The issue of photography or picture-making has been debated by Islamic jurists and scholars for centuries. Qur’an does not explicitly speak of the act of photography as halal or haram. However, there are a few Ahadith of the Prophet (PBUH) that prohibit the act of picture-making.
In this write-up, we shall address the following questions in the light of the Qur’an, Hadees, and Fatwas by Islamic Scholars.
- Is Photography Haram in Islam?
- Can we take our own photos?
- Are hanging or displaying pictures in a room permissible in Islam?
As a general conscience, taking pictures is not inherently haram (forbidden) in Islam. Rather, it depends on the context and purpose of the pictures.
If the pictures are taken for a permissible and beneficial reason, such as preserving memories, documenting events, or promoting education and awareness, then they are considered permissible in Islam.
However, some pictures may involve things that are haram or may lead to harams, such as nudity, immodesty, or blasphemy. Making or taking such pictures is definitely haram in Islam.
Likewise, if the pictures are used for purposes that violate Islamic ethics, such as promoting falsehood, mocking others, or spreading harmful messages, then they are also considered haram.
Ahadees on Picture-Making being Haram in Islam
The following are some authentic Ahadith. According to these Ahadith, picture-making is one of the major sins in Islam.
Abu al-Hayyaj reported that Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA) said to me, “Shall I not send you upon the mission with which the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, sent me? Do not leave a graven image but that you efface it, and do not leave a built-over grave but that you level it.”Sahih Muslim 969
Narrated Abu Talha: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Angels do not enter a house that has either a dog or a picture in it.”Sahih Bukhari 3322
Narrated Ibn e Abbas (RA) that the Prophet (PBUH) entered the Ka’ba and found in it the pictures of (Prophet) Abraham and Mary. On the 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 a picture of Abraham.”Sahih Bukhari 3351
Narrated Muslim: We were with Masruq at the house of Yasar bin Numair. Masruq saw pictures on his terrace and said, “I heard Abdullah saying that he heard the Prophet (PBUH) saying “The people who will receive the severest punishment from Allah will be the picture makers”.”Sahih Bukhari 5950
Narrated Anas (RA): Aisha had a thick curtain (having pictures on it) and she screened the side of her house with it. The Prophet said to her, “Remove it from my sight, for its pictures are still coming to my mind in my prayers”.Sahih Bukhari 5959
Narrated Salim’s father: Once Gabriel promised to visit the Prophet but he delayed and the Prophet got worried about that. At last he came out and found Gabriel and complained to him of his grief (for his delay). Gabriel said to him, We do not enter a place in which there is a picture or a dog.Sahih Bukhari 5960
Narrated Aisha (R.A): I bought a cushion having pictures on it. When Allah’s Apostle saw it, he stopped at the gate and did not enter. I noticed the signs of hatred (for that) on his face! I said, O Allah’s Apostle! I turn to Allah and His Apostle in repentance! What sin have I committed? He said, What about this cushion? I said, ‘I bought it for you to sit on and recline on. Allah’s Apostle said, The makers of these pictures will be punished (severely) on the Day of Resurrection and it will be said to them, ‘Make alive what you have created.’ He added, Angels do not enter a house in which there are pictures.Sahih Bukhari 5961
Narrated Ibn `Abbas: I heard Muhammad saying, Whoever makes a picture in this world will be asked to put life into it on the Day of Resurrection, but he will not be able to do so.Sahih Bukhari 5963
Various Fatwas of Islamic Scholars on Photography in Islam
Almost all Islamic scholars or jurists hold similar views regarding picture-making in Islam.
1. Dr. Zakir Naik
According to Dr. Zakir Naik, during the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there was no concept of a camera. In all his Ahadith, the word “pictures” referred to painting.
The logic he gave about photography through the camera being halal is that the Prophet PBUH never disallowed mirrors as he himself used mirrors. Just like we see reflections in mirrors, photography is also a reflection of the actual thing printed on paper.
So, according to him, painting is haram in Shariah (as mentioned in Ahadith) while photography is completely halal.
The second thing he clarified was the intent of taking photos. If the photo is taken to achieve some negative objective such as hanging the image of someone to worship him (hero worship), or taking nude images, etc. That would obviously make photography haram in itself.
2. Dr. Israr Ahmed
According to Dr. Israr Ahmed, painting a picture by hand or making a sculpture of a living thing is haram in Islam.
However, taking a picture using a camera is halal.
3. Mufti Tariq Masood
Mufti Tariq Masood has divided the nature of picture-making into degrees;
- The first of them is Sculpture-making (i.e. carving the image on stone). It is strictly haram in Islam. All Islamic Scholars agree on this. On the day of judgment, Allah will be angry and He would ask the sculpture-maker to make the sculpture alive.
- The second category is painting a picture of a living thing by hand on paper, cloth, wall, etc. The majority of Islamic Jurists are convinced that it is haram too.
- The third category is photography using a camera and that picture is in a printed form (as in an album). A majority of Islamic jurists are convinced that such pictures are allowed in Islam.
- The fourth category is pictures or photos in digital form. All Islamic scholars are convinced that such pictures are halal because they are the actual reflection of the real self.
In light of all the rulings and fatwas on picture-making in Islam, we reached the conclusion that making sculptures (carving images on a stone, etc.) and painting a picture of a living thing on paper, wall, cloth, etc. are strictly haram (prohibited) in Islam.
However, photography with a camera is halal in Shariah. Hence, we can take our own photos or pictures of others by using a camera.
But, hanging or displaying pictures in a room or home is not allowed in Islam. According to Ahadith (mentioned above), angels do not enter such homes.
Some people hang images to worship or idealize them. Islam does not allow such practices either.
It is important for Muslims to use their judgment and conscience when taking and using pictures. We should also seek guidance from Islamic scholars and authorities if they have any doubts or concerns.