Photography: Is it permitted in Islam?

Q422 :I am often dismayed to see people wearing shirts and blouses which display images of birds, animals and even human beings. They even go inside a mosque to offer prayers. The other day, I felt greatly annoyed to see a man wearing a shirt with an advert of Goodyear tires, showing a star boxer encircled with tires around his waist.

A422 : I have in the past distinguished between statues and engravings on the one hand and pictures as we know them today, which are either paintings or photographs, on the other. Statements in Hadith, which speak of "pictures" being distasteful or forbidden, clearly mean the first type, i.e. statues and engravings. As for photographs and paintings, these are of a different nature. We may mention in this connection that the Prophet once used a piece of cloth with pictures on it for prayers. After he finished, he expressed his dislike to that piece of cloth and said that it distracted him from his prayers. From this we deduce that it is discouraged to use such material for a prayer mat. Its use, however, does not affect the validity of prayer. When the Prophet mentions that pictures are strongly discouraged, he makes the exception "unless they be printed on material." This means material which is used for making clothes. On the basis of this, I must say that I am surprised by the strength of your criticism of people using such material. It is true that some people may find the sight of a man wearing a shirt with a large picture of a bird or a horse rather unpleasant. It may be even more so if it has the picture of a human being, but we cannot say that it is forbidden. Nor can we say that photography, as it is used today, is forbidden. Indeed, it has numerous beneficial uses. If it is used for a bad purpose, as in the case of pornography, it becomes forbidden. I should perhaps also explain that it may be very unwise for a man to wear such a colourful shirt with attractive pictures inside the mosque, especially if he attends congregational prayers. By doing so, he may cause other worshippers to be distracted of their worship. Displaying advertisements of the type you have mentioned may be also unsightly. If the one who is wearing such an ad receives a fee for wearing it, it is all right, provided that what he is advertising is permissible. Thus, an advert for car tires is acceptable but one for a brand of cigarettes is forbidden. [Added: One most common use of photographs in many Muslim countries is leader worship. Some states have made it mandatory for the government offices to display the photographs of their leaders, as a sign of respect. Such an idea is far from Islamic and is forbidden. However, if one has special feelings for a particular person, even a leader, and he makes a display of this, it is all right. The very concept of any kind of homage to be attached to photographs is not permissible. That is to say, it is the niyyah that makes the difference in such cases.]

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )