Akhlaq & Spirituality, Beliefs & Practices, Fiqh / Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

The ban on pictures of animate objects (people and animals) is stated with great emphasis in many highly authentic Ahaadith. The authenticity of these Ahaadith has never been questioned by anyone, not even by those who propagate the permissibility of pictures. These people (who believe in the permissibility of television, cable, etc.) make their best endeavors to interpret away the prohibition. But all their interpretations are baseless and no Muslim of intelligence who is not intoxicated by his nafs will find sense in the interpretations to legalize the prohibition of pictures of animate objects.

The argument for legalizing pictures produced by the photography method was the contention that the photo-picture is a reflection of the object and not a picture of the object. Any person having some intelligence can understand that a photograph is NOT a reflection. It is a permanent picture notwithstanding the use made of the principle of reflection in the production of the picture.

Just as drawing with a pen or brush is a method which produces a picture, so too is the camera, (regardless of whether the camera is a video, television or digital camera) a method or a way of producing a picture. As long as the object remains in front of the mirror, its reflection will be there. As soon as the object is removed, the reflection too disappears. If a picture is drawn of an object reflected in the mirror, the drawn image will not be a reflection. Thus, the picture which was drawn by viewing a reflection in the mirror will remain a picture. It will not be said that it is not a picture, but is a reflection because it was drawn by viewing at the reflection in the mirror. But a picture for its sustainment is not in need of the permanent presence of the object whose picture it is. The argument is wrong both technically and Islamically.


Now let us look at the definition of television before we look at the proof from the shariah that pictures are haraam. To  make our argument complete we must show without a doubt that the television is a picture and it falls under the category of impermissible things according to Islamic law. As you know the prohibition for  television is not found in the Holy Quran. But there are four sources of Islamic law and the second source is the Hadis. The Hadis have ample references to pictures of  animate objects. And as any Muslim who has any surface understanding of his deen knows that all pictures of animate objects have been branded as haraam by the scholars of our religion. This fatwa of hurmat has been with us since the time the deen was perfected over 1400 years ago. This is not a new problem that has just cropped up a few years ago because of the invention of the “idiot box”.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines television as follows: The electrical transmission of pictures in motion and the simultaneous electrical transmission of the accompanying sounds.

The Encyclopedia International explains television as: The unique feature that distinguishes television from radio is the conversion of an image into an electrical current which is later reconverted to the original image …

The equipment consists of a camera which convex the image into electrical impulses; these are transmitted by radio to a receiver which converts the impulses by means of a cathode-ray tube into a corresponding image on a screen.

The illusion of motion in television is produced by showing 30 still pictures, or frames, each second. Through persistence of vision the brain retains each picture until the next comes along. We are not aware of the fact that our eyes are really seeing a rapidly changing sequence of a large number of slightly different still pictures. Each still picture consists of about 250,000 picture dots of varying brightness which appear as if painted on the screen. This process is called scanning (Encyclopaedia International).


Now we can see that photography which is merely a method of picture-making is the actual basis of TV. Without the institution of photography television is not possible.  Whether shows are “live” or taped, or on cable or otherwise, the institution of photography is employed. Now, according to the law of Islam picture making of animate objects is severly criticized and banned. The following is only a small fraction of the many ahaadis pertaining to the prohibition of pictures of animate objects.

  1. abu Talha (ra) reported that the  Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: Angels do not enter a house where there is a dog or a  picture. (Sahih Muslim)
  2. Aisha (ra) said: the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) returned from a journey and I had screened my door with a curtain having on it pictures of winged horses. He commanded me to remove it. (Sahih Muslim)
  3. Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: The most grievous punishment on the Day of Resurrection will  be for those who imitate Allah in the act of creation (i.e. making pictures and images). (Sahih Muslim)
  4. Aisha (ra) reported that she had brought a carpet which had pictures on it. When the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) saw it, he remained outside and did not enter. I perceived signs of disgust on his face. She said: “O Messenger of Allah,I offer repentance to Allah and His Messenger, what  is the sin which I have committed? Thereupon Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) replied: “The owners of these pictures will be punished and they will be commanded to  give life to  what they tried to create”. He then said: “Angels don’t enter  the house in which there is a picture”. (Sahih Muslim)
  5. A person came to Ibn Abbas (ra) and said: “I am a person who paints pictures, therefore give me a verdict about them”. Ibn Abbas (ra) said: “Come near me”. He approached near, so much so that Ibn Abbas (ra) placed his hand upon his head and said: “I shall narrate to you what I heard from Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). I heard him say; “All the makers of pictures will be in the fire of Hell. A soul will be breathed in every picture prepared by the picture-maker and it will torment him in the fire of Hell”. Ibn Abbas (ra) then said: “If you have to do it at all, then paint pictures of trees and lifeless objects”. (Sahih Muslim)
  6. Ibn Abbas (ra) reported: I heard the Messenger ofAllah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) say: “Every picture maker will be n the fire of hell. A body will be created for every picture made by the picture maker, and this body will torment him (the picture maker) in hell.” (Mishkaat)
  7. abu Hurairah (ra) reported that the Messenger ofAllah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Jibraeel came to me and said: “I came to you last night, but was prevented from entering because there were  pictures at the door and a fine screen with pictures on it, and there was a dog in the house.  Cut off the head of the picture so that it may resemble a tree. And cut up the screen and convert it into pillows.  And have the dog driven out of the house.” (Mishkaat,  Abu Dawood, Tirmizi)
  8. Abu Huraira (ra) reported that Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “A neck from Hell will emerge on the Day of Resurrection. It will have two eyes, two ears and a tongue. It will say: “I have been entrusted to torment three types of persons——- every rebellious oppressor, everyone who associated another in the worship of Allah and the picture makers. (Mishkaat, Tirmizi)
  9. Aishah (ra) reported that during an illness of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) some of his wives spoke about a church which they had seen in Abyssinia. Umme Salamah (ra) and Umme Habibah (ra) had been to Abyssinia, and they were describing the pictures which they had seen there. Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) then raised his hand and said: “They (i.e. the Christians) are such a people who when a pious one among them dies, build a place of worship over his grave and then draw pictures in it (the place of worship). They are the worst of the creation of Allah.” (Mishkaat, Bukhari, Muslim)
  10. Ibn Abbas (ra) reported that Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “The most grievous punishment on the Day of Qiyamah will be meted out to the one who killed a prophet, the one who killed one of his parents,  the picture makers and a learned man who did not benefit by  his knowledge.” (Mishkaat, Baihqi)
  11. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Every picture-maker will be in the Fire.” (Bukhari)

