Pictures, Photography—Photographic, Digital—
All Flagrantly Haraam
The Consensus of the Ulama
1. Hazrat Mufti Mahmood Saheb (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“Question: Is there any difference between drawing pictures and photography? What does the Shariah say about keeping photos?
Answer: There is no difference whatever regarding the hukm (injunction) of both. Photography has absolutely the same ruling as drawing pictures. It is not permissible in the Shariah to keep pictures of animate objects. It is reported from Abu Talhah (Radhiyallahu anhu) that Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said:
‘The Malaaikah do not enter a home in which there is a dog or pictures.’—Bukhari Shareef
It is permissible to keep and take photos of inanimate objects, such as trees, etc.
The Ulama have stated that drawing pictures of animate objects is haraam—vehemently haraam—and it is among the major sins (kabaair) in view of its denunciation with this severe warning [from Rasoolullah Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam]:
‘The most severely punished people by Allah will be the picture-makers.’—Fat-hul Baari”
(Fataawa Mahmoodiyyah, 5/90-1)
2. Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“Making and keeping of pictures—generally referred to as photos nowadays— both are haraam. It is waajib to get rid off and efface them in view of the grave sin involved in this practice.”
(Imdaadul Fataawa, 4/243)
“Question: What do the Ulama of the Deen say in regard to the following mas-alah?
Zaid is an Aalim. He avers that it is haraam to make or keep at home a hand-drawn picture, i.e. with a pen. ‘But,’ he says, ‘It is not haraam to take a photo and keep it at home.’ The proof he adduces is that a photo is the reflection of a mirror. People generally do look at mirrors.
Answer: Zaid’s averment is absolutely erroneous. He has drawn a false analogy. In a mirror the reflection does not remain. After the object in front of it moves, the reflection goes away. This is unlike a photo, as is palpably clear. Further, it is a mechanical production and hence it is [i.e. its ruling is] precisely the same as a hand-drawn picture.”
(Imdaadul Fataawa, 4/253-4)
3. Allaamah Zafar Ahmad Uthmaani (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“The hurmat [prohibition] of pictures is established by Ahadeeth-e-Mutawaatirah [in other words, a number of Hadeeth transmitted successively down the long corridor of 14 centuries and which preclude any scope of being rejected] and there is Ijma’ [Unanimity] of the Ummah on this.
…By changing the name of something haraam, it does not become halaal. It appears in the Hadeeth:
‘People of my Ummah will change the name of liquor and drink it. They will have parties in which they will play musical instruments and sing. Allah Ta’ala will cause the ground to swallow them up. Some of them will be transformed into apes and swine.’
Thus, just as calling interest ‘benefit’, bribery ‘service-charge’, liquor ‘brandy’, ‘spirits’, etc., gambling ‘insurance’ and ‘lottery’ and singing ‘gramophone’ does not make these things halaal, similarly calling picture-making ‘photography’ and ‘reflection’ does not make it [picture-making] halaal.
…If the methodology and means of production of a haraam act changes, it will still remain haraam when its reality and the reason for prohibition are still found. For instance, a new method of murder is devised such as electrocuting to death; or a new method of extracting liquor is found, such as the mechanical process of distilling liquor nowadays which was non-existent in former times; or a new form of gambling is contrived, such as the variety of insurance policies and lotteries devised which were previously unheard of; or new ways of fornication are practised, as in vogue in Europe in these times; then this will not render the haraam act to be halaal.
Thus, since forming pictures [of animate objects] is haraam, then whatever new method of it is invented, it will be haraam. The hurmat will not disappear by altering the name or altering the method of production. And the reason for this is that the cause of the hurmat of pictures, viz. it being a stepping stone to shirk, is found here [with the new method of production] as well.
Furthermore, in it [photography] is tashabbuh [imitation] of the kuffaar. This is not the way of Muslims.
…It is claimed that photography is in fact a process of reflection; like a reflection is cast on a mirror or water. The response to this [preposterous claim] is that the major difference between the two is that the reflection on a mirror, etc. is not durable, whereas the reflection obtained on a photo is preserved with the aid of technical materials. Thus, it is a reflection as long as it is not preserved with technical materials. But once it is preserved and made durable, in whichever way, then it becomes a picture.
…Then everyone knows that the purpose in taking photos and having one’s photo taken is the same as the purpose of drawing pictures. The voluntary act of the photographer and the one photographed is the determinant here just as in drawing pictures. Therefore, both are equal in prohibition.
Differentiating between the two is just as bad as differentiating between liquor manually extracted and distilled liquor mechanically extracted.
Thus, both the photographer and the one who allows himself to be photographed are guilty of haraam, guilty of a major sin and in the light of some Ahadeeth they are mal’oon and faasiq [cursed by Allah Ta’ala and branded as flagrant transgressors]. It is makrooh tahreemi [i.e. it is forbidden] to follow them in Salaat.
