Pictures - Halal or Haram?

What is the ruling of pictures according to the Quran and Sunnah?

And the people of Moses made in his absence, out of their ornaments, the image of a calf (for worship). It had a sound (as if it was mooing). Did they not see that it could neither speak to them nor guide them to the way? They took it for worship and they were Dthalimun (wrong-doers). [Noble Quran 7:148]

And indeed We bestowed aforetime on Ibrahim (Abraham) his (portion of) guidance, and We were Well-Acquainted with him (as to his Belief in the Oneness of Allah, etc.). [Noble Quran 21:51]

When he said to his father and his people: "What are these images, to which you are devoted?" [Noble Quran 21:52]

They said: "We found our fathers worshipping them." [Noble Quran 21:53]

He said: "Indeed you and your fathers have been in manifest error." [Noble Quran 21:54]

Narrated Said bin Abu Al-Hasan: While I was with Ibn 'Abbas a man came and said, "O father of 'Abbas! My sustenance is from my manual profession and I make these pictures." Ibn 'Abbas said, "I will tell you only what I heard from Allah's Apostle (Peace and blessings be upon him). I heard him saying, 'Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to put life in it.' "Hearing this, that man heaved a sigh and his face turned pale. Ibn 'Abbas said to him, "What a pity! If you insist on making pictures I advise you to make pictures of trees and any other unanimated objects." [Bukhari 3:428]

Narrated 'A’ishah: I stuffed for the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) a pillow decorated with pictures (of animals) which looked like a Namruqah (i.e. a small cushion). He came and stood among the people with excitement apparent on his face. I said, "O Allah's Apostle! What is wrong?" He said, "What is this pillow?" I said, "I have prepared this pillow for you, so that you may recline on it." He said, "Don't you know that angels do not enter a house wherein there are pictures; and whoever makes a picture will be punished on the Day of Resurrection and will be asked to give life to (what he has created)?" [Bukhari 4:47]

Narrated Abu Talhah: I heard Allah's Apostle (Peace and blessings be upon him) saying; "Angels (of Mercy) do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or a picture of a living creature (a human being or an animal)." [Bukhari 4:448]

Narrated Ibn Abbas: Abu Talhah, a companion of Allah's Apostle (Peace and blessings be upon him) and one of those who fought at Badr together with Allah's Apostle (Peace and blessings be upon him) told me that Allah's Apostle (Peace and blessings be upon him) said. "Angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture." He meant the images of creatures that have souls. [Bukhari 5:338]

Narrated Ali ibn Abu Talib: Abul Hayyaj al-Asadi told that Ali ibn Abu Talib said to him: Should I not send you on the same mission as Allah's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) sent me? Do not leave an image without obliterating it, or a high grave without leveling it. This Hadith has been reported by Habib with the same chain of transmitters and he said: (do not leave) a picture without obliterating it. [Muslim]

Narrated Maimunah: One morning Allah's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) was silent with grief. Maimunah said: Allah's Messenger, I find a change in your mood today. Allah's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: Gabriel had promised me that he would meet me last night, but he did not meet me. By Allah, he never broke his promises; and Allah's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) spent the day in this sad (mood). Then it occurred to him that there had been a puppy under their cot. He gave an order and it was turned out. He then took some water in his hand and sprinkled it on the place. When it was evening Gabriel met him and he said to him: You promised me that you would meet me the previous night. He said: Yes, but we do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture. So the very next morning he commanded the dogs to be killed. He announced that the dog kept for the orchards should also be killed, but he spared the dog used for the protection of extensive fields (or big gardens). [Muslim]

Narrated 'A’ishah: I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him), and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah's Apostle (Peace and blessings be upon him) used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for 'A’ishah at that time, as she was a little girl, not yet reached the age of puberty.) (Fatih-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13) [Bukhari 8:151]

Narrated A’ishah: When the Apostle of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) arrived after the expedition to Tabuk or Khaybar (the narrator is doubtful), the draught raised an end of a curtain which was hung in front of her store-room, revealing some dolls which belonged to her. He asked: What is this? She replied: My dolls. Among them he saw a horse with wings made of rags, and asked: What is this I see among them? She replied: A horse. He asked: What is this that it has on it? She replied: Two wings. He asked: A horse with two wings? She replied: Have you not heard that Solomon had horses with wings? She said: Thereupon the Apostle of Allah (Peace and blessings be upon him) laughed so heartily that I could see his molar teeth. [Abu Dawud]

Narrated A’ishah: When the Prophet became ill, some of his wives talked about a church which they had seen in Ethiopia and it was called Maria. Um Salma and Um Habibah had been to Ethiopia, and both of them narrated its (the Church's) beauty and the pictures it contained. The Prophet raised his head and said, "Those are the people who, whenever a pious man dies amongst them, make a place of worship at his grave and then they make those pictures in it. Those are the worst creatures in the Sight of Allah." [Sahih Bukhari 2.425]

"On the Day of Resurrection a neck will stretch forth from Hell; it will have two eyes to see, two ears to hear, and a tongue to speak. It will say, "I have been appointed to take care of three types of people: every arrogant tyrant, every person who called on some deity other than Allah and those who made pictures" [At-Tirmidthi stated that this Hadith was Sahih - At-Takhwif Min An-Nar, p.179, See also Jami' al-Usul, 10/518, the editor said its Isnad is Hasan]

  • Take down that picture of Martin Luther King.
  • Remove all pictures of animals and people from your walls, destroy any idol statues.
  • If you have a job where your boss insists that you decorate, such as is often required for teachers, decorate with ribbons, colored cotton, and other creative decorations, but do not succumb to hanging up images.
  • Take down that calendar with pictures of 'cute, cuddly' animals on it.
  • Allow your child to play with dolls if you so desire. Keep in mind that the dolls during the Prophet's time were simple "rag" or "sock" dolls without animated human features or intricate 'life-like' detail.
  • Do not hang up your child's pictures of animals, people, or anything worshipable, and don't let the schools do it with your children, either. Limit drawing to educational purposes.
  • Do not mix images and religion. Allah sees all intentions.

Sheikh Yusuf Estes