence. Did messenger of Allah break any idol when he was Makkah for 13 years?
    – Riyaz
    Jun 15 at 11:49
  • that is not an evidence. Did the prophet go travelling around the world? No? Therefore its haraam. Lol. Use proper evidences plz
    – Hisham
    Jun 15 at 12:01

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