In the name of Allah The Most Gracious The Most Merciful
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Saheb Rahmatullahi Alayhi has mentioned in his Tafseer Maa’riful Qur’an under the verse:
On page 276, Volume 7
A common doubt is that the use of pictures during the blessed time of the Holy Prophet could have become the source of idol-worshiping, but in our time, pictures may serve many purposes such as establishing identity of criminals, advertising trade marks, meeting friends and relatives, investigating events and circumstances and numerous other things. For this reason, it has been included in one of the necessities of life. Thus the apprehension of any idol-worship is far too remote to conceive. As such, the prohibition that was made to offset the danger of idol-worship should now be lifted!
The answer to this doubt is that first of all, it is not correct to say that in our time, pictures are no more a source of idol-worship or power. There are so many sects and groups even today who worship their peers or attempt to derive power or safety from their images or sculptures. Sometimes it is in the form of statues or mounted framed pictures and other times it as small as a key-ring, locket, or tattoo. From people who bow their heads to fans or disciples who hold pictures or idols sacred and hang them in widows, cars or lockers, these varying acts are all forms of worship/prayer which should be reserved for Allah alone.
Recently a friend was shown a blank and white photocopy of the passport photo of his Shaykh’s Shaykh. He replied that to keep any persons photo was very dangerous to a people’s Imaan. Someone at some point would hold the person’s photo in high regard and explained the risks thus:
If he were to throw the image on the floor or rip it the person would feel image was disrespected and be distressed more so than if it was some other image. In contrast the person would put it in a safe place away from the floor; it would be looked at when one wanted to be reminded of piety and pious predecessors. Tears would flow reminiscing and remembering one’s own shortcomings and the person would raise his hands in prayer to Allah and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes they would feel their prayer is incomplete or lacks spirituality without the use of the image. Even if this was not felt other people including children would see this act and misunderstand it to be a method of their predecessor’s meditation. They would replicate the act but be confused in to thinking they must keep the image on display whilst praying. It would not be long before they would be praying in front of and then actually to the image as intermediaries.
The idol worshippers said: Wajadnaa aabaa ana kazalika yufaloon (We found our forefathers doing like this)
This is Shirk (Polytheism) and results in the person being a non-Muslim.
Another example is the keeping of pictures of heads of state in the entrances of business this to assert allegiance in front of authorities. A common misconception from this show of allegiance is ‘If you keep the picture of so and so you will be safe’. Pledging allegiance is normally a good thing however understand that The Protector is Allah alone and not good or bad Pirs (Peers) leaders, royalty, or politicians
All this can occur in our own time; we just do not know our own future misunderstandings and actions let alone that of others. The risks above are high and cannot be mitigated by knowledge alone since incorrect actions are more likely to propagate and mutate than correct understanding even if undistorted. It is often said the ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ however it is not the spiritless picture that speaks but shaytaan that whispers most of those words to misguide man. The remaining words are filled in by man’s limited Nafs (inner-self)
Pictures, Video, Animation, Sculptures and Theatrical Plays that depict living objects can all mean different things to different people. That is why Shaytaan often uses them to confuse people. In addition it is not necessary either that the wisdom behind an operative divine order should be found in every individual case. The prohibition of pictures due to it being a conduit of idol-worship is not the only reason. In fact, there are Sahih (sound and authentic) Hadith in which other reasons for this prohibition have also been given.
For example, picture/sculpture making is a duplication of the special attribute of Allah. The name (Musaawir) meaning The giver of form, shape, colour and real presence is of the most beautiful names of Allah and making of pictures and the giving of form, shape and presence is in reality befitting for him and it lies within his power to create among his creations thousands in terms of genes, race, class, category and kinds with millions and billions of living units in each kind. Each being different in shape also.
