Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Is it permissible for small children to play with dolls and is it permissible to give dolls as a gift?
In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the Merciful
Picture-Making of animate things has been prohibited by many Narrations of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). In a Hadith recorded by Imam al- Bukhari in his Sahih’, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:
“The most severely punished on the day of Qiyamah will be those who make (animate) pictures”.
Therefore, if the dolls are fully structured, meaning they have the head with the eyes, ears, mouth, etc…, then it will be impermissible to acquire them, give them as a gift or for small children to play with them.
However, if the dolls do not have a head, meaning they do not have eyes, ears, nose and mouth which make them incomplete, then it will be permissible to make them and give them to small children. It has been narrated from Ibn Abbas, Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with them) and others, that a picture without a head is not a picture, thus permissible.
The Hadith which indicates that Sayyidatuna Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) used to play with dolls, recorded by Imam Abu Dawood and others, does not signify the permissibility of the present day dolls.
Firstly, the dolls which Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) played with was not of the type we have today. Her dolls were made out of rags without any prominent features. Many commentators of Hadith have explained that the doll of Aisha (Radhi Allahu Anha) was not of the type that its features and organs of the body could be clearly seen; rather it was made from cloth and cotton as how it is generally made in the villages.
Secondly, some commentators of Hadith explain that Aisha (R.A) used to play with dolls before the prohibition of Tasweer (picture- making), and the Hadith was abrogated by the Narrations which prohibit picture-making.
The great scholar of Hadith, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (May Allah have mercy on him) says in his monumental commentary of Imam al-Bukhari’s Sahih “Fath al-Bari”:
“If the doll of Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) had clear features, then this was before the prohibition of picture-making, otherwise the doll did have prominent features”.
And only Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK