Q. I have a question with regards to taking pictures of oneself and ones’ family members for memories, etc. I was told by an alim that it is forbidden and that he would get back to me with the relevant reasons but he hasn’t as yet. In the mean time I found this answer (posted below) on the site islamonline.com and I’m very confused, could you please clarify this issue for me?
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for showing keenness on knowing the teachings of Islam, and we appreciate the great confidence you have in us. We hope our efforts meet your expectations, yet we apologize for the late reply.
With regard to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, answers:
“Photography as a medium of communication or for the simple, innocent retention of memories without the taint of reverence/shirk does not fall under the category of forbidden Tasweer.
One finds a number of traditions from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, condemning people who make Tasweer, which denotes painting or carving images or statues. It was closely associated with paganism or shirk. People were in the habit of carving images and statues for the sake of worship. Islam, therefore, declared Tasweer forbidden because of its close association with shirk (association of partners with Allah). One of the stated principles of usul-u-Fiqh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence) is that if anything directly leads to haram, it is likewise haram. In other words, Tasweer was forbidden precisely for the reason that it was a means leading to shirk.
The function of photography today does not fall under the above category. Even some of the scholars who had been once vehemently opposed to photography under the pretext that it was a form of forbidden Tasweer have later changed their position on it – as they allow even for their own pictures to be taken and published in newspapers, for videotaping lectures and for presentations; whereas in the past, they would only allow it in exceptional cases such as passports, drivers’ licenses, etc. The change in their view of photography is based on their assessment of the role of photography.
Having said this, one must add a word of caution: To take pictures of leaders and heroes and hang them on the walls may not belong to the same category of permission. This may give rise to a feeling of reverence and hero worship, which was precisely the main thrust of the prohibition of Tasweer. Therefore, one cannot make an unqualified statement to the effect that all photography is halal. It all depends on the use and function of it. If it is for educational purpose and has not been tainted with the motive of reverence and hero worship, there is nothing in the sources to prohibit it.”
Do keep in touch. If you have any other question, don’t hesitate to contact us.
A. With respect to the statement that, ‘Islam declared Tasweer forbidden because of its close association with shirk’, this has not been accepted by the overwhelming majority of sound, credible and reliable scholars of our times and those of the past. To say that ‘Tasweer was forbidden precisely for the reason that it was a means leading to shirk’ is totally wrong and unacceptable in Islam. If this was really the reason for the prohibition, then it means that ‘Tasweer’ suppose to be even more unlawful in our present times, seeing that more shirk is rampant now than before.
Today, there are many new religions, cults and religious groups and they are all involved in open shirk. Millions of people keep pictures (tasweer) of their leaders, idols, gods and prophets. The whole world is flooded with pictures of people and images that are worshipped and adored. Today, people still worship pictures and they make offerings to them. Therefore, it is very clear that pictures (tasweer) continue to be a means of, and an instrument that encourages shirk. They propagate shirk, and they also lead to shirk. One of the maxim (fundamental principle) of Usoolul Fiqh (Maxims of Islamic Jurisprudence) states that ‘whenever a thing becomes haram (unlawful) on account of a certain cause, then whenever and wherever the cause is found, the law of unlawfulness will automatically follow’.
Based on this principle, we can say that if tasweer (a picture) was prohibited due to the fact that it lead to shirk, then at present, it must continue to be prohibited because it still leads to shirk, in a bigger way and on a larger scale.
Even if we use the other stated principle quoted by the Shaikh, we will find that based on that principle, tasweer will still continue to be haram.
The principle which the Shaikh quoted was, ‘if anything directly leads to haram, it is likewise haram’. Having said this, the Shaikh wrote, ‘In other words, Tasweer was forbidden precisely for the reason that it was a means leading to shirk.’
Based on what the Shaikh has written, we see that until today, pictures continue to be used for shirk. Millions of pictures are printed and given to people who worship them. Don’t we see what the Christians do with the pictures of Jesus and Mary? Don’t we see what the Hindus do with the pictures of their deities?
