Pictures in the House

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) reported, that he Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “Those who draw pictures will be punished on the Day of Resurrection; and it will be Said to them, ‘Breathe soul into what you have created.’”

This narration is muttafaq ‘alayh, meaning that it is found in both Swahih al-Bukhari and Swahih Muslim.  And there are a few more along a similar theme.  Because of this, there are always ignorant Muslims running these so-called Islamic pages creating memes that having photographs in the house is proscribed.

When people quote ahadits, they have to understand the context and the intent.  If we consider that angels will not enter a house because there are some photographs, should we also throw away the television sets, the computers and all the smart phones?  They have moving pictures, which is even worse.  If the photographer is to be blamed, what about the people posing?  If the pictures are moving, meaning videos, what about the videographer and the actors?  So, all those scholars are also in trouble for all those sermons online as well, right?

In the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), there were no photographs or videos.  That also means there is no hadits that address this, in the same way that there is no sunnah on how to fix our car.  The issue of that time was iconography, which are stylised pictures depicting deities.  This is something still found in Christianity, for example, with the beautiful iconographies depicting Jesus (a.s.), the prophets, and the saints.  But we also have a hadits of the Prophet (s.a.w.) removing all the idols from the Ka’bah, except a depiction of Abraham (a.s.); and one of Jesus (a.s.), and the Virgin Mary (a.s.).

Based on all this, we understand that the issue is shirk.  People put up these icons as protection from evil spirits or calamities, or to venerate their idols.  In such a condition, why would the angels bless the house of one who has turned from Allah (s.w.t.) with their presence?  Even then, we understand that this narration utilises a literary device we call hyperbole.  It is not an absolute prohibition on angels coming to the house, but on the severity of the proscription.  If this were true, the temples would be poor, and people would never die in places with idols.

Coming back to the contention of pictures in the house, who, amongst all of us, worships pictures of our family and friends?  Who has prostrated to the television set willing the “gods” of Game of Thrones to grant our preferred ending?  There is no worship here.  These are forms of entertainment and tools of sentiment.

We live in an age whether any idiot with the means, can pull up some narration translated into their language, and disregarding context, literary devices and knowledge of the foundational sciences, and issue a personal fatwa condemning random people.  We should stay away from people like this, and we should admonish those amongst us who subscribe to this sort of fitan.


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