Shaikhul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullah was asked:
Is prayer in a synagogue or church allowed with pictures present therein or not? Is it said that they are the houses of Allah or not?
They are not the houses of Allah. Verily the houses of Allah are the Masaajid. Rather they are the houses of disbelieve in Allah even though they do remember Allah in it. So the houses are in accordance to the position of its people and its people are disbelievers. So, they are houses for the worship of the disbelievers.
As for the prayer in it, then there are three opinions of the Scholars in the School of the thought of Ahmad and others:
- Prohibited in general and it is the opinion of Malik.
- Permission in general and it is the opinion of some of the Companions of Ahmad.
- And the third which is correct and narrated from Umar ibn al-khattab and other than him. It is also textually reported from Ahmad and others that if it has pictures, then it is not prayed in it because the Angels do not enter a house which has pictures. This is because the Prophet sallahu alayhi wa salam did not enter the Ka’bah until the pictures inside were erased. Likewise Umar radiallahu anhu said: We do not enter the churches due to the pictures inside
It is similar to the position of a masjid built with a grave inside. In the Saheehayn it is reported that a church in Abisyina was mentioned to Prophet sallahu alayhi wa salam which was nice and had pictures. He said, ‘When a pious person among them (among the religious groups) dies, they build a place of worship on his grave, and then decorate it with such pictures. They would be the worst of creatures on the Day of judgment in the sight of Allah.
As for if it does not have pictures, then the Companions radiallahu anhum used to pray inside a church. And Allah Knows Best
[Majmoo’ al-Fatwa (22/162-163)]
Faisal Ibn Abdul Qaadir Ibn Hassan