Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
What are the views of the ulema on the taking of photographs?
There is difference of opinion on the issue, but the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Indo-Pakistani Hanafi scholars, and others is that photographs of human or animal life are not permissible for the very same reasons that paintings of these are not permissible.
This is certainly the position that Sayyidi Shaykh Nuh Keller holds firm to, as shown in the appendices to his Reliance of the Traveller, like many other god-fearing ulema, and is the position that my heart feels most comfortable with. For those who know Arabic, there is an excellent discussion of this issue in Shaykh Muhammad Ali Sabuni’s Rawa’i` al-Bayan, his 2-volume tafsir on the Qur’anic verses that relate to legal rulings. Mufti Taqi Usmani talks about it at length in this Takmilat Fath al-Mulhim, and this is also the position of some major Damascene ulema, such as Shaykh Mustafa al-Turkmani (Allah preserve them all).
The whole point of Islam is for one to clean the mirror of one’s heart from the images of created things, so that the light of the Divine may illumine it. “How will a heart stamped with the forms of created things be illumined?” asked a great Sufi.
Now, because of the difference, we would not criticize those who take pictures, but would politely believe they are wrong.
And Allah knows best.