The difference between a picture and a photograph

“…Any pictures that are carved out of wood or rock, or made of mud or clay or anything similar, are all forbidden if they are images of living creatures that have souls because of their imitation of the Creation of Allah – the Mighty and Majestic. And in the authentic hadith is that the Messenger of Allah cursed the image-makers, and to be cursed is to be expelled and far-removed from the Mercy of Allah. And in the hadith qudsi also is that Allah – the Exalted – said: “And who is more oppressive than the one who went and created as I have Created! So, let them create an atom, or let them create a mustard seed, or let them create a fiber.” And also, in the authentic hadith: “The people who will be tortured most on the Day of Resurrection are the image-makers who imitate the Creation of Allah. It will be said to them: ‘Bring life to what you have made.'” And the proofs for this are many, and from the image-making that this warning applies to – according to the strongest opinion – is that which takes place when a human being draws an image of a creature with a soul by hand. This falls under the image-making that is warned against, and it is a sin from amongst the major sins.

As for the image-making that takes place using instant cameras, this does not appear to fall under this, because the photographer does not draw out or try to imitate the Creation of Allah. Because of this, if some people are presented with a photograph that has been taken, you will not find them saying: ‘How good is this photographer! How excellent is he!’ But, if they are presented with a hand-drawn picture that closely resembles what was being drawn, they will say: ‘How good is this artist! How excellent is he!’ So, this proves that there is a difference between drawing the picture by hand and taking it using a camera.

And this is also proven by the fact that if a person writes something by hand and a photocopy is made of it, the people will not ascribe this writing to the one who made the photocopy of it. Rather, they will ascribe it to the one who originally wrote it, and people still preserve copyrights in this manner. They would not say that this person who made the photocopy did a good job of copying the writing precisely using this innovative technology. In fact, a blind man can be given this task, or a man can perform this task in the dark.

However, if a man copies the handwriting of the original writer by hand so that the people think that it was the original writing itself, the people would then say: ‘How innovative he is! How excellent he is! How did he copy this handwriting so precisely?’ And with the likes of these examples, it becomes clear that photographic imagery is not image-making that can be truly ascribed to the one who took the picture, and it cannot be said that this is imitation of the Creation of Allah because he did not create anything.

And to in order to say that photographs are allowed, a condition must be met that they do not lead to what is forbidden, because the permissible things that lead to the forbidden are in turn forbidden. The means have the ruling of the ends. So, for example, we do not see that it is allowed for a person to take these pictures in order to preserve memories because of what this contains of possession of a picture that we fear might fall under the saying of the Prophet: “The Angels do not enter a house in which there is a picture.”

Original Arabic

14 Responses to “The difference between a picture and a photograph”

  1. Asalamalaikum,

    That is one opinion, I thought people who claim to follow the salaf would take the most precautionary stance though.

    “As for the image-making that takes place using instant cameras, this does not appear to fall under this, because the photographer does not draw out or try to imitate the Creation of Allah. Because of this, if some people are presented with a photograph that has been taken, you will not find them saying: ‘How good is this photographer! How excellent is he!”

    This is poor reasoning, of course we can distinguish between a good and bad photographer! Regardless if they pressed a button make the image, they still made an image, an image that delineates features, conveys reality, and reveals small details that an unaided hand could not do. Thus it is a better pictoral representation, so the prohibition of making pics applies to it with still better right and not mitigated by the mere fact a button was pressed to achieve it.

    “And to in order to say that photographs are allowed, a condition must be met that they do not lead to what is forbidden”

    One word – pornography.

    The scholars differ in this issue so I don’t condemn those who believe photography is halal. But the above argument is not very good.

  2. Assalaamualaykum warahmatuallahi wabarakatuhu

    Dont the people say

    “how good the photographer has taken the photo”
    “what a great photographer”
    “this is the best & famous photographer”

    Its simply haraam

    The technology improved so now without actually drawing one gets the same with a click.

  3. ‘Alayk as-Salam wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh;

    His point was that the photograph is not considered the result of a person’s own skill or effort in imitating Allah’s Creation like an artistic drawing or painting is.

    People can praise a photographer in terms of the angles of his shot, the lighting he uses, and other technicalities. They don’t praise how accurately his photo reproduced the image, since it is known by default that this is what a camera does, and involves no skill or effort on the part of the photographer.

  4. Ghurabaa Says:

    The photograph is indeed a result of a person’s own skill

    Technology has improved

    Journey via plane for Hajj is also considered travelling
    Married Woman choosing to fertilize her egg via a person other than her husband is also considered adultery

    Remember technology has improved

    looking at a non-mahram via web cam is also haraam no one can say its just virtual image

    Painting which was done by hand now can be done via a click ,its the same .It makes no difference.


  5. When one clicks on a camera, a photograph comes out, not a painting.

    The contents are not ascribed to the photographer, as he isn’t reproducing the image as his own. People know the face or body in the photo was fashioned by Allah, therefore there is no ‘imitating’ of Allah going on. This is relaying, not opposed to the artist who goes through all the steps of fashioning his own image of Allah’s Creation in an attempt to make it similar to Allah’s, where people will ascribe the fashioning of the face, body, etc. to the artist. The two are not the same, and this difference is what the Shaykh was explaining.

    Also refer to the analogy he gave with the photocopying vs. handwriting of someone else’s writing.

    And Allah Knows best.

  6. Ghurabaa Says:

    “this is relaying” its just a fancy interpretation.An artist can paint exact thing which a photographer could get with a click,but still the artist cant say its just relaying & a photographer can’t say photo is not drawing because the technology has made it easy to get the drawing in one click.

    Indeed allahu alam.

  7. Once again, you don’t get a drawing with a click on a camera. You get a photo, whose contents are ascribed to Allah’s ability since people know the photographer didn’t draw what’s in the photo. It doesn’t matter how easy it was to get the photo. What matters is that the content of the image wasn’t fashioned by a human.

    A drawing is different, as the artist drew/painted the content himself.

    Nobody has to agree with the fatwa if they don’t want to.

  8. This is how I understood it. A camera is more like a mirror. I dont think anybody would say looking at a mirror is haram, because it is ‘drawing an image’. The only difference between the camera and the mirror is that you can save the image and with the mirror the image disappears as you disappear. And this is why some scholars dont agree with print pictures but agree with digital pictures. The former involves keeping an image with you which could go under having statues, and the latter is almost the same thing as mirror images.

  9. Ghurabaa Says:

    Just examples…

    Whichever way but its driving…While driving one holds steering hence hands are used,one can even drive if the car is automatic i.e with one push on button it runs if its infracture is as such that its same or even better like the one where steering is required.Like in video games…

    Just trying to simplify more…

    The foucs of camera can be called a mirror but the moment its clicked that mirror image is a photo/picture.

    A perfect artist is what a camera is ,whose control is in the hands of a human.The controller is the human artist i.e picture maker.

    Of course i disagree with the above fatwa …just simplyfying..

  10. Salamualkum waramatuallahi wabarakatu

    The sheik is simply explaining how he looks at it. There is nothing wrong with that. A lot of scholars have spoke about this issue, we as student of knowledge should just take the more precautionary view.

    Wallah’u Alm

  11. The statements are many about this issue. What is to be followed is what Allah and His Messenger have said. The warnings should be sufficient for anyone who fears Allah to stay away from pictures of any kind. May Allah forgive the Sheikh.

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  13. Hassan Olaitan Says:

    Sheik has made his own ijtihad on the matter with sincerity and left this duniya.If he is correct he would be rewarded,if he is also wrong he would be recorded.It is left for us to follow the fatwa we think is more closer to the truth.
    Allah know best

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