Having pictures, taking pictures, decorating with pictures, making pictures… these are all issues that hold controversy in our religion. Some say that it is our iman at question and even our final resting place is put into question when we do or have these things.
As a Muslim we must try to make the best decision for ourselves. We already know that there are many hadiths with regards to making pictures and having them around the house for decorative purposes.
We know that during our Prophet’s (pbuh) time, pictures were used mainly for polytheistic worship. There were statues in the Kaba that were taken out. There were pictures of Ibrahim (as) and Mary (ra) in the Kaba that were also taken out. This was done to remove any doubt from anyone’s minds of who they were worshipping.
We know that during the time of our Prophet (pbuh), Aysha (ra) used to play with dolls with her friends. From this we can see that having dolls and playing with them was not prohibited. If we analyze this further we must accept that someone had to make the dolls for Aysha (ra) and her friends to play with.
In the Quran, it is mentioned as to how Prophet Sulayman (as), who was one of Allah’s most loved prophets, was able to command the Jinns. It is stated in the Quran that he was allowed to command these Jinns to create images on the hillsides (34:13). We must ask ourselves, if creating these images was a sign of faithlessness and punishable, would not Allah have stopped Sulayman (as) from making the Jinns carry out this hideous task? Would not Allah have admonished Sulayman (as) and would there not be a verse in the Quran regarding this?
Finally we must consider the hadiths that mention having things in the house with images of living things on them. Most of these hadiths do not say that the items were burned or destroyed. On the contrary, the items were taken down and the materials were cut up to create cushions for people to sit on. There are also several hadiths that relate that our Prophet (pbuh) accepted the embroidery or the prints made on garments. When we analyze these hadiths we must understand that it was not mentioned that all the images were totally destroyed from the cloth when making the cushions nor was it explained that the embroidery or the prints were of non-living things.
Because of these different facts, the different madhabs have differing beliefs on pictures and their usage. Some say that Muslims are allowed to have an incomplete picture of someone in the house. Others say that the pictures are totally not allowed while others say that they are okay for educational purposes.
Here are some of the verdicts from the various schools:
The point that some scholars make is that the ultimate purpose of the object and the art should be the determining factor of its permissibility. For example, if the ultimate goal is to use the item for educational purposes or dietary purposes, then it is allowed. If the ultimate goal is for beautification of a home, then it is not allowed.
The last item to consider is the taking of pictures and printing them for viewing later. Many scholars feel that if the picture is for an ID then, it is allowed as there is no other option. However they do say that the person taking the picture will be questioned on the Day of Judgment. And then there are those scholars who say that even ID pictures are not permissible.
We need to take into consideration all the hadiths and verses and guidance from knowledgeable scholars to make a sound judgment for ourselves. If the pictures are not for decorative purposes and we don’t use them to decorate the homes, then can we accept having the pictures and leaving them away from sight as permissible? Similarly, if we take the pictures and use them for our records, then are they permissible? These are questions we must ask ourselves and other knowledgeable scholars before we can make a final decision for ourselves.
It is best to stay away from that which is doubtful, especially for one’s own piece of mind, but even more important, one should also stay away from judging that which has contradictions or do not have a definitive answer. That should be left in the hands of Allah.
In the end, what ever path we do take, we must each make every effort to avoid those things that can lead to a deviation from the teachings of Islam and from Allah’s path. Only we know what the state of our iman is and for that reason alone, we must not judge anyone except ourselves.
In Sura Baqarah, verse 185:Allah wants to make things easy for you and He does not want things to be difficult for you.
And Allah knows best.
Hadiths regarding pictures/images:
Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 8, Number 371: Narrated Anas: 'Aisha had a Qiram (a thin marked woolen curtain) with which he had screened one side of her home. The Prophet said, "Take away this Qiram of yours, as its pictures are still displayed in front of me during my prayer (i.e. they divert my attention from the prayer)."
Volume 4, Book 54, Number 447: Narrated 'Aisha: I stuffed for the Prophet a pillow decorated with pictures (of animals) which looked like a Namruqa (i.e. a small cushion). He came and stood among the people with excitement apparent on his face. I said, "O Allah's Apostle! What is wrong?" He said, "What is this pillow?" I said, "I have prepared this pillow for you, so that you may recline on it." He said, "Don't you know that angels do not enter a house wherein there are pictures; and whoever makes a picture will be punished on the Day of Resurrection and will be asked to give life to (what he has created)?"