Take the example of human beings. The form and shape of men is different. So is the form and shape of women. None of them were absolutely the same as anyone else, even ‘identical twins’ have some features that allow those who know them like their parents differentiate and recognise them. The distinct features of every person are so manifest that an onlooker would easily recognize him without much hesitation. Who can claim to give the creatures such marvellous shapes other than the Al-mighty Allah?
A human being who makes a sculpture, picture or a painting of someone is claiming for all practical purposes that he or she too can make the same form or image. Therefore it appears in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari and in other Hadith that on the day of Judgement, those who will make pictures will be told, ‘When you have tried to imitate us, make the imitation perfect too-if you have the power to do so. We did not simply make an image. We have invested it with a spirit too. If you claim to have created it then you better put a spirit inside the thing you have made.
Another reason why a picture is prohibited appears in Sahih Hadith where it is said that the angels of Allah hate pictures and dogs. Angels do not enter the house that has these and so the bliss and radiance in the house is removed and the ability of the residents to worship and remain obedient to Allah is reduced.
Yet another reason appearing in some Hadith that pictures are unnecessary embellishments of this world. Of course in our time, pictures yield many benefits but thousands of crimes including those that range between immodesty and pornography, also breed and flourish from these very pictures. In short, it is not simply one reason alone that was made the basis for it’s prohibition, rather there is a host of reasons why the Shariah of Islam has declared it prohibited to make and use pictures of the living.
Now if we were to suppose that there is some particular person in whom these causes are not found, then from this stray incident, the rules of the Shariah cannot change.
According to the narration of Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Masood appearing in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Holy Prophet has been reported to have said:
“Of people the most affected by punishment on the day of Judgement shall be the makers of pictures.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Page 880)
Then a narration from Sayyidina ibn Abbas appearing in the two Sahih’s of Al-Bukhari and Muslim:
“Every picture maker will be in Jahannam.”
Regarding photography and video recordings, the Ulama (Scholars) have mentioned a few points;
1. Photography and video-recording of non-living objects is permissible with the condition that they are not objects which are worshipped or represent polytheist symbols.
2. The taking of photos for a passport, a driving licence or necessary identification cards will be permissible as these fall under the category of ‘need’.
3. Apart from the afore-mentioned, needless photography and video-recording of living objects is all impermissible and Haraam! There is no leeway in this and this prohibition includes the video-recording of Islamic conferences as well.
This has been explained by a renowned Mufti of our time Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani in his Kitab, ‘Kitaab-ul-Fatawaa’ on page 168/169, Volume 6:
After being asked the question regarding the video-recording of a seerat conference so that students of various madaris may learn seerat by watching the video and benefit thereby, Moulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani answers thus:
“For a certain act to be rendered permissible in the Shariah, there are two conditions which are necessary:
1. The purpose and intention for carrying out the act must be good and of virtue and must not be against the Shariah.
2. The manner and method adopted to carry out the act and give it a practical structure must also be permissible.
If the purpose and intention of carrying out an act is good but the method or means adopted to practically do the act is against the Shariah, then this act will be impermissible and committing it would be a sin!
For example a person commits theft to give money in charity, his intention to give in charity is good but the method adopted is incorrect so thereby, instead of being rewarded, he will gain sin!
The teaching and learning of Islam is verily a very great act of virtue but to adopt the means of photography and video-recording is not permissible. Without great need, photography and video-recording is a great sin.
Furthermore, if this act of photography and video-recording of living objects is done in a blessed place like a Masjid, then the sin will become much more heinous and grave! There are however a few purposive exceptions to the general prohibition of artefcts depicting animate objects such as identification, security, medical and evidenciary material, etc these can sometimes fall under rules of necessity and readers should refer individual cases to reputable scholars who can take all circumstances into consideration before advising.
Therefore, we must abstain from such practices that use depictions of God, Angels, Humans, Jinns or Animals or even Shaytaan. We must teach and learn Islam without needlessly breaking shariah as this will truly prove to be fruitful and beneficial.
Allah knows best.