Don’t we see what the Buddhist do with the pictures of Buddha? And what the Sai Baba people do with the pictures of Sai Baba? And what the Shias do with the picture of Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini? These are only a few, what about the thousands of other cults and religious groups that turn to picture worship?
When these facts are glaring before our eyes, how can one imply that pictures no longer lead to shirk, hence, they ought to be permissible now!
Even if it is stated that what is meant is that ‘Muslims are now safe from shirk because pictures no longer lead them to shirk, hence, they (the pictures) have now become allowed since there is no fear of shirk on account of these pictures’.
To this, we say that ‘this is also a wrong notion’. If we do a survey of Muslims throughout the world, we will find that pictures have lead Muslims to commit all sorts of shirk. In different parts of the world, certain Muslim groups turn to the pictures of religious people who were Muslims, and actually raise their hands in supplication to them. They ask these pictures for favors and actually speak to them. We have seen that these people decorate these pictures, raise them on high places and look up to them raising their hands. Many other Muslims hang similar pictures of those they revere in their homes, shops and businesses, and place strings containing flowers around these pictures. They go daily in front of these pictures, and stand in adoration, speaking to these pictures.
The list goes on and on, the more you travel, the more you will see as to what influence pictures have in leading the present day Muslims to shirk.
So, based on what is understood from the quotation given, it can be concluded that if the cause for the prohibition of Tasweer was that it lead to shirk, then we say that until today Tasweer continues to do the same, hence it must still be prohibited.
The above explaination was simply given to clarify the understanding which was deduced from your quotation.
Our view however, is that no one can say with certainty that the cause for the prohibition of Tasweer is that it leads to shirk. The Prophet (SAS) himself did not give such explanations, nor did he identify this as the cause of the prohibition. If this was the cause, then he would have allowed it to the sahabahs in his own lifetime, seeing that the companions became very strong in Islam and Imaan, and there was no possibility for them to return to shirk. They were much stronger than us in faith and actions, they were greater than us, they were more beloved to Allah, and they had the best of Imaan. Allah praised and commended them in many places in the Holy Quran, He announced glad tidings of paradise to many of them, and He revealed a special verse saying that “He was well pleased with them’. The Prophet (SAS) saw their achievements and he knew their strength of faith (Imaan). He saw that they fought against their own blood-ties (family members) who were upon shirk, and they had broken the idols, pictures and images which they worshipped with their own hands. He saw that his companions forbeared the persecution torture and the merciless beating, only in order to remain upon Tauheed. They detested shirk to such an extent that they preferred to be killed, rather than accept ‘the shirk’ which was forced upon them.
The Prophet (SAS) saw their strength of faith, he looked at their actions and watched their steadfastness upon ‘Tauheed (the belief of the oneness of Allah). He therefore had full trust and reliance upon them that they will not return to shirk and kufr. In fact, he clearly expressed this to them and said, ‘I have no fear that you will go back to kufr and shirk’.
Based on this, it can be concluded that ‘if there was any group which was safe from shirk, then it would have been the Sahabahs (companions). The Prophet (SAS) knew this very well, but yet, he did not allow Tasweer (pictures) for them. In fact, as recorded by Imam Bukhari, on his death, he continued to warn them about Tasweer.
When one looks at the Ahadith which prohibit Tasweer, one will find that the ‘cause for prohibition’ which the Prophet (SAS) had given was totally different from that which was quoted by the Shaikh (in your question). In one tradition, the Prophet(SAS) said, ‘Indeed, the makers of these pictures will be punished on the Day of Judgment, and it will be said to them, ‘make alive that which you have created’ (Sahih Al Bukhari).
In another tradition, the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘The people who will be most severely punished on the Day of Judgment will be the picture makers’. (Sahih Al Bukhari, Sahih Al Muslim).
