Question # 268: Asalamualaikum regarding taking pictures of human and drawing is both haram, so must it be deleted/burnt.

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Making pictures by hand such as portraits, paintings on walls, prints on clothes and drawing on papers are all prohibited in Shari’ah according to majority of the Muslim scholars because of the prohibition on imitating the creation of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).

As for photography by camera or video, it is a matter of debate amongst the people of knowledge with two different opinions, some of them permit it while others don’t. As a matter of fact, taking photo pictures is allowed according to the vast majority of the contemporary scholars, since according to them, the reason for which the photography of living beings is forbidden does not exist in photography with camera or video, as it is merely taking a photo of what Allah has created. However, pictures should not contain any forbidden matter such as women exposing her awrah. On the other hand, pictures of inanimate objects, such as trees, moon, sun and mountains are absolutely permissible. Nevertheless, all such pictures should be preserved in albums or scanned and saved on computers and not hanged on walls as Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said that angels do not enter a house in which there is a picture.

In conclusion, avoiding taking pictures of any kind out of piety and God righteousness is a virtuous act and helps in staying on the safe side, except for if there is a legal purpose or necessity such as taking photos for IDs, passports or driving licenses, travel permits, Islamic lectures, educational or dawah purposes, security reasons, etc.

Long Answer: Images are of three kinds:

  1. Forming three-dimensional figures of living creatures by chiseling, molding or carving from solid material. Such images are forbidden in Shari’ah. There is no disagreement based on the following ahadith:
  • Abdullah Bin Mas`oud (رضي الله عنه) narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said that: “The extremely tortured people on the Day of Judgment are the image makers” (Sunan an-Nasa’i; classed as sahih)
  • Ibn Abbas (رضي الله عنه) narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said that: “Whoever makes an image, Allah will torture him until he blows into it, i.e. the soul, and he is never blowing into it” (Reported by Al-Tirmidhi; classed as sahih)
  • It was narrated from ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنها) that: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The makers of these images will be punished on the Day of Resurrection, and it will be said to them: ‘Bring to life that which you have created.'” (Sunan an-Nasa’i; classed as sahih)
  • Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Every image-maker will be in the Fire, and every image that he made will be made to appear to him and will torment him in Hell.” Ibn ‘Abbas said: “If you must do that, then make trees and things that have no soul.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Some of the Fire (in the shape of a long neck) will come out of the Fire on the Day of judgment. It will have two eyes which can see, two ears which can hear, and a tongue which can speak. It will say: ‘I have been left in charge of three: Every obstinate oppressor, everyone who called upon a deity besides Allah, and the image makers.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi, classed as hasan)
  1. Making pictures by hand such as paintings on walls, prints on clothes drawing on papers, etc.: The majority of the Muslim scholars are of the opinion that such images are also prohibited in Shari’ah. They generalize the rule of prohibiting the imitation of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) in creating to these pictures also. The hadith on which they base this rule is that the Prophet said: “The most grievous torment for the people on the Day of Resurrection would be for those who try to imitate Allah in the act of Creation”. (Reported by Al-Bukhari) However, making images, prints, statues and photographs of inanimate objects, such as trees, moon, sun and mountains, is absolutely permissible.
  1. Photography by camera or video. The Muslim scholars have two different opinions concerning this matter. Some of them permit it while others do not permit it. We side with those who say that if the photography does not contain any forbidden matter such as the pictures of uncovered women or the pictures made for the purpose of honoring certain creatures, etc. then there is no harm in such photography. Since the reason for which the photography of living beings is forbidden, i.e. imitating of Allah’s Creation, does not exist in photography of camera or video. But it is merely taking a photo of what Allah has Created, especially if there is a legal purpose such as taking a passport photo for IDs or driving licenses, travel permits, making photo to show the performance of Mujahideen or recording Islamic lectures, etc. then it is permitted according to all scholars because of necessity.

In spite of the details mentioned above, we emphasize the fact that avoiding all kinds of photography is better to avoid doubts and to the differing opinions of scholars.

As for people who hang pictures of living beings on the wall, it is safer not to hang them. It is confirmed that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a portrait.”  (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)

(Source (except for certain ahadith): The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs)

According to Dr. Salah Al-Sawy, the Secretary General for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America: “Photographic images in the [religious] texts that forbid image making and threaten image makers is a matter of debate amongst the people of knowledge. What is safer is to say that if the photograph does not have an obvious benefit that doesn’t conflict with an outweighing harm, then it remains upon the default ruling of prohibition. If it does have an obvious benefit, like taking pictures for security reasons, or educational, or da’wah, then I hope that there is no harm in that, so long as there is no conflict in that with an outweighing harm. This elaboration surely is not inclusive of what was forbidden of images for external reasons, such as being a source of fitnah (religious tribulations) or being immoral, etc. The impermissibility of that is decisive and is not included in this discussion.”

According to Dr. Hatem al-Haj, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America: “…Photographic pictures… are mostly permissible, unless they are hanged on walls or taken for boasting or show obscenity or anything that is considered as prohibited, because they do not imitate what Allah has created, but they are just capturing the shadow, and hence we do not call them as images.”

According to Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America: “Taking photo pictures is allowed [according to the vast majority of the contemporary scholars.] So, you can keep doing so as long as these pictures are preserved in albums [or scanned and saved] and not hanged on walls, and not exposed to marriageable people from the opposite gender. Nevertheless, avoiding taking these pictures out of piety and God righteousness is a virtuous act and helps in staying on the safe side.”

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam