One should realize that, in Islam, picture making of a likeness of Allah’s creations is an EXTREMELY SEVERE Haram, which is counted among the evils of Muslims and the threats against doing it are very emphatic. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim recount that a man came to Ibn Abbas (Allah be well pleased with him and his father) and said, “My livelihood comes solely from my hands and I make these pictures. Can you give me a legal opinion about them?” Ibn Abbas told him, “Come closer,” and the man did. “Closer,” he said, and the man did until he put his hand on the man’s head and said, “Shall I tell you what I heard from the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad. (PBUH) I heard the Messenger of Allah say, “Every maker of pictures will go to the fire, where a being will be set upon him to torment him in hell for each picture he made. So if you must, draw trees and things without animate life in them.”
The foregoing hadiths show that producing a representation is unlawful under any circumstances and just as making a picture is unlawful, so too is procuring one because of the threat that pertains to the users, for pictures are only made to be used. The determining factor in the prohibition of procuring images is the purposes for which they are procured. For example, someone who buys cookies in the shape of animals is not doing wrong if his purpose is only to eat, though the maker of these cookies is doing wrong. The same does not hold for photographs required for official documents: as explained below these photographs are not Haram.
Prohibition of photography:
“Who does a greater sin than one who tries to create something like my creation? Let them create a particle or a seed or a barley seed.”
In many of these Hadiths, the Arabic word used for the “creation of a likeness” is the same as we use today for photography. Hence, some scholars tend to pronounce photography as forbidden based on these Hadiths. However, photography was invented long after the Prophet and, therefore, it is not possible that these Hadiths refer to photography, unless there was some technique at the time of the Prophet which was used to create photos in the same way as a camera does. Since there were none, we should determine what the word signified at that time. If we consider how the word is used in the Qur’an, we find that it is invariably used to denote how Allah creates people, animals, and things. Hence, the majority of learned scholars are of the view that these Hadiths refer to sculptures and making statues and shapes and engravings on stone or wood to create likenesses of Allah’s creations. Thus, there is no disagreement among scholars that such works are forbidden not only to produce, but also to buy, possess, or display.
Photography is not a factor at all. The late Sheikh Muhammad Bakheet, a former Mufti of Egypt, has made it clear that photography is not included in such exclusion. He clarifies that what is forbidden is to create a likeness that has no previous existence, in order to produce something that Allah has created. Using a camera to take a picture is similar to fixing what we see in a mirror. No one says that looking into the mirror is forbidden because it shows a likeness of Allah’s creation. We use lenses in cameras in order to capture a mirror picture of the person or the object for which we need a photo. This is perfectly legitimate.
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