In another tradition, the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘Every picture maker will be in the Fire of Hell, every picture he made will be given a life by which he will be tormented in Hell’. (Sahih Muslim).
It is also narrated that when the Prophet (SAS) entered the kaabah and saw pictures in it, he ordered for buckets of water to be brought and he began wiping off these pictures, saying ‘May Allah curse a people who make pictures of that which they do not create’. (Abu Dawood).
What is to be noted from most (or all) of these traditions is that the Prophet (SAS) said repeatedly that, ‘those who make pictures will be ordered by Allah to produce/ create life in the pictures they have made, but will not be able to do so’. Based on this, it can be concluded that if ‘a cause’ has to be derived (from these traditions) to show why pictures were prohibited, then it should be this cause(reason), since the Prophet (SAS) himself, on many occasions said, ‘the picture makers will be ordered to put life into their pictures’. It therefore shows that the cause (reason) for this prohibition is that ‘the picture maker makes/draws a thing which represents one having life, but yet does not have life’. It is for this reason, Allah will order him to put life into that which has made-up or manufactured. But he will not be able to do it, and so, he will be punished severely for trying to do that which Allah alone Has the power and ability to do. One may say that, ‘no one thinks or believes that a picture has life, so, how can it be said that the picture maker is trying to emulate an act which Allah alone has the authority to do’. To this, we say that the ability/power to put life into a being is not the only attribute which belongs to Allah alone. But along with this, the authority to shape, to put a form to, to make someone into a special image, colour, fashion, beauty or ugliness, belongs only to Allah. Allah is the only One who Has the sole authority to put features and attributes of either a male or a female to a thing or person.
When a person draws/makes an image/picture of someone, he is in reality, putting features of shape, gender, colour, image, form etc. etc. to non living objects to create a semblance of a person who has physical life and a soul. After the picture/photograph has been taken, it then becomes important to the one who keeps it. We normally see people kissing pictures, hugging them, speaking to them and even touching them as they have life.
Those who have pictures of deceased parents, relatives, friends or spouses, we see them crying and weeping out of sadness, and they actually begin to speak to them as if they possessed life. People look at pictures/images and are marveled at the way the eyes, the face, the body and the figure of a person are made and shaped by the picture maker.
People also lust over pictures of the opposite sex, they use them to commit many sinful and wicked deeds, thus fulfilling their evil passions and desires. Today, people are captivated by the beauty of the picture of a person, even before seeing the real person. This goes to show that the picture maker is in reality, duplicating that which Allah Has fashioned and shaped in a beautiful manner.
So, whatever, the cause be, we know very well that the Prophet (SAS) spoke harshly against pictures and picture-making, and has warned of its severe punishment in the hereafter. His words and statements are very clear,and he did not give any clear and specific cause for this prohibition.It is therefore essential upon us to follow his blessed teachings and refrain from this evil which has entrapped thousands of Muslims.
The fatawa of its prohibition continues to be given by the great and authentic scholars of our times, and no one from among them has given any such allowance which has been mentioned in your quotation of the Shaikh.
The great scholars of the world like Mufti Taqi Usmani, Shaikh Al Jibreen, Shaikh Abdullah bin Baz, Shaikh ibn Uthaimin, Shaikhul Hadith Mufti Ahmad, Mufti Abdur Raheem, the late Grand Muftis of Pakistan, and many others have all clearly stated that Tasweer is totally haram. Hundreds of the most reliable scholars of the Middle East and other parts of the world have also given the same Fatawa (Religious Verdict). All these scholars have mentioned that an allowance will be given to have one’s picture taken only when there is a valid reason/need to do so, once there is no valid need, then picture-taking remains as unlawful and prohibited. Check other related answers of videos and pictures on our website.
The following is an article which I did preciously on the topic.
