Making Images and Sculptures
Describing the tasks that the Jinn accomplished for Hadhrat Sulaymaan عليه السلام, the Qur’aan states, “As he (Sulaymaan عليه السلام) pleased, they (the Jinn) would construct for him huge buildings, sculptures, dishes the size of dams and large pots which (were so heavy that they) could not be moved from their place”.259 Amongst the things they made for Hadhrat Sulaymaan عليه السلام were:
- Mahaareeb, the plural of Mihraab is translated as ‘huge buildings’ and refers to all tall structures, including the likes of fortresses, Masaajid and monuments
- Tamaatheel, the plural of Timthaal is translated as sculptures and may also refer to images of both animate and inanimate objects. These may be made of stone, clay, wood or any other material. Some historical reports indicate that the throne of Hadhrat Sulaymaan عليه السلام was decorated with images of birds
259 Surah Saba, verse 13.
- Jifaan, the plural of Jafnah is translated as dishes and refers mostly to water containers
- Jawaab, the plural of Jaabiya is translated as dams and may also refer to ponds
- Qudoor, the plural of Qidr is translated as pots
- Raasiyaat, is translated as objects (pots in this case) that cannot be moved from their place. This was because of their sheer size and weight because they were carved from solid rock
Hadhrat Sulaymaan عليه السلام required large utensils and pots because of the number of guests he regularly entertained. It is said that he would have thousands of guests at a time.
Some people suffering the effects of westernisation have used this verse to prove the permissibility of images and sculptures of animate objects. They say that it should be permissible because a great Nabi of Allaah had these made without any objection stated in the Qur’aan. This deduction is flawed for the following two reasons:
- The word Timthaal refers to an image of something in nature, regardless of whether it is animate or not. The Arabic dictionary Lisaanul Arab described it as something made to resemble any of the creation of Allaah. The Tafseer Kashaaf also states that it may represent something animate or inanimate. Since the Qur’aan does not describe the images or sculptures, one cannot be certain about what they were. They must have been images of decorative inanimate objects such as flowers, sceneries, etc and not of humans and animals
- There are many authentic Ahadeeth confirming that creating images of animate objects have been prohibited by Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم. These Ahadeeth
state that people creating these images are cursed by Allaah and will suffer terrible punishment. Some of these Ahadeeth are:
- Hadhrat Abu Juhayfah رضي الله عنه reports that Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم cursed people who create images
- Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Abbaas رضي الله عنه reports that he heard Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم say, “Whoever creates an image in this world will be constrained to breathe life into it on the Day of Qiyaamah, but will be unable to do so.”260
- Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Mas’ood رضي الله عنه reports that he heard Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم say that the people who will be punished most severely on the Day of Qiyaamah will be those who created images261
- Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Umar رضي الله عنه reports that Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم said, “The people who create images will be punished on the Day of Qiyaamah when they will be told, ‘Give life to that which you have created!’”262
- Hadhrat Abu Zur’ah رحمه الله reports that he once accompanied Hadhrat Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه to a house where they saw a person making pictures. Hadhrat Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه remarked, “I have heard Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم say that Allaah says, ‘Who can be a greater wrong-doer than the person who tries to copy my creation? Let them try to create a single grain or a fly!”263 Narrations in Ahmed and Muslim add that this was the house of Marwaan, who was the governor of Madinah
- Hadhrat Aa’isha رضي الله عنها reports that Hadhrat Ummu Salamah رضي الله عنها and Hadhrat Ummu Habeebah رضي الله عنها once described to Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم the pictures they saw in the churches in Abyssinia. To this, Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم
remarked, “It was common amongst those people to make places of worship out of the graves of pious people and to make these pictures there. These people will be the worst of creation in Allaah’s sight on the Day of Qiyaamah.”264