There are many more Ahadith of our Nabi (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) which sternly and emphatically prohibit pictures of all living objects. However the abovementioned ahadith should be more than enough for all seekers of the Truth. These ahadith are unambiguous and leave no doubt as to the attitude Islam takes with regard to pictures and picture making.

Another point we have to stress here is the fact that all four mazhabs (Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hambali) unanimously brand the practice of pictures PROHIBITED (HARAAM) and the perpetrators as participants in KABIRAH sin. A person who commits a kabirah sin is calle a FAASIQ. We are forced to mention this because there are some people who claim that making pictures is permissible.


There are a variety of ways and methods of producing pictures. The Shariah does not attack the method of picture production. It attacks and bans the product of the method, namely, the picture of animate objects. Regardless of the method employed to produce a picture, if it is a picture of a person or animal, it is haraam. It will remain haraam – a major sin- irrespective of the method of its production. By whatever existing methods or future new methods which maybe still be invented pictures are made, they will always remain haraam if the pictures are of animate objects.


Muslims should not allow themselves to be misled by the absurd arguments proffered to legalize what Allah Ta’ala has made haraam. Sin has two dimensions. The one dimension renders the perpetrator a faasiq, and the other dimension makes him a murtadd (renegade). It expels him from the fold of Islam. As long as the sinner understands and believes that the sin he commits is haraam, he remains a Muslim and is described a faasiq. But when he becomes so flagrant and shameless in the perpetration of the haraam act that he declares the permissibility of the prohibition, then he leaves the fold of Islam. He has thus become a murtadd. May Allah Ta’ala save us from such calamities. Television, cable, cameras, digital pictures, etc. are just as haraam as pictures drawn with the pen, brush, or any other method, past, present and future.

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said that among the worst punished persons on the Day of Qiyaamah will be the picture-makers, including those who employ digital pictography or any other modern method. The Hadith places picture-makers in the same category as those who had murdered Ambiya and their own parents.


Aside from the fact that pictures are haraam and television has been proven to be a picture, the following factors also associated with the watching of TV, such as:

  1. pictures of animate objects and picture making
  2. music
  3. Immorality (nudity, illicit sex, pornography, etc.
  4. obscene language
  5. agent of zina (fornication)
  6. negation of Hayaa (or shame and modesty)
  7. scenes of violence, sadism, and crime in general
  8. addictive influence exercised by TV
  9. encourages acceptance of  aggression as a mode of behavior
  10. encourages imitation of  crimes portrayed
  11. brainwashing action of TV, especially on the young
  12. wasting of time
  13. TV stunts intellectual growth
  14. interferes with  one’ s religious duties
  15. interferes with one’s necessary and important worldly duties
  16. diverts one’s attention from the remembrance of Allah

Now let us just take a look at only one of the above factors and analyze it a little closer;

Television as an Agent of Zinâ’ (Fornication)

Allah, the Most High, says in the Qur’ân: ”Keep away from zinâ’, for it is an indecent thing and an evil way.” (Al-Qur’ân 17:32)

The terms, keep away, mean: stay away from all such things and practice: which lead to zinâ’ – which are stepping-stones to fornication.