PICTURES, IMAGES AND STATUES
Islam has outlined strict prohibitions regarding pictures, images and statues of animate objects. There are many traditions of the Prophet (S.A.) which highlight the act of making pictures, images and statues to be one which brings about a grievous punishment. In a tradition reported by Imam Bukhari (R.A.), Abdullah bin Masood (R.A.) narrates that the Prophet (S.A.) said, “Certainly the people receiving the harshest punishment on the Day of Resurrection will be the Picture Makers.” (Bukhari) The word used in this Hadith is Al Musawwiroon and according to the dictionary it means ‘those who make pictures’. It is important to note that in most of the Ahadith which speak about pictures the words used by the Prophet (S.A.) are:-
i) Suwar – According to the dictionary it means a form, shape, image, picture, figure, statue.
ii) Tasweer or Tasaweer – Which means drawing, sketching, painting, photography.
iii) Tamtheel or Tamatheel – this also means a picture, image, figure, representation, sculpture.
As such whenever any word of the above is used in a tradition it will carry the meaning or meanings which go with it.
Another tradition mentioned by Abdullah bin Umar (R.A.) states that the Messenger of Allah (S.A) said, “those who make these pictures (suwar) will be punished on the Day of Judgement. It will be said to them, ‘Give life to that which you have created’.” (Bukhari) Abu Zurah (R.A.) said, “I entered with Abu Hurairah (R.A.) in a house in Madinah. Abu Huraira (R.A. saw on top of the house a picture maker (Musawwir) busy drawing pictures. Abu Huraira then said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) saying that Allah said, “Who is more unjust than that person who imitates My creation. Let him create a grain and let him create an atom.” (Bukhari) Another tradition reported by Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A.) states that he heard the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) saying, “Whosoever makes a picture or a figure in this world, he will be ordered on the Day of Judgement to breathe the soul into it and he will not be able to do that.” (Bukhari)
The above mentioned traditions establish the following:-
1) Those who make pictures, images, figures, or statues will be severely punished on the Day of Judgement.
2) The prohibition of using the pictures, images etc. since they are the cause of the punishment.
3) One of the reasons for the prohibition of pictures, images etc. is that the quality of forming an image, shape or form is a quality which belongs to Allah alone. It is not permissible for anyone to emulate this quality.
4) It is also evident that this prohibition extends only to the act of making pictures, images and figures of objects which represent some form of life in them (i.e. animate objects)
Aisha (R.A.) narrates that the Prophet (S.A.) did not leave anything in his possession which had pictures on it except that he broke it.” (Bukhari) Aisha also narrates that once the Messenger of Allah returned from a journey and she had hung a curtain having pictures on it over her wardrobe. As soon as the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) saw it he ripped it apart and said, “Those who will receive the harshest punishment on the Day of Judgement are those who imitate the quality of the Creator.” (Bukhari) Both these traditions show that it is prohibited to keep pictures and images of living things in the house. In another tradition it is reported that Aisha (R.A.) had purchased a cushion which had pictures on it. When the Messenger of Allah saw it he stood at the entrance and did not enter. Aisha says, “I saw displeasure on his face and I said, “I repent towards Allah and His Messenger, what sin have I committed?” The Messenger of Allah said, “What is this cushion?” Aisha said, “I have purchased it for you to sit on and lean against.” The Messenger of Allah said, “Certainly the people of these pictures will be punished on the Day of Judgement. It will be said to them, “Give life to that which you have created.” And certainly Angels do not enter the homes wherein there are pictures.” (Bukhari) It is evident from this tradition that it is not permissible to have pictures or images of living things in one’s house for the sake of beauty and decoration, whether they are curtains, table spreads, towels or cushions. Another tradition narrated by Anas (R.A.) states that Aisha (R.A.) had a curtain which she used to cover a corner of her room. The Prophet (S.A) said to her, “remove this for it is an interruption in my Salaat.” (Bukhari) It is evident from this tradition that it is disliked to perform Salaat in an area where there are pictures or images in front of the person or at the side of him.
