Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
When praying around animate pictures or objects like dolls, how apparent must they be to have an effect on the prayer?
I am aware of the general fiqh principles like picture size, photos or pictures being behind one praying but I would like to know how strictly the prohibition applies e.g. is it for hanging pictures and the like, or does it extend to even those things which are not so apparent and are more subtle such as some books with pictures.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, regarding forms/pictures (of animate creatures) the following narrations:
“The Angels (of mercy) do not enter a home in which there is a dog or pictures (of forms).” [Bukhari]
“Indeed, those who, in the sight of Allah, are most intensely punished on the Day of Judgment are those who make pictures (or forms).” [Ibid.]
“Indeed those who make these suwar (i.e. pictures or forms) will be punished on the Day of Judgment; it will be said to them, ‘Bring life to what you created.’” [Ibid.]
Regarding pictures, it is prohibitively disliked to pray in the following circumstances:
1) The picture is of (or a likeness of) an animate creature
2) The picture is large enough that one can clearly make it out if they were standing in prayer and looking at it.
3) The creature likened in the picture is not missing a body part that they normally could not live without. Like a missing head or torso.
4) The face is not erased or wiped out.
5) The picture is not below one’s feet or behind one’s back
The reasoning for the above is due to the semblance of worshipping or showing devotional reverence to that picture. Thus in all the above circumstances, an onlooker could perceive the one praying as showing adoration toward the picture, whereas if it were, beneath their feet, behind their back, very small, etc… that meaning no longer is found.
Thus a small picture on a binding of a book does not fulfill the above conditions and unless the picture is big and clearly visible, prayer in its direction is not prohibitively disliked.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.