The intention of the Artist or Image Maker

Basing their views on ‘secondary sources’, traditionally scholars have differed in their views regarding image making, be it two dimensional illustrations or three dimensional statues. Some considered it essentially lawful, some opinioned it be unlawful, whilst others took an intermediate stance between these two views.

Reportedly, Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah says: ‘Who does a greater wrong than one who aspires to create as I create – a grain of corn, a seed, or a barleycorn?” [ascribed to Sahîh al-Bukhârî (7559).]

However, God Himself cannot be competed with. If the above narrative is correctly attributed, it should be interpreted that it is intention of the artist that is of real concern, then this would be in line with the Quranic ethos.

And We verily gave Abraham of old his proper course, and We were aware of him, When he said to his father and his folk: What are these statues (Arabic: Thamatheel) to which ye pay devotion? [21:51-52]

Note the Arabic word 'Thamatheel' which means statues.

If a statue in itself is unlawful, then why did Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) instruct the Jinn under his control to make them as recorded in the following verse?

They made for him what he willed: synagogues and statues (Arabic: Thamatheel), basins like wells and boilers built into the ground. Give thanks, O House of David! Few of My bondmen are thankful.[34.13]

It is easily understood from the verse that not only Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) was an 'art enthusiast' but that these actions were carried under the sanction of God Almighty.

Regardless of the image being that of an animate creature or an inanimate object. It becomes clear that it is not the statue or image in itself which is unlawful, but its intended purpose that determines whether something becomes forbidden or remains lawful. Needless to say that the content must be free from imoral and inappropiate content in line with the God's message in the Quran.

As for the places of worship they should be free from icons and calligraphy names of righteous people or any images that divert the purpose of the Mosque - that is closer to the spirit of God’s Message:

"And the places of worship are for God (alone): So invoke not any one along with God; [72:18]

For Believers [Muslims] the Quran must be the ultimate criterion for judging all 'secondary sources.' Those who claim to follow Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) should take heed of the following verse:

Say: "Shall I seek for judge other than God? - when He it is Who hath sent unto you the Book, explained in detail." They know full well, to whom We have given the Book, that it hath been sent down from thy Lord in truth. Never be then of those who doubt. [6.114]


And Allah knows best.


For Younger Readers

God teaches in the Quran, the holy book of Muslims that:

  • Allowing images is in harmony with God's Message
  • The image must be free from imorality and imodesty
  • The image must not be worshiped or represent God




Joseph A Islam

Sheikh Sa`ûd al-Funaysân,