Ibn Abbas narrates from Abu Talha that the Messenger of Allah said, “The Angels do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or pictures (Tasaweer)”. (Bukhari) Salim narrates from his father that once Jibraeel (A.S.) promised to meet the Prophet (S.A.) however there was a delay on the side of Jibraeel (A.S.) because of which the Prophet (S.A.) became distressed. After some time he came out of the house and met Jibraeel (A.S.) who was waiting outside. The prophet (S.A.) then complained to him about the delayal upon which he said, “We (angels) do not enter a house in which there is a picture or a dog.” (Bukhari)
Abu Huraira also narrates that once Jibraeel (A.S.) sought permission to visit the Prophet (S.A.) when he received the permission to do so and was asked to enter, he said, “How can I enter when there is a curtain in your house upon which there are pictures. You should either remove the head or place the curtain on the ground as a carpet, for we, the angels, do not enter a house in which there are pictures (Tasaweer)”. (Nasai) It is evident from these traditions that the presence of pictures or images of living things keep the angels away from the house. According to many scholars the angels who stay away from such houses are the angels of mercy and blessings. Other angels like the ‘Kiraman Katibeen’ (the scribes) continue to remain with a person. It is also evident from the above tradition that if the head of the picture or image is cut off then it will be permissible to use the item.
It is narrated in another tradition that, “Once a person came to Ibn Abbas and said, “I make these pictures and from it earn my livelihood. Please give me a fatwa (ruling) on this matter.” Upon this Ibn Abbas (R.A.) asked the person to draw closer to him and then said, “I shall narrate to you that which I have heard from the Messenger of Allah (S.A.). I heard him saying, “Every picture maker will be in the fire of Hell and for every picture which he made a person shall rise who will punish him in Hell’. Ibn Abbas then said to him, “ If you have to make pictures then make them of trees and other things which do not possess life” (Muslim). This tradition makes it clear that making pictures, drawings or painting objects which are without life are all permissible in Islam but not that of living things. Similarly curtains and other drapes which have pictures of non-living objects are also permissible in Islam.
Some people are of the opinion that the only figures which are prohibited are those which are solid and have taken a shape or a statue. They say that figures of living things drawn or painted on paper, cloth, rugs, walls, drapes etc. are permissible. A tradition which they quote to support their view is ‘Muslim report on the authority of Basr Ibn Sa’id, who heard it from Zaid bin Khalid, who heard it from Abu Talha a companion of the Prophet, that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.S) said, “ The angels do not enter a house in which there are pictures”. Basr said, “ After this Zaid became ill and we went to visit him. There was a picture on the curtain of his door. I said to my companion, “ was it not Zaid who told us about pictures the other day”? My companion replied, “ Did you not hear him when he said, “ Except if it is made on cloth”. Another tradition to the same effect is quoted by Imam Tirmizi.
It should be noted that this tradition quoted above does not give any allowance for that which is mentioned. Many commentators of Ahadith have mentioned that the exception which is mentioned in this tradition, i.e. “Except if it is made on cloth” refers to non-living things. The words that are used means a print on the cloth”. The words ‘Raqm’ literally means coloured stripes of embroidery or painted fabrics. As such, the allowance which is given in this tradition is for pictures of non-living objects which bring about beauty and decoration. The prohibition of having pictures of living things on curtains etc. have already been established in previous traditions mentioned by Aisha (R.A.). Commentators of Ahadith have mentioned that “ to derive any permission from the above tradition for the use of pictures made of living things on cloth and other soft material is a grave error and falsehood”. Other traditions show that there is some amount of allowance which is given for the use of certain things which have pictures of living objects on them. The scholars from among the Sahabahs and Tabi’een have considered it allowable to use carpets or rugs with small pictures on them when these pictures are being trampled and walked upon. In this regard Abu Hurairah (R.A.) has stated that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.S) has said, “ those pictures which are degraded and disgraced are allowed while those which are upright are not permissible”. (Majma’uz-Zawa’id). In another tradition it is mentioned that when Aisha took down the curtain (which had pictures on it) upon the order of the Prophet (S.A.S), she tore it into two pieces and made mats with it upon which she used to sit. (Ahmad). Ikrama (R.A.) states that the companions of the Prophet (S.A.S) considered pictures on objects which were upright to be impermissible while those which were used to be walked upon to be permissible. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba). In Tabaqat Ibn Saad it is mentioned that Urwa (R.A.) had a button on his clothing which had a picture on it. Similarly the allowance is also given for the ring in which there is a picture on the stone.
