Photographs in Islam

Photographs have long been a point of conflict for Muslims. Being that they are an enjoyable treat for all, many argue on their prohibition in the diin. The truth is photographs are prohibited for a believer i.e. a person who believes in the oneness of Allah and that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah.

One argues that there is no rule in the Qur’an that specifies that photographs are prohibited in Islam. To that person i present the following:

  1. Allah orders us in the Qur’an to obey Him and follow the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Allah says: 
"O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. 
And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, 
if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result. 
(Qur'an 4: 59)

2. The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade pictures, sculptures and the like. This is evidenced in the following ahadith:

'Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him)  
came back from a journey and I had screened my door with a curtain having (images) 
of winged horses on it. He (peace be upon him) commanded me (to remove them). 
So I pulled them down. 
Sahih Muslim
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet 
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Allah, may He be exalted, says: 
'Who does more wrong than the one who tries to create something like My creation? 
Let him create a grain of wheat or a kernel of corn.'" 
Sahih al-Bukhaari
Narrated Sa`id bin Abu Al-Hasan:
While I was with Ibn `Abbas a man came and said, "O father of `Abbas! 
My sustenance is from my manual profession and I make these pictures.
" Ibn `Abbas said, "I will tell you only what I heard from Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) . 
I heard him saying, 'Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, 
and he will never be able to put life in it.' " Hearing this, that man heaved a sigh and his face 
turned pale. Ibn `Abbas said to him, "What a pity! If you insist on making pictures,
 I advise you to make pictures of trees and any other unanimated objects."
Sahih al-Bukhari 2225

3. The Prophet (peace be upon him) elaborated the evil in picture making in the following ahadith:

The Prophet (peace be upon him)  said: 
"Angels do not enter a house in which there is a picture". 
Sahih al-Bukhari

Another Hadith reads: 
"The most severe punishment will be to those who try to create something 
like the creation of Allah". 
Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim
'Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said: 
"Shall I not send you on the same mission as the Messenger of Allah 
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent me? Do not leave any built-up tomb 
without leveling it and do not leave any picture in any house without erasing it."  
Sahih Muslim and al-Nisaa'i

Based on the above, a believer can only come to the conclusion that pictures are forbidden in Islam. Some scholars however insist that only sculptures are forbidden. They present several arguments therefore one should make sure to look into the subject further to arrive to an informed decision.

4. The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised us on doubtful unclear matters that are disagreed upon:

Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir reported: 
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: 
“Verily, the lawful is clear and the unlawful is clear, 
and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which many people do not know. 
Thus, he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, 
and he who falls into doubtful matters will fall into the unlawful as the shepherd who
 pastures near a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. 
Verily, every king has a sanctum and the sanctum of Allah is his prohibitions. 
Verily, in the body is a piece of flesh which, if sound, the entire body is sound, 
and if corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart.” 
Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhari 52, Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim 1599

May Allah grant us all wisdom and accept all our efforts.

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