Volume 4, Book 54, Number 448: Narrated Abu Talha: I heard Allah's Apostle saying; "Angels (of Mercy) do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or a picture of a living creature (a human being or an animal)."
Volume 4, Book 55, Number 570: Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet entered the Ka'ba and found in it the pictures of (Prophet) Abraham and Mary. On that he said' "What is the matter with them ( i.e. Quraish)? They have already heard that angels do not enter a house in which there are pictures; yet this is the picture of Abraham. And why is he depicted as practicing divination by arrows?"
Volume 3, Book 34, Number 428: Narrated Said bin Abu Al-Hasan: While I was with Ibn 'Abbas a man came and said, "O father of 'Abbas! My sustenance is from my manual profession and I make these pictures." Ibn 'Abbas said, "I will tell you only what I heard from Allah's Apostle . I heard him saying, 'Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to put life in it.' " Hearing this, that man heaved a sigh and his face turned pale. Ibn 'Abbas said to him, "What a pity! If you insist on making pictures I advise you to make pictures of trees and any other unanimated objects."
Volume 3, Book 43, Number 659: Narrated Al-Qasim: Aisha said that she hung a curtain decorated with pictures (of animates) on a cupboard. The Prophet tore that curtain and she turned it into two cushions which remained in the house for the Prophet to sit on.
Muslim: Book 024, Number 5256: A'isha reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) came back from the journey and I had screened my door with a curtain having portraits of winged horses upon it. He commanded me and I pulled it away.
Volume 9, Book 93, Number 648: Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard the Prophet saying, "Allah said, 'Who are most unjust than those who try to create something like My creation? I challenge them to create even a smallest ant, a wheat grain or a barley grain.' "
Volume 4, Book 54, Number 449: Narrated Busr bin Said: That Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani narrated to him something in the presence of Said bin 'Ubaidullah Al-Khaulani who was brought up in the house of Maimuna the wife of the Prophet. Zaid narrated to them that Abu Talha said that the Prophet said, "The Angels (of Mercy) do not enter a house wherein there is a picture." Busr said, "Later on Zaid bin Khalid fell ill and we called on him. To our surprise we saw a curtain decorated with pictures in his house. I said to Ubaidullah Al-Khaulani, "Didn't he (i.e. Zaid) tell us about the (prohibition of) pictures?" He said, "But he excepted the embroidery on garments. Didn't you hear him?" I said, "No." He said, "Yes, he did."
Muslim: Book 024, Number 5252: Abu Tilha, the Companion of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) having said: Verily, angels do not enter the house in which there is a picture. Busr reported: Zaid fell ill and we went to inquire after his health and (found) that there was hanging at his door a curtain with a picture on it. I said to 'Ubaidullah Khaulani who had been under the patronage of Maimuna, the wife of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him): Did not Zaid himself inform us before about (the Holy Prophet's command pertaining to the pictures), whereupon 'Ubaidullah said: Did you not hear when he said:" Except the prints on the cloth"?
Muslim: Book 024, Number 5253: Abu Talha reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Angels do not enter a house in which there is a picture. Busr said: Zaid b. Khalid fell sick and we visited him to inquire after his health. As we were in his house (we saw) a curtain having pictures on it. I said to 'Ubaidullah Khaulani: Did he not narrate to us (the Holy Prophet's command pertaining to pictures)? Thereupon he said: He in fact did that (but he also said): Except the prints upon the cloth. Did you not hear this? I said: No, whereupon He said: He had in fact made a mention of this.
Muslim Book 024, Number 5255: A'isha reported: We had a curtain with us which had portraits of birds upon it. Whenever a visitor came, he found them in front of him. Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upop him) said to me: Change them, for whenever I enter the room I see them and it brings to my mind (the pleasures) of worldly life. She said: We had with us a sheet which had silk badges upon it and we used to wear it. This hadith has been transmitted on the authority of Ibn Muthanna but with this addition: 'Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) did not command us to tear that."