I want to know about photography of living beings like humans and animals. Is it allowed in Islam? I will be very grateful if you help me regarding this. Jazakallah
In my opinion, pictures of anything, whether living or non-living things are not prohibited per se. Although there are a number of narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) in which, apparently it seems that prohibition of pictures, in general, has been referred to but if all the narratives regarding the issue are gathered and analyzed, it becomes apparent that the Prophet (pbuh) has actually prohibited pictures, which were used for worship in the society.
In the Arab society, during the times of the Prophet (pbuh), pictures and paintings were primarily used for the purpose of polytheistic worship. In my opinion, therefore, these were the pictures, which have actually been referred to in the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh) in this regard.
Besides all the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh), the following narrative in which Saalim ibn Abd Allah is reported to have explained the nature of the prohibition mentioned in the narratives ascribed to the Prophet (pbuh). This narrative is reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal:
حدثنا حفص بن غياث حدثنا ليث قال دخلت على سالم بن عبد الله وهو متكىء على وسادة فيها تماثيل طير ووحش فقلت أليس هذا يكره قال لا إنما يكره ما نصب نصبا
Laith reports that once I visited Saalim Ibn Abd Allah. As I entered, I saw him resting on a pillow on which there were pictures of birds and wild animals. I asked him, “aren’t these [pictures] disliked [in Islam]”. He said, “No. Only those [pictures] are disliked which are put up for worship”.
It should be clear from the explanation given above, I am of the opinion that pictures are not prohibited per se. It is only when a picture entails polytheistic veneration that it becomes prohibited. If a picture of a living thing, like the picture of a person’s father etc. does not entail a polytheistic belief, it would not be prohibited. On the other hand, if a picture of a non-living thing [non-living does not imply “non-living” in the scientific sense] entails a polytheistic belief, like for instance, the picture of a particular tree or a stone, such picture shall stand prohibited.
The reason for this prohibition is, obviously, to save people from the fatal sin of Shirk [polytheism].
14th May 1999