Another allowance which seems to be evident from some traditions is that of children’s toys and dolls. Some scholars have mentioned that based on certain traditions reported from Aisha (R.A.) there is a concession for children to play with toys which are made in the form of humans, animals etc. A narration mentioned by Abu Daud states that Aisha (R.A.) says, “I used to play with dolls and whenever the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) entered the house, my friends who were with me would come out of the house and whenever he exited they would enter.” She also reports that, “One day the Messenger of Allah returned from the expedition of Tabuk or Khaibar and in her room was a curtain covering dolls which she used to play with. The wind blew strong and removed the curtain thereby causing the dolls to be visible. Upon seeing this the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) asked, “What are these Oh Aisha? She replied, “My dolls.” He then saw a horse in the middle of them with two wings made of paper. He said, “What is this which I see in the middle?” Aisha replied, “A horse.” He asked, “What are these on it?” Aisha replied, “Two wings.” He said, “A horse with two wings?” She said, “Have you not heard that Solomon had horses with wings.” She said, “The Messenger of Allah laughed until I saw his molars.” (Abu Daud) Based on these traditions some scholars have mentioned that it is allowable for little children to play with dolls and other toys of the same nature. However other scholars have considered these toys and dolls to be under the same prohibition of pictures and images as evident from the traditions. Their argument is that the allowance which seems to be evident from the traditions of Aisha (R.A.) refers to the period before pictures and images became prohibited. As such the allowance would not remain after such clear prohibitions nor can these traditions of Aisha be used as an evidence for the same. Most of the scholars of Hadith have adopted this view. In support of this view Allama Ibn Jauzi has quoted a tradition narrated in the Musnad of Ahmad. It stated that, “A person was with Abu Hurairah when he (Abu Hurairah) saw a girl with a horse made of paper in her hand. Upon this Abu Hurairah said to the person, “Have you seen this? The Messenger of Allah (S.A.) has stated that, “This is the action of such people who have no share in the Hereafter.”
Some others (i.e. scholars) have stated that the allowance to use such toys is only for (children) who have not reached the age of puberty since the traditions reported of Aisha shows that she played with such toys when she was still a minor (i.e. not having reached the age of puberty).
As such, the prohibition of dolls and toys will remain for those who have reached the age of puberty. Other scholars have also mentioned that Aisha (R.A.) got the permission to play with such toys since they were incomplete and defaced images. This reason is evident from the traditions of Aisha (R.A) which states that the Prophet of Allah (S.A.S) even after looking at the image, did not know what it was, so he asked, “What is this”? If it were not defaced or incomplete he would have immediately seen that it was a horse. All these explanations given by the great Traditionists and Jurists from among the Sahabas and Tabi’eens are valid and sound. It is quite clear that Aisha’s (R.A) playing with the dolls occurred in the very beginning period when the
Prohibition of images and pictures were not yet present. It is also evident that at that time she was a very young girl of six or seven years of age. One must therefore be precautious in this matter.
