Question # 312: In shia fiqh drawing picture or making portrait is forbidden or not any references from their books…?

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: The prohibition of images in Islam (not only among Shi’ahs) is for two reasons:  a) it implies that one is trying to match the creation of Allah; and b) it is a means of veneration and falling into shirk. Hence, according to the consensus of the Shari`ah scholars of Fiqh, any pictures of animate objects (i.e., creatures that have souls), whether two dimensional or three dimensional, are haraam to make, own, or sell (whether to Muslims or others). As for the making and owning of three-dimensional images, there is an agreement over its impermissibility. The exemptions from the generic prohibition of pictures of animate objects would apply to a) photographs that are not hung, openly presented or featured or taken for boasting or show obscenity or anything that is considered as prohibited, but rather kept for memories or circulated for some benefit (e.g., dawah); b) pictures or statues, without head; c) two-dimensional small-sized pictures on garments / objects that are not hung or presented, but used for walking or reclining, and not treated respectfully; d) pictures and images used by children that not closed to reality; and e) pictures used for educational, forensic, and similar needs. Also Refer Question # 268

Long Answer: The prohibition on [drawing pictures or sculpting statues] is not just the matter of fiqh; it goes beyond that to the matter of ‘aqeedah, because Allah is the Only One Who has the power of giving shape to His creation and creating them in the best image. Making images implies that one is trying to match the creation of Allah. The matter also has to do with ‘aqeedah when these images are taken as idols which are worshipped instead of Allah.

Following are some of the ahadith expounding on the topic:

  • It was reported from ‘Aa’ishah Umm al-Mu’mineen (رضي الله عنها) that Umm Habeebah and Umm Salamah mentioned a church which they had seen in Ethiopia, in which there were images. They told the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) about it, and he said: “Those people, if there was a righteous man among them and he died, they would build a place of worship over his grave and put images in it. These will be the most evil of creation before Allah on the Day of Resurrection.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • ‘Abd-Allah ibn Mas’ood said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say: The people who will be the most severely punished before Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be the image makers. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • It was reported from ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: Those who make these images will be punished on the Day of Resurrection. It will be said to them, Give life to that which you have created! (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • It was reported that Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) entered a house in Madinah and saw somebody making images in it. He said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say: [Allah says:] Who does greater wrong than one who goes and creates something like My creation? Let them create a seed or a small ant! (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • Abu Juhayfah (رضي الله عنه) said: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade the price of a dog and the price of blood, and he forbade tattooing and asking to be tattooed, and the consumption or paying of riba, and he cursed those who make images. (Narrated by al-Bukhari)

(The above reply is based on various answers by Islamqa.info on the topic)

The default [rule in this regard] is that any pictures of animate objects, whether two dimensional or three dimensional, are haraam to make, own, or sell. As for the making and owning of them, there is an agreement over the impermissibility of that, with regard to the three-dimensional images. That is because of abundance of ahadith, of which reads: “A man came to Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) and said, ‘I am a man who makes a living from handmade crafts; I make images.’ Ibn ‘Abbas said: ‘I will only tell you what I heard from the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم); I heard him say: “Whoever fashions an image, Allah will torment him until he breathes life into it, and he will never do.” The man became very distressed and his face turned pale, so Ibn Abbas said to him, ‘Woe onto you! If you insist on doing that, then make images of those trees and things that have no soul.’ (Agreed upon)

This hadith applies to both two and three-dimensional pictures; however, a couple of other ahadith pertain directly to the two-dimensional images; Aisha (رضي الله عنها) said that she bought a pillow that had images. When the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) saw that, he stood at the door and refrained from entering. When she realized that he was upset, she said: “O Messenger of Allah, I repent to Allah and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم). What have I done wrong?” The Messenger of Allah said: “What is this pillow?” She said, “I bought it for you to sit and recline on it.” The Messenger of Allah said: “On the Day of Resurrection, the makers of these images will be punished and it will be said to them, ‘Give life to that which you have created.’ And he also said, “The angels do not enter a house in which there are images.” (Agreed upon)

Notice that the images were on a pillow, which means that they were two dimensional. In another hadith from Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), she said: “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) came in onto me, and I had covered a shelf of mine with a curtain with images on it. When he saw it, he tore it up and said, ‘O Aisha, the people to be most tormented on the Day of Resurrection are those who attempted to imitate the creation of Allah.’” Aisha (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “So we cut it up [further] and made of it one or two cushions.” (Agreed upon)

Notice that the first hadith didn’t allow the images on cushions, however, reconciliation between the two ahadith is easy, because it is very possible that the images on the pillows in the first were elaborate and obvious, whereas in this case, and particularly after cutting the curtain up, the images became irregular and insignificant. Because of this and other proofs, the majority ruled that all pictures, two and three dimensional, are forbidden.