To keep such photos at home or in one’s possession is a clear-cut sin and it is haraam.”
Endorsing this Fatwa, Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahmatullahi Alaih) declares:
“This is nothing but the Haq [Truth]. And in departing from the Haq there is nothing but dhalaal [deviation].”
(Imdaadul Ahkaam, 4/382-4)
4. Moulana Abdul Kareem Saheb Gumthalwi (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“To make pictures is not permissible, irrespective of the picture being on clothes, or utensils, or on the wall—on anything—and irrespective of the picture being small or large. Reference: Shaami, 1/677.
…To make pictures is not permissible at all; neither for honouring, nor for dishonouring; neither small, nor large and no matter on what surface it may be. All forms are impermissible.
Furthermore, there is no difference between a photo and a hand-drawn picture in view of the purpose in acquiring a picture being fulfilled in both ways.
The notion some people entertain of an idol/bust being impermissible whilst a picture on paper, etc. being permissible is erroneous.
Question: What is the Shar’i ruling in regard to one who legalizes pictures?
Answer: He is a faasiq.”
(Imdaadul Ahkaam, 4/372-3)
5. Hazrat Mufti Shafi’ Saheb (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“Making pictures is absolutely haraam in the Shariah of Islam, irrespective of it being with the pen, or in the form of photos, or through the printing press. This is the case of an animate object’s picture. The Hadeeth states:
‘The worst punished people on the Day of Qiyaamah will be those who seek to create like Allah.’
—Reported by Bukhari and Muslim from Hazrat Aishah (Radhiyallahu anha) marfoo’an
Some reports have the words ‘the picture-makers’, as is documented by Bukhari and Muslim from Abdullah Bin Mas’ood (Radhiyallahu anhu) and Hazrat Abu Hurairah (Radhiyallahu anhu).
Another Hadeeth states:
‘I heard Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) saying: ‘Allah Ta’ala declares: Who is more unjust than the one who ventures to create like Me?’—Bukhari and Muslim
One Hadeeth states: ‘It will be said to them: ‘Bring life to what you have created!’’
In other words, in castigation it will be said to the picture-makers: ‘Put life into your pictures.’
From these narrations and other similar Ahadeeth it is conclusively proven that the institution of picture-making is absolutely haraam. There is no exception reported of any kind [in regard to the manner of producing the picture of the animate object].”
(Imdaadul Mufteen, Fataawa Darul Uloom, V.2 pp. 991-2)
“We learn from the declarations of Hadeeth narrations and from the texts of the general Kutub of the Hanafiyyah that an incomplete picture—where there is no head—does not retain the hukm [effect, status, ruling] of a [haraam] picture. Rather, it, [the incomplete picture] falls into the category of designs and engravings. On this basis, permission for its usage [the headless picture] is generally mentioned in clear terms in all the books of the [Hanafi] Math-hab. This, apparently, evinces that taking such pictures has the same ruling as picture-making of designs and plants in general. In other words, just as that is permissible, similarly this [taking pictures of animate objects with their heads cut off] should also be permissible.
… Some of the words of the Hadeeth of Hazrat Jibreel (Alaihis Salaam) as reported by Hazrat Abu Hurairah (Radhiyallahu anhu) and documented by Abu Dawood, Nasaai and Tirmithi are:
‘Instruct that the heads be cut off from the pictures at home. In this manner they will resemble trees [i.e. inanimate objects].’
In the exceptionally authoritative and popular Hanafi Fiqh work, Badaa’i the following appears:
‘…by virtue of cutting [the head] it does not remain a portrait. It falls into the category of designs. Proof for this [permissibility] is the narration of the head of a bird being effaced from the shield of Nabi (Alaihis Salaam).’
..Also discussing this issue Bahrur Raaiq states:
‘… or with the head cut, i.e. irrespective of this being its original form or it had a head and was subsequently effaced.”
(Jawaahirul Fiqh, 3/227-8)
6. Hazrat Mufti Azeezur Rahmaan Saheb (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“Taking pictures of oneself and taking pictures of others by means of modern photography is just as haraam and na-jaaiz as having and making hand-drawn pictures are prohibited and haraam. And keeping it in one’s possession is just as haraam as keeping hand-drawn pictures.
The one who has his picture taken through photography and the photographer are liable and deserving of the punishment and warning mentioned in the Ahadeeth in relation to picture-drawers.”
After quoting a few Ahadeeth on the prohibition of drawing pictures and the relevant text from an authoritative Fiqhi Kitaab of all types of pictures of animate objects being haraam the venerable Mufti Azeezur Rahmaan Saheb concludes:
“Thus, in view of the institution of picture-making being unconditionally haraam, the perpetrator of such a crime is a faasiq, it is haraam to appoint him as Imaam [for Salaah] and Salaah behind him is makrooh tahreemi [reprehensible and forbidden].”
