Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan
Question: Assalam alaykum,
I was told that we cannot pray for a muslim who has died or allow them to buried in a muslim graveyard if they are known to have made sculptures in this life. Are muslim image makers outside of Islam and eternally punished as those who commit shirk are?
Answer: Wa alaykum salam
Shukran for your question.
The primary narrations related to your question were transmitted by Imams Bukhari and Muslim. They are:
“The most severely punished people on the Day of Judgement will be image-makers.”
“Those who make images will be punished on the Day of Judgement and it will be said to them, ‘Give life to what you have created.’”
Thereafter, scholars differed regarding the meanings of these reports. In his Fath al-Bari, ibn Hajar has a lengthy discussion from which the following are important to consider.
Taswir or image-making
Some scholars like Khattabi, considered the image-making mentioned in the narrations above to refer specifically to three dimensional images. The majority however, including Imam Nawawi, considered the warning to apply to both three and two dimensional images.
What is important to consider here is that scholars differed, and while one may subscribe to a certain opinion, the views of our scholars demands our respect. Our respect for the opinion of the scholar and those who follow that opinion.
The intention with which the image was created
The majority understands the warning issued by the Messenger, Peace be upon him, in the narration to refer to the one who created the image/idol with an intention of either worshiping the idol himself, or for the idol to be worshiped by others. Another interpretation suggested that it refers to onwe who creates an image with an intention of competing with Allah in His creation. Both instances are cases of disbelief, and the action would therefore remove the person from the fold.
If however, the image-maker did not create the three or two dimensional image with an intention of worship, or to compete with Allah in His creation, then he is merely considered sinful in the first instance according to Khattabi, and in both instances according to others.
Thus it is clear, that the artist who created sculptures for the sake of art – not for worship or competing with Allah in His creation, is not out of the fold of Islam. He may be sinful, but this does not mean that we should not pray salah upon him when he dies, or bury him in the graveyard of the believers. Had this been the case, we should not be praying upon or burying in the Muslim graveyards, most Muslims on the face of the earth, who all engage regularly in the disobedience of Allah.
May Allah protect us all from sin, make us from those who are close to Him, and grant us all beautiful endings, Amin.
And Allah knows best.
p.s. image-making in the above answer refers to images of creation bearing souls, such as animals and human beings.
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.