Imam an-Nawawi (may Allah bestow mercy on him) said in his commentary on Saheeh Muslim, in expounding that position, “Our companions [the Shafi’is] and others said that fashioning images of animate objects is an enormity … whether the image is on a garment, carpet, coin, vessel, wall or otherwise.” As for selling the forbidden images, it is well known that anything forbidden to have is forbidden to sell, for that is the clear ruling of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), who said: “When Allah makes something forbidden, he makes forbidden selling it.” (Abu Dawood). Also, Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported from Jabir that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said “Allah forbade sales of khamr, dead carcasses, pork and idols.”

The exemptions from the generic prohibition of pictures of animate objects would apply to:

  1. Photographs that are not hung, openly presented or featured, but rather kept for memories or circulated for some benefit. This is because the effective cause behind the prohibition of pictures is two pronged, with the first pertaining to the making and the second to the use. Hand drawing requires human effort and skill, so the attempt at the emulation of Allah’s creation is obvious there. This is not the same, though, with regard to photographs. Therefore, if the use of photographs will be permissible, without the chance of worship, glorification or rumination of negative feelings, etc., then – I believe – they would be permissible. That is still a matter of controversy, but this is what I was shown to be stronger.
  1. Pictures, or even statues, that don’t have a head. This is because of a report in at-Tirmidhi from Abi Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Jibreel came to me and said: ‘… Order the head of the statue at the door cut off, so it becomes like a tree, and the curtain to be torn apart into two pillows that will be laid on the floor and stepped over…’”
  1. Small-sized pictures in garments or on objects that are not hung or presented, but used for various purposes, and that is because of the aforementioned hadith about the pillow and because the Messenger of Allah forbade pictures “except raqm on textiles,” as reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim, which means small insignificant pictures that are on garments that are walked or reclined on, and not treated respectfully. This is so that we reconcile between this and the here above ahadith indicating the prohibition of two-dimensional pictures. This is also an allowance of usage, not of drawing.
  1. Pictures and images used by children. It was narrated that ‘Aishah (رضي الله عنها) said: “I used to play with dolls in the company of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) …”) (Agreed upon) However, one should avoid making them close to reality in size and shape. After all, the toys ‘Aisha (رضي الله عنها) had were nothing like the real-size impeccably crafted children’s toys some people have. They may even keep them in the living room, and they may also not allow the kids to play with them, and that is to avoid ruining them!

[It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) came back from the campaign to Tabook or Khaybar, and in her alcove there was a curtain. The breeze came and lifted the edge of the curtain, uncovering the “daughters” of ‘Aa’ishah, i.e., her dolls. He said: “What is this, O ‘Aa’ishah?” She said: “My daughters.” And among them he saw a horse with two wings of cloth. He said: “What is this that I see among them?” She said: “A horse.” He said: “What is this on it?” She said: “Two wings.” He said: “A horse with wings?” She said: “Have you not heard that Sulaymaan had horses with wings?” She said: And he smiled so broadly that I could see his eye teeth.” Narrated by Abu Dawood, classed as sahih by al-Iraqi in Takhreej al-Ihya’ and by al-Albani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajr said in Fath al-Bari: “This hadith is taken as evidence that it is permissible to have dolls and toys for girls to play with. This is an exception to the prohibition of images. This was stated by ‘Iyaad, and it was narrated from the majority that they allowed the sale of toys and dolls so that girls might learn from a young age how to take care of their houses and their children.”

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “With regard to dolls made of cloth, where the image does not have clear features, even though it has limbs, a head and neck, but there are no eyes or nose, there is nothing wrong with that, because this is not imitating the creation of Allah.” (Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen) (Islamqa.info)]

  1. Pictures used for educational, forensic, and similar needs. That is because they were prevented to block the means to evil, so they may be permitted for a greater benefit and to open the means to a greater good. Those strict measures are installed in the religion to protect the purity of tawheed. No one should claim that the prospect of worshipping statues and images is nil in the twenty first century. There are entire nations that do just that. Also, amongst the people of the book are those who make pictures of their deities, and they stand before them in devotion and address them with their needs, which is the much-feared anthropomorphism of the deity.

Added to that is the myriad of other harms that ensue from making those images, which are not limited to the excessive reverence of dictator, leaders, sheikhs, clergy, the rumination of negative emotions about lost ones or unfortunate occurrences, boasting about the ancestors, circulating improper pictures of women, visual overload-which could be responsible for inattention, something that is afflicting many children and adults as well nowadays- overstimulation of the senses, which makes people dependent on this intensity, so to attract their attention, you should make more visually stark presentations … etc.

There is no doubt that pictures of inanimate objects are more comfortable to the eye, calming to the senses, and soothing to the soul. That is why you find this to be the trend in hotels, meditation rooms, and even modern churches. Selling the forbidden images is haraam, whether one sells them to Muslims or others, for a Muslim doesn’t like evil to be committed by anyone, Muslim or not, and wishes all humanity becomes compliant with the will of the Divine and the His legislation of purity, righteousness and justice.

(Unless stated otherwise, the above answer is based on the fatwa of Dr. Hatem al-Haj, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America)

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