Answered by SeekersGuidance Answers Service
What is the ruling on (1) taking photographs of humans and (2) drawing animate objects?
I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.
Taking Pictures of Humans
(1) Contemporary scholars have differed on this issue:
a) The position of the overwhelming majority of Indo-Pak and some Arab scholars is that photographs of human or animal life are not permissible for the very same reasons that paintings of these are not permissible. They state that the ruling on picture-making does not change by changing the tool with which the picture is produced. Whether an image is produced by painting it or using a camera, as long as it is an image of a human or animal, it will remain unlawful (haram). This is the position of Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani and most of my other teachers. It is, without doubt, the more precautious and arguably stronger opinion.
b) The second position on the issue, held by most Arab Scholars (from all four Madhabs) and some from the Indian Subcontinent, is that there is a difference between photos and prohibited picture-making (taswir). Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’i of Egypt, a 2oth Century scholar known for his knowledge and piety, wrote a whole treatise titled al-Jawab al-Shafi fi Ibahat Surat al-Photography in support of this view of permissibility. His basic understanding is that the reason behind the prohibition of painting pictures (in the words of the Hadith) is challenging Allah in His Creating of living creatures.
In camera photos, however, one does not produce an image through one’s own imagination; hence one is not challenging the Creating of Allah as such. It is merely a reflection of a living being already created by Allah Most High.
These are the two positions of contemporary scholars on the issue. There are great scholars of knowledge, wisdom, and piety on both sides of the fence; hence, it would be wrong to criticize anyone for following any one of these positions. It is a matter of genuine and valid difference of opinion. It is not an issue where one may condemn another, and one must respect others’ right to follow their conscience.
Drawing Animate Objects
(2) What is strongly impermissible is to draw the entire human body with all its details or the face and neck with all its details (except when necessary for immediate educational purposes and the like).
As for drawing an outline of the human body without detailed features, and labeling the various parts, or drawing the details of a particular part (such as the heart), this is permitted, and this is not disliked if for a reasonable purpose (such as education).
SeekersGuidance Answers Service
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani