A Muslim Take on Freemasonry

Question and answer details
Can you tell me whether joining freemasonry is haram (forbidden) and if so, why? Many thanks.
Shahul Hameed
Salam Adam,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Although I can not give you a scholarly juristic opinion on this matter, I would like to clarify a few misconceptions about freemasonry and possible reasons why some Muslim scholars view it negatively.

Beliefs of Freemasonry

Freemasonry in the words of freemasons, "teaches the great lessons of life: the importance of honor and integrity, of being a person on whom others can rely, of being both trusting and trustworthy, of realizing that you have a spiritual nature as well as a physical nature, of the importance of self control, of knowing how to love and be loved, of knowing how to keep confidential what others tell you so that they can "open up" without fear. In short, Masonic ritual teaches us to reach for a higher standard in conducting our lives." (A View of Masonry)

Another source tells us: "Its fundamental principles are belief in God, the immortality of the soul, and the Bible." (W.G. Sibley, The Story of Freemasonry)

A Secret Society

Freemasons do not make a secret of their membership; they wear rings, tie clasps, and so on, carrying Masonic emblems; and their buildings are often marked and usually listed in the phone book.

Yet there is some truth in calling them "a secret society", because they hold their rituals with secrecy and have "private" codes, passwords and signs that are unknown to any one but the initiated members.

From the beginning, they have been the subject of a lot of speculation by the public as well as by the rulers, though some of the most influential political leaders had been freemasons: More than one-third of American presidents were initiated into the order.

Many leading Enlightenment figures were freemasons along with scientists, writers, and freethinkers. Even some clergy joined, but the secrecy of the lodge meetings, along with peculiar rituals prompted many — especially in Catholic countries — to suspect what might be taking place under the mantle of Masonic secrecy.

Attacks on Freemasonry

Attacks on freemasonry fall chiefly into four categories: 1) that it is a secret organization; 2) it is anti-Christian (or anti-Islamic, etc); 3) it aims to control governments for its own purposes; and 4) it is an agency for corruption and malpractice. (Reid McInvale, Roman Catholic Church Law Regarding Freemasonry)

In fact, the first organized opposition to freemasonry came from the Roman Catholic Church. There had been Papal Bulls and other official pronouncements from the Vatican condemning the order which requires its members to have a belief in a supreme being, who is apparently different from the Christian idea of God.

It was Pope Clement XII who promulgated the first papal decree against the Freemasons in 1738. The decree highlighted "the danger which such societies involve for the security and "tranquility of the State" and for "the spiritual health of souls", and consequently their incompatibility with civil and canonical law.

Because by their very existence as secret societies based on the Masonic principles, they encourage and promote the foundation of other really dangerous secret societies and render difficult, if not impossible, efficacious action of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities against them. (McInvale) 

Pope Clement forbade Masonic membership by Catholics and directed the "Inquisitors of Heretical Depravity" to take action against Catholics who became Masons or assisted Freemasonry in any way. He ordered excommunication as punishment for those who defied his ban. (McInvale)

The above decree was followed by several Papal decrees till the present time. In November 1983, the church adopted the new Canon of Church Law, but issued a statement declaring that "the church's negative position on Masonic associations, therefore, remains unaltered, since their principles have always been regarded as irreconcilable with the church's doctrine... Catholics enrolled in Masonic associations are involved in serious sin and may not approach holy communion." (McInvale)

The Catholic indictment of freemasonry has been further authorized by the present Pope in a declaration published in the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano:  ".... The faithful who enroll in masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive holy communion.." (L’Osservatore Romano (English Edition), 5 December 1983, Article entitled "Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Declaration on Masonic Associations", p.12)

In an article entitled: "Freemasonry — the Conspiracy Within", Terry Melanson quotes Janet and Stewart Farrar, authors of A Witches Bible Compleat

"It is generally agreed that the biggest single influence in the modern expansion of ritual magic, and the occult explosion in general, in the Western world, was the Golden Dawn. This magical fraternity, founded by Freemasons at the end of the 19th century, developed a complex ritual system with ten degrees of initiation relating to the Cabalistic Sephiroth." (Janet and Stewart Farrar: The Life and Times of A Modern Witch, Phoenix Publishing Company, p. 121, quoted in Terry Melanson, Freemasonry- the Conspiracy Within)

A Muslim Take

For Muslims, the very idea of joining an organization with many secrets which it refuses to divulge can be tricky. This is because a Muslim has to make sure that the principles and objectives as well as the mode of operation of any organization he is going to work for are not opposed to Islam's well-defined directives.

In addition, from the pronouncements of freemasons at different times in different parts of the world, it is clear that their organization is an organization with "hidden agendas", whatever they are.

It is true that there are exaggerated charges against freemasons, which lack concrete proofs. But in a climate of 'secrecy and mystery', such allegations grow and conspiracy theories take root in the minds of people.

It is known that freemasons take political and religious positions at critical junctures in history, often opposed to those of other political groups and religions and for that reason they are looked upon with suspicion and often fear.
At the end of the day, however, one can not categorically judge a person or group if one is not fully aware of the facts about this person or group.  

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


Useful Links:

Can a Muslim Be a Freemason? 

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