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Photos and Pictures

By Gibril F Haddad

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There are different opinions in taking pictures in my country. Some says that there is no harm in taking pictures anywhere. Others say that there is no harm in taking pictures but not in Masjid. And finally others say that one should not take pictures in any places. I should be much grateful to if you tell us in details what the Sharia Law says on this.


Imam al-Tahawi al-Hanafi said: "The Lawmaker, blessings and peace be upon him, first forbade pictures entirely, even stripes on clothes, because people had only recently turned away from worshipping images, so that was prohibited across the board.

When his prohibition of such images became solidly ingrained, he permitted striped clothes due to the necessity of using clothes, and he permitted whatever is practiced as a matter of trade, because the ignorant are safe from exalting such practice. As for what is not practiced as a matter of trade, it remained forbidden." Cited by Sayyid Sabiq in Fiqh al-Sunna (see below). The scholar of comparative fiqh ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Jazari wrote in his three-volume al-Fiqh ʿala al-Madhahib al-arbaʿa:

"The prohibition of making pictures stems, in the eye of the Law, from the use of pictures towards the corruption of belief, as for example the use of statues for the worship of other than Allah... As for their utilization in the context of a sound matter, such as teaching and learning something, then pictures are permitted and there is no sin in them." (1)

Imam Muslim relates on the authority of ʿA'isha: "We had a curtain on which was the picture of a bird, and which every person would face upon coming in. The Prophet said one day: "Put this somewhere else (awwili hadhih), for every time I come in I remember the dunya (the world)."

The modernist Scholar Sayyid Sabiq said, after mentioning the hadith of Muslim quoted above, said:

"This hadith indicates that pictures are not unlawful (haram), because if it were unlawful in the final analysis, he would have ordered that it be destroyed, and not contented himself with having it placed somewhere else. He then mentioned that the reason for placing it somewhere else was that it made him remember dunya. This is also the view of al-Tahawi. As for pictures that have no shadow, such as engravings on the wall or on metal; and pictures which are found on clothes and curtains and photographic prints [in books, calendars, passports, and nowadays videotapes for a didactic purpose etc.]: these are all permitted." (2)

(1) Offset reprint, Istanbul, 1986, 3:39-41.
(2) Fiqh as-Sunna, Vol. 3, p. 370-371.

And Allah knows best.

Hajj Gibril
GF Haddad
[20 May 2003]

"In any case, what Westerners call civilization, the others would call barbarity, because it is precisely lacking in the essential, that is to say, a principle of a higher order."
René Guénon, East And West, 1924

صلّى الله على سيّدنا محمّد و على آله و صحبه و سلّم

The blessings and peace of Allah on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions, ( sallAllahu `aleihi wa sallam ) .



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* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *