Praise be to Allaah.
Photography (tasweer) means the taking of pictures of living, animate moving beings, like people, animals, birds, etc. The ruling is that it is forbidden on the basis of a number of reports, such as the following:
‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Those who will be most severely punished by Allaah on the Day of Resurrection will be the image-makers.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, see al-Fath, 10/382).
Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah, may He be exalted, says: ‘Who does more wrong than the one who tries to create something like My creation? Let him create a grain of wheat or a kernel of corn.'” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, see Fath al-Baari, 10/385).
‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “Shall I not send you on the same mission as the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent me? Do not leave any built-up tomb without levelling it, and do not leave any picture in any house without erasing it.” (Reported by Muslim and al-Nisaa’i; this is the version narrated by al-Nisaa’i).
Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every image-maker will be in the Fire, and for every image that he made a soul will be created for him, which will be punished in the Fire.” Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “If you must do that, make pictures of trees and other inanimate objects.” (Reported by Muslim, 3/1871)
These ahaadeeth indicate that pictures of animate beings are haraam, whether they are humans or other creatures, whether they are three-dimensional or two-dimensional, whether they are printed, drawn, etched, engraved, carved, cast in moulds, etc. These ahaadeeth include all of these types of pictures.
The Muslim should submit to the teachings of Islam and not argue with them by saying, “But I am not worshipping them or prostrating to them!” If we think about just one aspect of the evil caused by the prevalence of photographs and pictures in our times, we will understand something of the wisdom behind this prohibition: that aspect is the great corruption caused by the provoking of physical desires and subsequent spread of immorality caused by these pictures.
The Muslim should not keep any pictures of animate beings in his house, because they will prevent the angels from entering. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or pictures.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, see al-Fath, 10/380).
But nowadays, unfortunately, one can even find in some Muslim homes statues of gods worshipped by the kuffaar (such as Buddha etc.) which they keep on the basis that they are antiques or decorative pieces. These things are more strictly prohibited than others, just as pictures which are hung up are worse than pictures which are not hung up, for how easily they can lead to glorification, and cause grief or be a source of boasting! We cannot say that these pictures are kept for memory’s sake, because true memories of a Muslim relative or friend reside in the heart, and we remember them by praying for mercy and forgiveness for them.
Taking pictures with a camera
Scholars have different opinion on this, some said it is forbidden and some said it is not.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: Images made by modern means are of two types:
(i) Those that cannot be seen independently, as I have been told is the case with images made on videotapes. There is no ruling on these at all and they do not come under the prohibition at all. Hence they were permitted by the scholars who forbid making images with cameras that are printed on paper, and they said: There is nothing wrong with this
(ii) Those that are printed on paper…
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ash-Sharh al-Munti‘, 2/197
Shaykh Dr. Khaalid al-Mushayqih (may Allah preserve him) was asked: I take pictures of my little children with the camera on my mobile phone for memories, but I read that pictures for memories are haraam according to sharee‘ah. Does this come under this shar‘i prohibition on image making, or is it okay to take pictures with the camera on the mobile phone? What is the evidence for this?
I also read that pictures on computers and mobile phones are not regarded as “images”, because they are stored in memory and are not printed on paper, hence they do not prevent the angels from entering. If I open the pictureon the mobile phone or computer, will that make the angels leave or not?
I hope that you can reply in detail because this matter is very confusing. May Allah reward you with good.
He replied: Pictures that are on mobile phones or in computers, or that are videoed, do not come under the ruling on photographs because they are not fixed and do not last, unless they are extracted and printed. Based on that, there is nothing wrong with keeping them on the mobile phone so long as they do not include anything haraam.
And Allah knows best.
The second opinion.
In the book Al-I’laam bi naqd kitaab al-halaal wa’l-haraam, the author says: “Photography is even more of an imitation of the creation of Allaah than pictures which are engraved or drawn, so it is even more deserving of being prohibited… There is nothing that could exclude photography from the general meaning of the reports.” (p. 42, see also Fataawa Islamiyyah, 4/355).
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There are many bad things involved in the making of pictures. Besides the element of imitating the creation of Allaah – which is an accusation denied by many of those who make pictures – reality bears witness to the great extent of immorality and provocation of desires caused by the prevalence of pictures and picture-making nowadays. We must remove or blot out every picture, except when it is too difficult to do so, like the pictures which are overwhelmingly prevalent in food packaging, or pictures used in encyclopaedias and reference books. We should remove what we can, and be careful about any provocative pictures that may be found.
“So keep your duty to Allaah and fear Him as much as you can…” [al-Taghaabun 64:16 – interpretation of the meaning]
Photographs which are essential are permitted – such as those required for identity documents, or for identifying or pursuing criminals [e.g. “wanted” posters and the like – translator’s note], or for educational purposes which cannot be achieved otherwise. The principle in sharee’ah is that we should not exaggerate about what is necessary.
We ask Allaah to accept our repentance and have mercy on us, and to forgive our excesses, for He is the All-Hearing Who answers prayers. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.