Q-What is the Shari`ah ruling on students of fine arts who have to make portraits of living and non-living things? Sometimes, they have to make statues of men and women as well. Thanks!
[consultant-Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi]
Ans-In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear questioner, may Allah reward you abundantly for your interest in knowing the teachings of Islam.
The ruling concerning the prohibition of making statues and portraits of living things may be relaxed in the case of students of fine arts, who must participate in their school activity. Making statues in this case is considered a necessity that warrants relaxation in the ruling.
In his response to the question, Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal Nadvi, Imam of Calgary Mosque, Canada, and Former Professor at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, states the following:
“As for the portraits of non-living things, there is nothing wrong with them at all, whether for the sake of study or for other purposes.
As for the portraits of living things and making statues, here is the problem. The original ruling of making such portraits is prohibition, as there are clear proofs from the Sunnah to forbid and condemn such doing.
However, this prohibition can be relaxed just for the sake of studying. For example, making portraits of the human body for the sake of studying can be considered a necessity that relaxes the prohibition. Also, if making statues is used for the sake of studying, and the students have to do it, then it is considered permissible.
However, it is not allowed for those students to use these skills after graduation and conduct such business for commercial purposes. This is not allowed in Islam and cannot be allowed except in the case of necessity, as for the sake of study.”
Moreover, Dr. Muhammad Abu Laylah, Professor of the Islamic Studies & Comparative Religions at Al-Azhar University, adds:
“The scope of necessity that warrants the relaxation of the law in case of students of fine arts is the fact that such students can’t avoid the work required from them, and this is a real necessity that warrants them to participate in making portraits of living and non-living things. I would like to stress here that judging or measuring the necessity is left for the conscience of those Muslim students, as the issue may be necessary in the case of one student but not necessary in the case of another.
Also, there are other educational, scientific, or medical purposes, such as books for teaching anatomy and illustrated posters for education, in which there are portraits of living things and even humans; I see that they are permitted in view of the norm of necessity mentioned above. The same applies for the textbooks for children, as portraits and pictures in such books are also for educational purposes.
We should bear in mind that nothing of the above can be permitted just for fun or amusement, and most probably this is the view to which the prohibition of the following Hadith is directed. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Among the people receiving the harshest punishment on the Day of Resurrection will be the makers of figures.””
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to write back!
May Allah guide you to the straight path, and guide you to that which pleases Him, Amen.