All practices, things and institutions which aid and foster fornication and immodesty are forbidden by Islâm. There are different categories of this abominable crime of zinâ’. The Messenger of Allah, may the prayers and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

”The zinâ’ of the eyes is the gaze (at that which is unlawful, e.g. nudity); the zinâ’ of the ears is to listen (to talks of nudity which excites the carnal desired); the zinâ’ of the tongue is to speak (what is evil); the zinâ’ of the hand is to touch (the female which is unlawful to you); the zinâ’ of the feet is to walk (towards immorality); the zinâ’ of the heart is to desire (what is unlawful), and it is the private parts which either commits or shuns the actual act of fornication.” (Muslim 4/1397 no. 6421, 6422)

In this statement, the Messenger of Allah, may the prayers and blessings of Allah be upon him, speaks of the zinâ’ committed by the various parts of the human body. Thus, to look at the nudity and evil portrayed on the television screen constitutes the zinâ’ of the eyes. To listen to the immodest and illicit sex talks of the television is zinâ’ of the ears. Lust which is aroused by the display, discussion of nudity and passivity and perversion on the TV screen constitutes the zinâ’ of the heart.

Television, therefore, is without any doubt a powerful agent and a stepping-stone for fornication…

We find today the whole family – father, mother, sons and daughters – sitting huddled together around the TV screen. Together, in a display of stark shamelessness, the whole family is committing zinâ’ of the eyes, zinâ’ of the ears and zinâ’ of the heart, and Allah alone knows how many multitudes of men and women indulged in the final act of fornication as a result of watching and being aroused by the evil on the TV screen …

Islâm lays great emphasis on modesty, so much so, that our Prophet may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, said: ”Modesty is a part of îmân (faith).” (At-Tirmidhî)

But TV with its emphasis on illicit, depraved and bestial immorality is the very negation of the Islamic concept of modesty and shame. Mother, father and children together viewing the zinâ’ — the fornication and vice on the TV screen. What is now left of humanity? May Allâh, the Most High, protect us and our children from the filth and depravity of the Western world sunk in perversion and immorality.

Allah, the Most High, says: ”This day We seal up their mouths, and their hands speak out; and their feet bear witness as to what they used to earn.” (Al-Qur’ân 36:65)

Finally let’s see what the ulama have ruled about pictures in general. Remember that television is a picture and all the things that are forbidden regarding pictures in general relate also to television.

Islam forbids all uses and so-called benefits derived from pictures. Thus:

  1. the making of pictures
  2. the keeping of pictures
  3. entering houses wherein there are pictures displayed
  4. Looking at and gazing at pictures with desire or satisfaction are all forbidden in Islam.

The first three items have been seen in the hadiths we mentioned in the beginning of this work. Let’s see what the ulama say about number four:

The prime purpose of a picture is to look and to gaze at it thus deriving mental satisfaction and pleasure. A picture is of no use to a blind person. He cannot admire or criticize it. Since a picture is produce to be admired, to be looked at, to be gazed at, LOOKING with admiration or looking with satisfaction at it will constitute the fulfillment of the actual and prime purpose of picture making. Thus in fulfilling the purpose of pictures which are haraam we are aiding this Haraam practice of pictures, and in so doing we are transgressing Allah’s Command in the Quran:

“And do not aid each other in sin and transgression.”

The Shariah ordains: To derive pleasure (or satisfaction) by looking at Haraam objects is Haraam.”
Mufti Mohammad Shafi (ra) the late Grand Mufti of Pakistan, states:

“Even though nothing evil is associated with the picture, even if it (looking) is merely for the purpose of amusement or obtaining mental pleasure or satisfaction because to derive satisfaction and pleasure by looking at things which the  Shariah has forbidden is also  Haraam.”


The spiritual development of man is uppermost in the Islamic conception of man’s life on earth. Islam categorically states that Allah has created man ONLY for the purpose of worshiping and obeying Him.  All other facets and aspects of life are to be made subservient to this prime purpose of man’s life, viz., obedience unto Allah.  Mon’s social life, political life, economic life are all to be subjected,  governed and  controlled so  as to  foster he spiritual  progress of  man. Any practice or institution harmful to the spiritual well being of man; any agent which interferes with the full realization of the Purpose for which Allah has created man, can never be tolerated by the benevolent Law of Allah. Precisely for this reason, (viz., safeguarding man against destructive elements, has islam banned all types of futility, entertainment and games which divert man’s attention from the remembrance of Allah.

So we can see why Islam bans television. It can not permit the squandering of precious time and talent in watching the TV screen vomiting out the filth and immorality of the kuffaar. Islam does not condone its youth sitting up at night and becoming the victims of the brainwashing effects of the evil sounded and portrayed by TV. Islam and the Muslim can have no association with an instrument such as television which portrays and advertises the very evils banned by the Shariah of Islam

A Muslim is not allowed to waste time, more so, when the wasting of time is a result of an institution portraying vice and evil. And when the wasting of time on a pastime which involves the interference or neglect with ones duties to Allah and man. The addictive grip of television over its viewers is so powerful that the viewer becomes a helpless victim wasting sacred hours glued to the TV screen, thus neglecting his salaat, his family duties and his social duties. The holy quran says about time:
“By the Token of Time! Verily man is in a state of loss: except those who believe, and practice righteous deeds; and, who enjoin the Truth; and, who enjoin Patience. (Suratul Asr)

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