(Azeezul Fataawa, Fataawa Darul Uloom Deoband, 2/742-3)
7. Hazrat Mufti Rasheed Ahmad Saheb Ludhyaanwi (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“To take a picture of oneself is haraam in the unanimous verdict of the Ummah. In contrast to the masses, it is more despicable and evil for an Aalim or Mufti to take a picture of himself, for several reasons. First, Divine accountability on the Ulama, the intelligent and seniors is more harsh. Second, transgression by the Ulama emboldens the masses to transgress. Third, hypocrisy by the Ulama will lead to the masses believing that this sin is permissible.
Note: It has been learnt through reliable sources that legally it is not lawful to take someone else’s photo without permission. Therefore, if someone’s photo was taken whilst being unaware then it is an incumbent duty upon him to threaten the criminal with legal action and in this way he [the criminal] should be forced to destroy the photo. If he does not destroy it, it will be fardh in the Shariah to take legal action. This duty has stronger emphasis on the Ulama. To be lax in this regard is haraam. May Allah Ta’ala protect everyone.”
(Ahsanul Fataawa, 8/191)
8. Hazrat Moulana Muhammad Yusuf Saheb Ludhyaanwi (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“Question: Just today you wrote in response to a question that pictures are haraam and you cited Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ Deobandi. What I would like to ask is that if pictures are haraam then together with our country, several Islamic countries have pictures on their currency notes. We keep these pictorial notes in our pockets when reading Namaaz. Is our Namaaz accepted?
Leading Ulama of our country are affiliated to political parties. Regularly interviews with them are featured in newspapers and magazines. Included are photos of them. But no Aalim has stopped the papers or magazines from publishing his photo.
During the days of Haj, the Haj rituals are broadcast on TV. Is this also incorrect? Is the viewer sinful? This is but a reflection. Like this there are innumerable things which you as well are aware of.
Response: A fundamental error has been committed in the question. There are two things. One is the Law of Allah Ta’ala and the second is practice on His Law. I explain the Law of the Shariah. I do not discuss the level of compliance to that Law and the level of incompliance. Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) declared pictures to be haraam and he cursed the makers of pictures. Now, even if we assume for a moment that the whole world is acting in conflict with this Declaration, the Shar’i Declaration will not turn out to be a mistake. On the contrary, the violators of the Declaration are sinners.
Those who print pictures on notes; those who print photos in newspapers; those who produce Haj films; are their statements and actions proof against the Declaration handed down by Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam)? If not [as is obvious], then it is meaningless to cite them.
Understand well that be it the president of Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia, any eminent politician, Ulama or Mashaaikh, all are all mere Ummatis. Their views and actions are not rubber stamps in the Shariah. They cannot be cited to scuttle the Declaration of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). If they remain Ummatis and comply to the Declaration of Nabi (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), they will receive thawaab by Allah Ta’ala. And if they do not, they will be brought in the Court of Allah Ta’ala as criminals. Then it is left to Allah Ta’ala. He may forgive them or he may sentence them. Be that as it may, violation of the law by a criminal does not itself, in any way, weaken the law. We are guilty of a grave error in giving the name of this person and that person when faced with the Law of Allah Ta’ala.
Namaaz does not become faasid [invalid] if there happens to be notes with pictures in one’s pocket. Without a pressing necessity it is not permissible to take one’s picture. Production and viewing of Haj films are also not permissible.”
(Aap kê Masaail, 10/309-10)
9. Hazrat Mufti Sayyid Abdur Raheem Saheb Lajpuri (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“In the absence of necessity and legal compulsion—a valid Shar’i reason—it is not permissible to take photos and nor to have one’s photo taken. It is sinful. If one has taken a photo it should be destroyed and taubah, istighfaar should be made. Seek forgiveness from Allah Ta’ala.
There is no Shar’i concession to take photos for the purpose of remembrance or to send home or to show the prospective bride and bridegroom. If someone needs to see [the bride] he should go and see. Besides the sin of pictures in this [sending photos for marriage purposes] there are other evils attached to it.”
(Fataawa Raheemiyyah, 6/271)
10. Hazrat Mufti Kifaayatullah Saheb (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
After a visit to Egypt by the Jamiatul Ulama of India in connection with the plight of the oppressed Palestinians, when preparing to leave, a number of Egyptian Ulama and dignitaries came to see the delegation of Jamiatul Ulama Al-Hind off. The dignitaries requested for a photo to be taken but Mufti Kifaayatullah Saheb emphatically refused and declared it haraam. In view of certain Egyptian scholars having issued a fatwa of permissibility of photography, a discussion ensued. A brief recording of the discussion appears in Biography of Mufti Kifaayatullah as follows:
“Ulama-e-Misr: The impermissibility only applies to those pictures which are made by the work of the human hand. In photography, no such thing is needed. It is simply a reflection of the picture.
