• What’s the ruling on photographs? Can these be kept in our house?

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    Question: What’s the ruling on photographs? Can these be printed and kept in our house like a photo album of any special event? I do not intend to hang it [for] displaying but just [to] have a printed album.

     

    Answer: Printing photographs of living creatures is a major sin and prohibited without a need. It is impermissible to hang such photographs for display. If printed despite the prohibition, one should keep them covered or closed in a photo album. Destroying them, however, would be more cautious.

     

    Explanation:

    Printing Photographs

    Regarding printing photographs, `Allāmah ibn `Ābidīn wrote in Radd al-Muḥtār, “As for the act of picture-making, it is unconditionally impermissible because it is similar to Allah’s creating.” He goes on to explain that it is categorically prohibited (ḥarām) due to scholarly consensus and decisive proofs.[i] He further references Imam al-Nawawī’s explanation of Muslim in which he wrote, “Picture-making of a living creature is very strongly prohibited (حرام شديد تحريم), and it is from the major sins… because in it is a similarity with Allah’s creating… This was said by the majority of the `ulamā’ from the Companions, the Successors, and those after them.”[ii] The commentators of Bukhārī, al-`Aynī and Ibn Hajar, both wrote similarly in their respective commentaries. Mufti Shafī `Uthmānī states the same in Jawāhirul Fiqh (7:180).

     

    (هُوَ اللَّـهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ (الحشر 24

    In Surah al-Ḥashr, the Qur’an says, “He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor, the Shaper (i.e. the one who molds and gives shape).”

     

    أَنَّ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ أَخْبَرَهُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَصْنَعُونَ هَذِهِ الصُّوَرَ يُعَذَّبُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُقَالُ لَهُمْ أَحْيُوا مَا خَلَقْتُمْ ‏”

    Sayyidunā `Abdullah ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) said Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Indeed those who make these pictures will be punished on the Day of Judgement. It will be said to them, ‘Give life to what you created.’” (al-Bukhārī 5951)

     

    Allah has reserved the right of creation (takhlīq) and shaping (taṣwīr) for Himself. No one has the right, even superficially, to do the same. This prohibition and its related punishment reach us through mass-transmission. So, we know this command to be from the Prophet ﷺ, and a Believer is obligated to accept it and humbly submit to its prohibition.

     

    Displaying Photographs

    Displaying pictures of living things on walls is impermissible (makrūh taḥrīmī) due to its effect on the ṣalāh, its preventing angels from entering, and the Prophet’s warning as explained further in Imam al-Sarakhsī’s al-Mabsū.[iii] The Prophet ﷺ warned of severe punishment for the one who makes pictures and forbade it in our homes and his own. They prevent the angels of mercy from entering. There cannot be any good in a home devoid of the presence of these angels.

     

    سَمِعْتُ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ قَدِمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مِنْ سَفَرٍ وَقَدْ سَتَرْتُ بِقِرَامٍ لِي عَلَى سَهْوَةٍ لِي فِيهَا تَمَاثِيلُ، فَلَمَّا رَآهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم هَتَكَهُ وَقَالَ ‏ “‏ أَشَدُّ النَّاسِ عَذَابًا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ الَّذِينَ يُضَاهُونَ بِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَتْ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ وِسَادَةً أَوْ وِسَادَتَيْنِ‏.‏

    Sayyidah `Ā’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said, “Allah’s Messenger returned from a journey and I had placed a curtain of mine with a picture in it over an alcove of mine. When Allah’s Messenger saw it, he tore it and said, ‘On the Day of Judgement, those who imitate Allah’s creation will face the severest punishment.’” She said, “We made the curtain into a pillow or two.” (al-Bukhārī 5954)

     

    عَنْ جَابِرٍ، قَالَ نَهَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنِ الصُّورَةِ فِي الْبَيْتِ وَنَهَى أَنْ يُصْنَعَ ذَلِكَ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَفِي الْبَابِ عَنْ عَلِيٍّ وَأَبِي طَلْحَةَ وَعَائِشَةَ وَأَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ وَأَبِي أَيُّوبَ

