I recently found myself in a situation where I was criticized for visiting places of worship, other than mosques. This is not to say I worshiped in said places, I merely visited, appreciated the architecture, took a few photos and left. So whats wrong with this you might ask? In my opinion, nothing. While visiting those places, at no point did I connect spiritually to them; I did not pray in them; I did not revere them; I did not believe the religions which they symbolize. I simply thought they were beautiful places or sites.
Has our religion gone to such an extreme that we are not allowed to appreciate beauty?
Just as we encourage non-Muslims to learn about Islam so as to further religious understanding, do we not apply the same rulings to ourselves? Are we so arrogant to assume that what anyone else believes is not relevant to us so there is no need to even try to have a basic understanding? Are we so small minded to think that the mere look of a church or a temple is somehow sending us to hell? If we understand what people believe in, then we have many more ways to connect with them.
Take Dr Zakir Naik for example; he has full understanding of all the worlds major religious and can put most people (from any religion) to shame with the extent of his knowledge. But because he has educated himself about other world religions, he has an amazing rhetoric with religious leaders, and has educated so many non-Muslims on Islam.
If you believe in Islam, have confidence in it. Extremism breads hatred. Educate yourself. Understand others. Be a good example.
I was taught from a young age to appreciate architecture and historical buildings. I will teach my children the same.
See below some of the beautiful places that I have visited and appreciated: