The difference between an endowed masjid, a zawya and a musalla
The heirs of … established a zawya — which was affiliated to the ministry of endowments — on a piece of land they had inherited from the deceased. They intended the zawya to maintain the land until they start construction on a building on it. They want to remove this zawya because it is cracking and replace it with a residential building for the heirs, beneath which they will establish another zawya. We would like to know the ruling for this so as to act within the confines of Islamic law.
It is established in Islamic law that there is a difference between a masjid which has been endowed to Allah the Almighty and a zawya or a musalla; it is valid to pray in all of them and purity of place is incumbent in all three. Among others, rulings specific to a masjid include the following:
· The impermissibility of converting it from a place of worship.
· The prohibition of a menstruating woman from entering it.
· The permissibility of offering the specialized prayers for "greeting the masjid" in it.
The rulings for masjids do not apply to musallas and zawyas even if they are made into endowments. What matters in legal rulings is what is designated and not the designation itself.
Based on the above, if the matter is indeed as mentioned in the question, that the owners of this piece of land on which the zawya was built have endowed the land as a place of worship or dedicated it to Allah the Almighty as a masjid, then it is not considered merely a zawya but a masjid encompassing the land on which it was built, the buildings constructed on it and the space surrounding it. Consequently, it is unlawful to construct any structure on it because the space surrounding a masjid is part of it. It remains a masjid even though its area is small, the people offering prayers in it are few, it does not offer any services, its structure is simple or it is cracking. In this case, the heirs are bound to preserve the endowment and they are forbidden by Islamic law to remove the masjid or end its affiliation to the Ministry of Endowments.
On the other hand, if the owners have not endowed this piece of land as a place of worship or they have merely constructed a zawya or a musalla on it, it is permissible for them in this case to replace it with the building they want to construct and establish another zawya beneath it. However, if the zawya is affiliated to the ministry of Endowments, then it is not permissible for them to take it back since it has ceased to be in their possession but belongs to Allah the Almighty. It is likewise impermissible for others to encroach upon it.
Allah the Almighty knows best.