On this topic scholars have also spoken about photography. Some of the latter scholars are of the view that photography is not a picture or image and will not fall under the ruling of suwar or Tasweer (i.e. pictures and images). As such photography is permissible (according to them). They argue that photography is not a drawing, a painting, a picture, a carving, an image or statue but it is a recent invention which is a reflection similar to the reflected image in a mirror. However, a study into the concept of photography will reveal that the above argument is baseless and unsound. Many of the former and latter scholars from among the Traditionists and Jurists have clearly stated that photography is picture making and will be prohibited just as other forms of picture making are prohibited. There are many different reasons to support this view.
(1) Some of the most authentic Arabic Dictionaries define photography as “a PICTURE by the means of light”. (Al-Mawrid) Also, “A PICTURE made by the aid of light”. (Al-Qamusul Asriyya). Even the English Oxford Dictionary has defined photography in the following manner, ‘a PICTURE taken by means of the chemical action of light on a sensitive film’.
(2) The photography is not a reflection like that of a mirror, since the mirror image is a reflection of the object which stands in front of it. As soon as the object moves the reflection moves. In the case of a photograph the image remains imprinted on a film in the camera which will then produce a picture of the object which stood before it. As such one cannot use analogy upon the reflection of a mirror.
(3) All camera experts and scientists have agreed that the camera produces pictures and not reflections. It is thus evident that whatever comes out of the camera is a picture and this is exactly what has been prohibited in the traditions. As such, it must be noted that that the means of producing a picture is not of great concern and what is really prohibited is the end result, whether it is a picture of animate object or not.
It should be understood that pictures which are prohibited do not only refer to those which are drawn with the pen, or done by an artist or carved into an image. It refers to all the different ways and methods in which pictures are made whether it is an ancient way or it is modern like that of photography or printing. As such creating pictures, processing them or drawing them are all prohibited in Islam. This prohibition will only include pictures and images of living things (i.e. those which represents life as if it possesses a soul). Pictures of non-animate objects are permissible with respect to the pictures of non-living things which are worshipped e.g. the Sun, Moon, Stars etc. Some scholars are of the opinion that such pictures are also prohibited. However others have stated that they are permissible since it is not the pictures that are really worshipped but the things themselves. As such it would be permissible to photograph such pictures. It is for this reason also that the pictures of a cross are not permissible since people worship the pictures of a cross. All the prohibitions which have been mentioned regarding the pictures of animate objects refers to where there is a clear intent of creating or bringing about such pictures. If there was no intent and pictures of animate objects were captured along with other non-animate objects, then there will be not sin for the person.
Non-animate objects will also include such pictures and images which are defaced or incomplete. Keeping such pictures or making them are permissible It is thus clear that pictures of animate objects whose heads are taken off are permissible to use. In the same manner, pictures with heads alone will be prohibited to use. Abu Hurairah (R.A.) states, “ Picture is the name of the head. When there is no head on then there is no picture”. (Tahawi). Similarly it is reported from Ibn Abbas (R.A) that he said, “ Picture is the name of the head, when the head is cut off it does not remain a picture”. (Kanzul Ummal). In this regard, the famous Muhaddith and Jurist Alama Khattabi, has stated, “ That which is meant by having life in it is that in which the head has not been severed”. (Umdatul Qaari). Similarly the great commentator of Saheeh Bukhari has stated that, “ the majority of the scholars have stated that when the head is severed, the prohibition does not remain”. (Fathul Bari). It is also mentioned that it is not permissible to make heads or faces alone leaving all the other parts aside. However due to cases of necessity some allowance has been given for Passports, I.D. Cards etc. If pictures of the prohibited nature are on such objects which keep hidden, then such pictures will also be permissible to keep in the house if they are on objects which keep them hidden e.g. on bags, tins, books, magazines etc.
It is also not permissible to sell or trade in such pictures which are prohibited in Islam. A person who makes such pictures is not allowed to take wages for his work. Similarly it is not permissible for anyone to work in such a position where his job requires him to print or photograph pictures. Performing salaat with clothing which contain prohibited pictures is gravely disliked. Similarly it is heavily disliked to perform salaat in such a place where such pictures are hanging.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan