Photography – “Taswir” – (Hanbali Fiqh)

Answered according to Hanbali Fiqh by

❝The prohibited “Taswir” that is found in the divine texts refers to making sculptures of animals and this includes sculptures of human beings. The majority of scholars include “drawing” under this ruling as well based on analogy.

The majority allow these things if something without which life doesn’t remain is removed, like a head without the body or just the head and the neck, so on and so forth.

Now let’s talk about photography…

When photography first appeared, the contemporary scholars differed with regards to its permissibility. A group of major scholars of the Maddhabs allowed it, like Ibn Badran al-Hanbali (r), Bakhit al-Muti’i al-Hanafi (r), and others, and this opinion became widespread. Whilst other scholars deemed it impermissible and this opinion became famous amongst the Salafis as this was the common opinion amongst their scholars. However, even some of the major Salafi scholars deemed it permissible, like Ibn ‘Uthaymin (r).

These days the disagreement regarding its permisiblity is almost non-existent, and most of the contemporaries either allow it or have no choice but to do so, except a very few.

We can deal with this issue through the layman-approach – a pure blunder and it is a must that it be rejected regardless of its outcome – which is to deem photography impermissible ‘…because it is called “Surah”, therefore the threats and curses found within the divine texts apply to it, which in turn makes it impermissible based on clear unambiguous texts.’ All of this is rejected. No scholar who knows how to write on behalf of his Lord will ever say this. This is just like someone who explains the word سيارة in the ayah (وجاءت سيارة فأرسلوا واردهم) as a car! Or like someone who says “artificial silk” is impermissible because it is called “silk”. These are the lenses of the untrained and uneducated.

We can also deal with the issue with an honourable and sensible approach, regardless of its outcome, which is to either draw an analogy between photos and sculptures that are prohibited in the texts, or between photos and mirrors and water, both of which are permissible as per the texts and by consensus.

So, those who didn’t see any difference between the original case (asl), i.e. – sculptures, and the new case (far’), i.e. – photos, nor did they consider the analogy between photos and water and mirrors to be valid, ruled it as impermissible.

As for those who saw a significant difference between photos and sculptures, and saw that it is more similar to mirrors and water, ruled it as permissible, and this is the view I advocate.❞

— Sh. Muhammad ‘Abdul Wahid al-Hanbali (h)

This answer was collected from The Hanbali Madhhab website. The answers to the questions are given by Imam Zahed Fattah in accordance to the Hanbali School of Jurisprudence.

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