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Ruling of Photography in Islam

حكم التصوير

Ruling of Photography in Islam


 قال الله تعالى ( هُوَ الَّذِي يُصَوِّرُكُم فِي الأَرحَامِ كَيفَ يَشَاءُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ العَزِيزُ الحَكِيمُ ) آل عمران آية(6)

Allah said:'' It is He who forms you in the wombs however He wills. There is no deity except Him, the  Exalted in Might, the Wise'' 3:06

According to the above verse, TASWEER means forming , shaping and creation, which is prohibited, but that ruling is not applicable on photography because there is no forming, creation or shaping in photography, how ever it is applicable on painting or shaping bodies with Clay, Cement or Sand and so forth 

Narrated By Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her): Allah's Apostle (Peace Be Upon Him) returned from a journey when I had placed a curtain of mine having pictures over a chamber of mine. When Allah's Apostle saw it, He tore it and said, "the people who will receive the severest punishment on the day of Resurrection will be those who try to make the like of Allah's creations" so we turned it into one or two cushions (narrated by Al-Bukhari)

 Ibn Umar narrated that, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said: "the painter of these pictures will be punished on the day of Resurrection, and it will be said to them, "make alive what you have created" (narrated by Al-Bukhari)

 According to the above two hadeeths, making pictures of alive things is not allowed because the maker of pictures and paintings is making the like of Allah's creations, but the one who takes the picture of a creation of Allah and take it with a camera in order to copy it to a paper as is without changing it, does not fall under that threat because he is not creating but copying the original creation of Allah, so generally, taking pictures with cameras or video recording is permissible, keeping pictures in albums is also allowed but not to hang them on walls or tables which may lead to sanctification of images which is Haraam

There are separate issues relating to picture-making (TASWEER), hence it would be good to understand each issue separately and the Islamic ruling on it:

1) Drawing/Painting Pictures of Humans and Animals

As it is common knowledge, there are countless Hadeeths narrated from the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) that strictly prohibit painting pictures of animate objects, for example:

Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) forbade the keeping of pictures at home and making them.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 1749)

Abu Talha (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “Angels (of mercy) do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or a picture.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 5609)

Due to these and many other similar narrations, most classical scholars are of the opinion that painting and drawing pictures of humans and animals is unlawful and sinful. They state that ‘picture-making’ (tasweer) of human or animal life has been explicitly forbidden by the Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) and as such it will be sinful. Only Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him) is reported to have differed with this position of general prohibition.

In one of his narrations, Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him), contrary to the other three Imams, is reported to have stated that only those pictures are unlawful that are three-dimensional and have a body to them, such as statues and sculptures. A picture that does not have a body or shadow to it will not be unlawful although somewhat disliked, such as drawing a picture on a paper, cloth or on any other object. This is one of two positions narrated from Imam Malik, with his other position being similar to that of the vast majority of classical scholars.

The position of the vast majority of classical scholars is based on the fact that there is no distinction in the various Hadeeths between a tangible and intangible picture. The Hadeeth indicating the permissibility of intangible and non-solid pictures refers to pictures of other than humans and animals.

Based on this, the reliable and mainstream opinion of the classical jurists is that picture-making is unlawful, whether by painting a picture on an object or making a sculpture. This is the position held by the three main Sunni Schools of Islamic law (i.e. Hanafi, Shafi’i & Hanbali) and also one of two positions related from Imam Malik.

2) Photography

In view of the above-mentioned one position of Imam Malik, there is no question with regard to the permissibility of taking photographs, for according to that position, painting pictures of human or animal life on a paper or fabric is allowed, hence camera pictures would hold the same ruling.

However, in view of the mainstream and majority position of classical scholars, the question arises as to whether photos of humans and animals fall under the type of picture-making prohibited by the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) in numerous Hadeeths. Camera photos were not in existence when classical scholars were discussing the issue of picture-making, hence one will not find an express ruling regarding photography in their works. As such, it was left to contemporary scholars to determine whether photos held the same ruling as that of painting and drawing pictures.

Contemporary scholars have differed on this issue:

a) The position of the overwhelming majority of Indo-Pak and some Arab scholars is that photographs of human or animal life are not permissible for the very same reasons that paintings of these are not permissible. They state that the ruling on picture-making does not change by changing the tool with which the picture is produced. Whether an image is produced by painting it or using a camera, as long as it is an image of a human or animal, it will remain unlawful (haraam).

b) The second position on the issue, held by most present Arab Scholars (from all four Madhabs) and most Ulama of Makkah, Madinah, Egypt and Ulama from the Indian Subcontinent, is that there is a difference between photos and the prohibited picture-making (tasweer), in support of this view of permissibility. Their basic understanding is that the reason behind the prohibition of painting pictures (in the words of the Hadeeth) is challenging Allah in His attribute of creating living creatures. However, in camera photos, one does not produce an image through one’s own imagination. It is merely a reflection of a living being already created by Allah Most High. This is the more arguably stronger opinion.

3) Live Broadcasting

Scholars have declared that live broadcastings of images do not fall within the ambit of picture-making (tasweer). A picture is something that is permanent and static, whilst the image broadcasted live is not permanent hence cannot be termed a picture. A live broadcast is in reality a reflection of the actual image, similar to seeing an image in a mirror.

Therefore, if an image of a human or animal is broadcasted live, then this does not fall into the unlawful picture-making. It will be permitted to broadcast something live or view a live programme, provided the content of the programme is lawful (halaal).

4) Video Recording

Video recording in a videotape or DVD is also not considered a prohibited picture. In a videotape, the particles of an image are gathered and then re-opened in the same order to view the image. This is the reason why it is not possible to see the picture in the reel of the tape without playing it.

These are the two positions of contemporary scholars on the issue. There are great scholars of knowledge, wisdom and piety on both sides of the fence; hence, it would be wrong to criticize anyone for following any one of these positions. It is a matter of genuine and valid difference of opinion. It is not an issue where one may condemn another, and one must respect others’ right to follow their conscience.


Collected and Revised
Hamadi Al-Aslani
Manager of Editing and Translation
B.A. Islamic studies
B.A. English language
Jeddah Dawah Center
With the compliments of


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