All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.
Sa‘eed ibn Al-Musayyab narrated that when Abu Bakr sent troops towards Ash-Shaam (Greater Syria) he advised them saying: "I advise you to fear Allaah ... do not destroy a building, do not kill children, old men, or women. You will find people who have detained themselves in monasteries, so leave them doing what they have detained themselves for." [Al-Bayhaqi; As-Sunan Al-Kubra] He followed it with the statement of Imaam Ahmad : "This is a Munkar (denounced) Hadeeth. I do not think anything of that is authentic. It is from the words of the people of Ash-Shaam." Also, Al-Haakim reported that Hadeeth in an abridged form in his Mustadrak without stating the aforementioned piece of evidence and said, "Saheeh (sound) Hadeeth according to the conditions of Al-Bukhari and Muslim." Ath-Thahabi followed it with saying: "Mursal Hadeeth (i.e. narrated by a Tabi’ie [successor of the Prophet’s companions])." Thus, that report is weak and is not Saheeh.
Prohibition of killing the worshipers was also stated in a Marfoo‘ Hadeeth (i.e. a Hadeeth attributed to the Prophet, sllallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Ibn ‘Abbaas narrated that the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, used to say to his armies: "Go out in the Name of Allaah to fight in the way of Allaah those who disbelieve in Allaah. Do not break your pledge; do not embezzle the spoils and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children or the people of the monasteries." [Al-Arnaa'oot said commenting on Al-Musnad: Hasan li Ghayrih (i.e. by virtue of all its multiple routes of transmission, because it is in principle weak); Ibn Hazm judged it as weak in Al-Muhalla and so did Al-Busayri in It-haaf Al-Khiyarah]
As for destroying places of worship in the countries that Muslims conquer, the decision in that matter depends on the interests that Muslims see. Thus, if their interests lie in destroying them, then they have to be destroyed and vice verse. Ibn Al-Qayyiam said about the issue of destroying churches in the lands that are conquered by force: "The sound opinion is that the ruler should do whatever achieves the interest of Muslims. If their interest lies in taking or removing them, because of the great number of churches or the need of Muslims for some of them or because of the small number of non-Muslims in that land, then he can take them or remove them according to the interest. On the other hand, if leaving them involves greater interest for the great number of non-Muslims and their need for them, while Muslims do not need them, he can leave them... By such detail, evidences are reconciled together. This is the opinion adopted by our Shaykh (i.e. Ibn Taymiyyah). It is also proved by the action of the rightly-guided caliphs and those who came after them of the guided scholars. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdel Azeez destroyed of them what he viewed that destroying them achieved the interest of Muslims and he left what he viewed that leaving them achieved the interest of Muslims." [End quote]
Ibn Al-Qayyiam had said before that: "The Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, conquered Khaybar by force and left their places of worship and did not destroy them. Also, the Companions of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, conquered many countries by force and did not destroy any of the churches in them." [Abridged from Ibn Al-Qayyiam's book Ahkaam Ahl Ath-Thimmah]
Allaah Knows best.