    Sayyidunā Jābir said, “Allah’s Messenger prevented us from having a picture in the house and from making it.” Imam al-Tirmidhī said the same has been narrated from `Alī, Abū Ṭalḥah, `Ā’ishah, Abū Hurayrah, and Abū Ayyūb (May Allah be pleased with them all). (al-Tirmidhī 1749)

     

    عَنْ أَبِي طَلْحَةَ ـ رضى الله عنهم ـ قَالَ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ لاَ تَدْخُلُ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ بَيْتًا فِيهِ كَلْبٌ وَلاَ تَصَاوِيرُ ‏”‏‏

    Sayyidunā Abū Ṭalḥah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated from the Prophet , “The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or [in which there are] pictures.” (al-Bukhārī 5954)

     

    Keeping Photographs in an Album

    One may keep pictures covered such as in a closed book or album. Ibn `Ābidīn wrote in Radd al-Muḥtār, “If he prayed while having a purse in which there are dinars or dirhams having small pictures on them, there is no dislike because of it being hidden.” Mufti Shafī `Uthmānī explains in Jawāhirul Fiqh (7:262) there is no harm in having a picture in the home if it is covered entirely or within a book. In various hadiths, we find four exceptions for when pictures are permissible: when the head is removed, if the picture is on a rug or pillow upon which you stand or sit, an exceedingly small picture like on a button or ring, and a girl’s doll (scholars have disagreed on this last one). When these are permissible, a picture which is covered entirely or hidden should also be permissible. However, since making these pictures involved a major sin and they will eventually be uncovered and viewed, the more cautious opinion is to destroy them. Particularly when scholars from Imam al-Nawawī to Mufti Maḥmūd Ḥasan have ruled it to be prohibited (ḥarām),[iv] and the intent is honoring the one pictured as in the case of family, friends, and other respected people.

     

    Lastly, I would add a word of caution. We live in a time when taking pictures is easy and pervasive. One should keep in mind the warnings against picture-making are grounded in our `aqīdah, strong in prophetic wording and actions, and accompanied by a threat of severe punishment. Keeping in mind that the legal permissibility of digital photography is a matter of scholarly difference, the path of piety calls for caution when there isn’t a need. However, this same permissibility does not extend to unnecessary printed pictures. We ask Allah for success and ease. Āmīn

     

    والله أعلم بالصواب

    And Allah knows best,

    Mufti Sulaiman Yusufi
    Shaykh Mateen Khan

     

    [i] وَظَاهِرُ كَلَامِ النَّوَوِيِّ فِي شَرْحِ مُسْلِمٍ الْإِجْمَاعُ عَلَى تَحْرِيمِ تَصْوِيرِ الْحَيَوَانِ، وَقَالَ: وَسَوَاءٌ صَنَعَهُ لِمَا يُمْتَهَنُ أَوْ لِغَيْرِهِ، فَصَنْعَتُهُ حَرَامٌ بِكُلِّ حَالٍ لِأَنَّ فِيهِ مُضَاهَاةَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى، وَسَوَاءٌ كَانَ فِي ثَوْبٍ أَوْ بِسَاطٍ أَوْ دِرْهَمٍ وَإِنَاءٍ وَحَائِطٍ وَغَيْرِهَا اهـ فَيَنْبَغِي أَنْ يَكُونَ حَرَامًا لَا مَكْرُوهًا إنْ ثَبَتَ الْإِجْمَاعُ أَوْ قَطْعِيَّةُ الدَّلِيلِ بِتَوَاتُرِهِ اهـ كَلَامُ الْبَحْرِ مُلَخَّصًا. رد المحتار

    [ii] انظر باب تحريم تصوير صورة الحيوان

    [iii] المبسوط، دار المعرفة – بيروت، 1:211

    [iv] See Imam al-Nawawī’s Sharḥ al-Muslim referenced above and Fatāwa Maḥmūdiyyah 19:470.

    Disclaimer: Many of these answers are unique to a particular scenario and cannot be taken as a basis to establish a ruling in another situation or another environment. ICMC bears no responsibility with regards to these questions being used out of their intended context.