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The Ruling of Selfie-Taking and the Dangers of Vanity and Adornment

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn, Imām ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Bāz, Al-ʿAllāmah Ḥammūd al-Tuwayjirī

A discussion on the impermissibility of taking pictures (selfies) and the harms that can accompany it.
iPhone, selfie

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

Taking photographs, in addition to it being the source of great trials and tribulations for the people leading to the photos of women being spread from one to another, it also makes one amenable to the curse of Allāh—the Glorified—and punishment in the Fire. This is because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) warned against the taking of pictures, saying: “The most severe in punishment on the Day of Judgement will be for those who take pictures.”1 He also said: “Every individual who takes pictures will be in the Fire. Every picture he took will be made into a soul with which he will be punished in Jahannam.”2 The Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) also cursed the one who takes pictures3. These aḥadīth are all authentically confirmed from the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم). So let the one who takes pictures be cautious of these narrations being inclusive of them. For, indeed, he presents himself for punishment. Photographic pictures, even if there are scholars who have deemed them permissible, among them also are those who deem it as falling in the confines of the aforementioned threats. He (صلى الله عليه وسلم) also said: “Leave that which gives you doubts for that which does not.”4 He also said: “The one who falls into the confusing matters has fallen into that which is ḥarām. Like the shepherd who grazes his flock close to a protected land. He is about to transgress the boundary.”5

Even if photographic pictures were permissible, it would still only be permissible provided it does not contain that which is prohibited in Islamic legislation.

I seek refuge in Allāh from the accursed Shayṭān.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ وَمَن يَتَّبِعْ خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَإِنَّهُ يَأْمُرُ بِالْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ مَا زَكَىٰ مِنكُم مِّنْ أَحَدٍ أَبَدًا وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يُزَكِّي مَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ ‎

“O you who believe! Follow not the footsteps of Shayṭān (Satan). And whosoever follows the footsteps of Shayṭān (Satan), then, verily he commands Al-Faḥshāʾ [i.e. to commit indecency (illegal sexual intercourse, etc.)], and Al-Munkar [disbelief and polytheism (i.e. to do evil and wicked deeds; to speak or to do what is forbidden in Islām, etc.)]. And had it not been for the Grace of Allāh and His Mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure from sins. But Allāh purifies (guides to Islām) whom He wills, and Allāh is All-Hearer, All-Knower.”
(Al-Nūr, 24:21)6

He (رحمه الله) also said:

I clarify to you my opinion that it is impermissible to take pictures, regardless of whether they are drawn or produced using a photographic device. This is inclusive of what people today have done where they gather pictures for the purpose of memories. However, if one is compelled to do so and there is a clear need like for the purposes of visa, citizenship, or passports, then we cannot prevent people from doing so due to the great difficulty and hardship inherent in that. This is the opinion I remain adherent to.

Imām ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Bāz

[Q]: What is your opinion concerning photographic pictures with these devices?

[A]: [After mentioning the same narrations as Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn] All of the evidence that has been narrated regarding this proves that photography is ḥarām in any circumstance, even if based on the reflection from the sun, or on photographic paper or its likeness. This is also because when he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saw images that had been depicted on a curtain that belonged to ʿĀʾishah (رضي الله عنها), he tore it down. His face changed and he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Indeed, the companions of these pictures will be punished on the Day of Judgement. It will be said to them: “Give life to that which you have created”.7 This was a curtain. So ʿĀʾishah (رضي الله عنها) took it, tore it up, and produced two pillows from it for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).8 Also, when he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) saw an image depicted upon the wall of the Kaʿbah, he took water and a cloth, wetting and defacing the image by rubbing it out, until it was completely removed from the wall.9 This is very clear from his sunnah (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

As for the lack of concern or attention the people currently show towards taking pictures, to the extent that they have now filled this dunyá with photos, there is no justification for it. It shows them to be truly lacking in mindfulness, and the religious ineptitude on the part of those who take part in this. And Allāh Alone is sought for help.