Hadhrat Mufti Saheb: So how does this ‘reflection’ become transferred from the lens to the paper?
Ulama-e-Misr: It requires much [i.e. technical] work.
Hadhrat Mufti Saheb: What is the difference between “human handiwork” and “much work”?
Ulama-e-Misr: Yes, they are the same thing.
Hadhrat Mufti Saheb: Hence, their ruling is the same [i.e. photography is just as haraam as drawing pictures with the hand].”
The response of Hadhrat Mufti Kifaayatullah Saheb left the Egyptian Ulama present speechless and very impressed.
11. Shaikhul Islam Hazrat Moulana Husain Ahmad Madani (Rahmatullahi Alaih)
“I never ever had my photo taken knowingly and voluntarily. That takes place when I am unaware, and I do not consider it permissible. Those who do that [i.e. take other peoples’ pictures] are responsible for their actions.”
(Ma’aarif wa Haqaaiq, 380)
In certain websites photos of the Madani family and the Jamiatul Ulama Al-Hind are screened in an attempt to mislead the unwary public into believing that our Ulama view photography to be permissible. The vehement stance of our Akaabir (senior) Ulama as is evident from Hazrat Moulana Madani’s and Hazrat Mufti Kifaayatullah’s statements reproduced above suffices to convince even a layman that the founders and stalwarts of Jamiatul Ulama Al-Hind were absolutely against the evil abomination of photography. And why should they not be when Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) warned of dire consequences for those who make and take pictures?
12. Mufti Shuaib Aalam (Jamiah Uloom-e-Islaamiyyah, Allaamah Binnoori Town, Karachi), Hafithahullah
“Our investigation concludes that images formed through digital technology [digital pictures] should be called pictures. The reasons are mentioned hereunder:
- The objective of the Shariah is to ban the preservation of pictures of animate objects. This is the basis and rationale [of the prohibition]. The long history of mankind tells us that this [making pictures] spawns fitnah. In the digital system the abomination of preserving a picture is found.
- The essence of picture-making is to copy and display the original. In the history of mankind various ways have been used to achieve this purpose. Of those methods the digital system is the most advanced and superior method. The methodology has progressed. The tools have taken different forms. The pattern has changed. But the basic reality and central aim is the same, viz. ‘production of a portrait of the original’.
- The difference between the olden method and the modern method is confined to the medium of preservation. The essence and reality of picture-making are common to both. When our seniors declared images made via olden methods to be pictures, then images produced through modern methods will also be declared to be pictures. The reason for this is that the reality is jointly found in both. Thus both will share the same ruling [of prohibition].
(Bayyinaat, Ramadhaan/Shawwaal 1429H)
The venerable Mufti Saheb gives a further seven reasons for the prohibition of digital pictures. The fatwa of Mufti Shuaib Aalam Saheb is endorsed by leading Ulama and Muftis of Pakistan. A detailed treatise on the subject has also been prepared. But what is quite significant is that the fatwa emanates from Jamiah Uloom-e-Islaamiyyah of Newtown, Karachi—the institution where many of our local “Ulama” who are feverishly campaigning and actively indulging in photography have their roots in. These “learned men” who have fallen prostrate into shaitaan’s deception should take lesson from those Ulama who repented for their grievous error of indulgence in photography. Moulana Abdul Kalaam Aazad (Rahmatullahi Alaih) who published his newspaper Al-Hilaal for years with pictures was guided to the Haq and confessing his error stated unambiguously:
“It is not permissible to have photos taken nor keeping photos and publishing photos. It was a grave error on my part to have my photos taken and to publish Al-Hilaal with photos. I have repented from that error. My former errors should be concealed [i.e. his photos should not be publicized. In fact, they should be destroyed]. They should not be given fresh publication.”
The above candid confession of Moulana Abdul Kalaam Aazad Saheb is recorded in Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi Saheb’s treatise At-Tasweer li Ahkaamit Tasweer. This detailed treatise and Hazrat Mufti Shafi Saheb’s other treatise on the subject titled Kashfus Sijaaf an Wajhi Photograph have to be incumbently studied by our Ulama so as to educate themselves on the nature and gravity of photography, thus saving themselves and the Ummah from the Wrath of Allah Azza wa Jall.
The Asaatizah and Akaabir of our local Ulama have categorically declared the institution of photography—digital and what not—to be haraam. The argument is thus sealed. And our duty is simply to deliver the clear message.