- Hadhrat Ali رضي الله عنه reports that Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم was once attending a funeral when he said, “Who will volunteer to patrol through Madinah and break every idol he sees, level every grave he sees and destroy every picture he sees?” A man volunteered, but soon lost courage and returned without accomplishing the task out of fear for the people of Madinah. Hadhrat Ali رضي الله عنه then volunteered and Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم bade him to proceed. He returned after a while and reported, “O Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم! I have broken every idol I saw, levelled every grave I saw and destroyed every picture I saw.” Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم then said, “Whoever makes any of these things henceforth has rejected that which Muhammad e has been sent with.”265
- Hadhrat Sa’eed bun Abil Hasan رحمه الله reports that he was once with Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Abbaas رضي الله عنه when someone approached him and asked, “O Ibn Abbaas! I make images by hand and earn my living thereby. What is your opinion about this?” Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Abbaas رضي الله عنه replied, “I have heard Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم say that Allaah will continue punishing the person who creates images until he breathes life into it.” This made the man turn pale. Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Abbaas رضي الله عنه then said, “If you need to earn your living in this manner then create images of trees or other inanimate objects.”266
- Hadhrat Aa’isha رضي الله عنها reports, “I once bought a pillow that was decorated with pictures. When Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم returned home, he remained standing at the door without entering. Noticing that he was upset with something, I immediately said, ‘O Allaah! I repent for any sin that I may have committed.’ Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم asked, ‘What type of a pillow is this?’ I replied, ‘This pillow if for you to recline against’. Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم then remarked, ‘The people who made those pictures will be punished
on the Day of Qiyaamah and told to give life to the images they have created.’267
- Hadhrat Aa’isha رضي الله عنها also reports that she once hanged a curtain over her door which was decorated with some pictures. When Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم returned home and he saw it, his face reddened and he immediately removed the curtain. Thereafter, he said, “Amongst the people who will receive the worst of punishments on the Day of Qiyaamah will be those who try to create that which Allaah had created.”268 Another narration explains that the curtain had pictures of horses.269
- Hadhrat Abdullaah bin Umar رضي الله عنه reports that Hadhrat Jibra’eel عليه السلام once promised to meet Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم, but did not arrive. Concerned about his absence, Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم left the house to look for him. Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم found Hadhrat Jibra’eel عليه السلام outside the house and asked why he did not come in. Hadhrat Jibra’eel عليه السلام replied, “We (angels) do not enter a house in which there are pictures and dogs.” Upon investigation, it was found that there was a little puppy beneath the bed.270
Apart from these narrations quoted in the most authentic Ahadeeth compilations of Bukhaari and Muslim, there are also many others found in Ahmed, Abu Dawood, Nasa’ee, Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah, Mu’atta, etc that highlight the prohibition of making images. Hereunder we shall quote some narrations from the lives of the Sahabah y:
- Hadhrat Umar رضي الله عنه once said to the Christians, “We cannot enter your churches because you have pictures in them.”271
- Hadhrat Ali رضي الله عنه once said to his student Abul Hayyaaj Asadi رحمه الله , “Should I not dispatch you on the duty Rasulullaah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم sent me to accomplish? The duty is that you destroy every statue you see, that you level to the ground every grave that it raised and that you wipe out any picture you may see.”273
It is on account of these many Ahadeeth that the Ulema of the Ummah unanimously agree that creating images and pictures of animate objects is not only Haraam, but a very serious sin. It represents an attempt to copy the creation of Allaah, which anger Him. This is the opinion of eminent scholars such as Imaam Maalik رحمه الله , Imaam Abu Haneefah رحمه الله , Imaam Sufyaan Thowri
رحمه الله , Hadhrat Ibn Seereen رحمه الله , Hadhrat Sa’eed bin Jubayr رحمه الله , Hadhrat Saalim bin Abdullaah رحمه الله , Hadhrat Hadhrat Ikrama bin Khaalid رحمه الله and many others.
More details can be sourced in Fat’hul Baari (Vol.10 Pg.300), Umdatul Qaari and Imaam Nawawi رحمه الله ’s commentary of Muslim (Vol.14 Pg.81). This discussion makes it evident that there is no difference of opinion amongst the scholars on this matter and this will not change by the opinions of anyone else.