[Q]: Is there a difference between the one whose picture is taken while he is pleased with it and those who are not?

[A]: This ruling is inclusive of those who choose to do it and those who are pleased with it. Except for the one who takes part due to extenuating circumstances when he is compelled. Then, he is like one who is forced. For example, for the purpose of citizenship, passports, driving licence or the likeness of these things.10

He (رحمه الله) also said:

Allāh has ordered in His glorious book that women dutifully wear the ḥijāb and remain in their homes, warning them from displaying themselves or softening their speech when speaking to men, all as a way of maintaining and safeguarding them from corruption and as a precautionary measure from the means that lead to temptation and tribulations. The Most High said:

يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ ۚ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا ‎﴿٣٢﴾‏ وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ ۖ وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ

“O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allāh), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner. And stay in your houses, and do not display yourselves like that of the times of ignorance, and perform al-ṣalāh (iqāmatah al-ṣalāh), and give zakāh and obey Allāh and His Messenger.”
(Al-Aḥzāb, 33:33)

Allāh—the Glorified— forbade the wives of the honourable Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), the mothers of the believers, the best of all women and the most pure among them, from softening their speech when speaking to men. This is to speak tenderly, delicately, or with amiability to prevent anyone from among those whose hearts have been afflicted with the sickness of desiring fornication to hold hope with regards to them such that they surmise agreement in engaging in that which is forbidden. He orders them to remain within their homes and forbade them from displaying themselves in the way of the women of ignorant times. It is to make apparent their adornments and aspects of beauty like their head, face, neck, chest, upper arm, or ankles or the likeness of these beautiful aspects. For this is the cause of great corruption, and a magnanimous trial. Galvanising the hearts of men towards incorporation of the means that would ultimately lead to fornication.

If Allāh—the Glorified—here warns the mothers of the believers from engaging in these objectionable acts, even in consideration of their righteousness, imān, and chastity, then those other than them are even more befitting of such an admonition. They are more befitting of being warned, objected to, and being fearful of the avenues towards the occurrence of such tribulations. May Allāh protect us and you from the misleading trials. The rulings mentioned here are general and apply to all women, as evidenced by His—Glory be to Him—saying: “and perform al-ṣalāh (iqāmatah al-ṣalāh), and give zakāh and obey Allāh and His Messenger.”11

Al-ʿAllāmah Ḥammūd al-Tuwayjirī (رحمه الله) said:

[After discussing the spread of picture-taking among the Muslims] All of this has been done by the Muslims and others from what has been mentioned here and what we have left unmentioned, all represent an unadulterated imitation of the enemies of Allāh–the Most High—and following their practices. It has been confirmed that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Whoever resembles a people is from them”12…and the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “The one who attempts to resemble other than us is not from among us. Do not seek resemblance to the Jews and the Christians.”13 14

[1] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 5950 and Muslim: 2109.
[2] Authentic: narrated by Muslim: 2110.
[3] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 5347
[4] Authentic: narrated by Aḥmad 3:153 and graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ghāyah al-Marām: 179.
[5] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 52 and Muslim: 1599.
[6] Source: Al-Ḍiyāʾ al-Lāmiʿ 8:574.
[7] Authentic: narrated by Muslim: 5586.
[8] Authentic: narrated by Muslim: 2107.
[9] Authentic: narrated by al-Ṭaḥāwī in Sharḥ Maʿānī al-Āthār: 6921 and graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ:4292.
[10] Source: Durūs Li al-Shaykh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Bāz 13:43.
[11] Source: Al-Tabarruj: 6
[12] Authentic: narrated by Abū Dāwūd: 4031 and graded authentic by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ghāyah al-Marām: 109.
[13] Ḥasan: narrated by al-Tirmidhī: 2696 and graded Ḥasan by Shaykh al-Albānī in al-Ṣaḥīḥah: 2194.
[14] Source: Iʿlān al-Nakīr: 88

Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: December 22, 2023
Edited: April 22, 2024

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