Photography is a Sin, According to India’s Leading Islamic Seminary

Update: The rector of Darul Uloom came out to clarify some of the statements included in the original Hindustan Times article quoted in this post. We have included the significant portion of the update at the bottom.


In response to a question by an engineering graduate who wanted to follow his passion for photography, Darul Uloom, India’s leading Islamic seminary, issued a fatwa declaring photography and that particular career path “unlawful and a sin.”

According to the Hindustan Times, the fatwa — a technical term defined as “a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority” — was posted on the school’s website. In response to the engineer and photo enthusiast’s question, the fatwa reads:

Photography is unlawful and sin. Hadith (recorded Islamic tradition) warns sternly against it. Do not do this course. You should search any suitable job based on your engineering course.


Many high-ranking members of India’s Islamic community have come out in support of the fatwa, agreeing that photography should not be allowed, and that anybody who practices a career involving it will be “answerable to God.”

“Photography is un-Islamic,” Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom, Mufti Abdul Qasim Nomani, told the Times. “Muslims are not allowed to get their photos clicked unless it is for an identity card or for making a passport.”

When asked about the fact that Saudi Arabia allows photography in the holiest of Islamic cities, Mecca, going so far as to beam live coverage through the year, Nomani stuck to his guns saying, “Let them do it. We do not allow it. Not everything they do is correct.”

“Just because they are richer than us doesn’t mean they are also correct,” added All India Muslim Law Personal Board member Mufti Abul Irfan Qadri Razzaqi. “If they are allowing photography they will be answerable on the Day of Judgement in the court of God.”

(via Hindustan Times)

Update: The original source for this post, The Hindustan Times, has published a new article in which the Mr. Nomani clarifies his and the seminary’s stance on the issue:

The rector of influential Islamic seminary Darul Uloom of Deoband, Abul Qasim Nomani, has denied that a fatwa “banning” photography by Muslims as un-Islamic had been issued by the institution.

“Darul Uloom does not have powers to ban anything. It is the government that has such powers. Our fatwa department simply issues religious advice when its views are voluntarily sought by an individual for his or her own personal use,” he told HT from Deoband.

He however said Islam did not permit idol or image worship, which is why the Prophet did not allow his portrait to be made. This is why images of human beings, whether in the form of a drawing or photograph, are not encouraged. “But there is no ban from our side,” he said.

He went on to say that, “If a Muslim in genuine need of advice on Islam’s position on such matters were to approach us, then we are duty bound to give the advice. We can’t issue fatwas just for making news.”

Image credit: Jama Masjid by Shashwat_Nagpal and Sayyida Ruqayya mosque in Damascus by Evgeni Zotov

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  • lidocaineus

    I’m not sure where any kind of march was mentioned in context to the comment or what that has to do with anything. The ignorant part is directly related to “choosing the wrong week… to be vociferous…”; what an ambiguous time to be considered “in bad taste.” It’s ok one minute after the week’s up though?

    He’s not saying anything inherently disrespectful. You are free to disagree with him, and I’d encourage you to do if you feel that way, rather than telling him to keep his mouth shut because of a date.

    Congratulations on being an Atheist. That has nothing to do with anything.

  • superduckz

    OK, convince me. How was this 9-11 “Million Muslim March” (even if it had been wildly attended) supposed to create better relations between the general multi and non-denominational population and the Muslim population in the United States?

    Seriously? How do you think the average American citizen “should” have reacted. What would your expectations have been? I’m genuinely curious to hear this.

  • MacIovin

    The average citizen doesnt care. They are not bigots like you. This is why it is difficult for you to understand.

  • superduckz

    Same question as I posted to McLovin above:
    My comment was not intended to be confrontational, just a casual observation. So, convince me. How was this 9-11 “Million Muslim March” (even if it had been wildly attended) supposed to create better relations between the general multi and non-denominational population and the Muslim population in the United States?

    Seriously? How do you think the average American citizen “should” have reacted. What would your expectations have been? I’m genuinely curious to hear this.

  • superduckz

    ” they do not understand islam correctly” I keep hearing this over and over again whenever there is a disagreement among the faithful (and NOT just in Islam). So who is THE authority because from my vantage point it appears very disjointed.

  • lidocaineus

    I couldn’t care less about the Million Muslim March as it has nothing to do with anything in the comments or article. You keep bringing it up as if it were relevant somehow.

  • superduckz

    Racist? huh? Sure, I’m asking a question of logic about public relations and political and social relations between faiths and cultures? I didn’t make a value judgement? I challenge you to show where I did. Paranoid much?

  • petapixelguest

    superduckz: that’s the thing – there is *no* (human) authority. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and there are many traditions and interpretations just as in other religions: Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. This is just one “scholars” opinion and they speak with no authority. See the update in the article above, even the head of the school confirms this.

  • petapixelguest

    Not really – as the seminary has no authority over anything. The “opinion” of the scholar is misguided at best and doesn’t represent what the rest of the 1.5 billion people in that community know to be true – that there is no conflict to begin with.

    For most traditions, the only restriction is the depiction of religious figures in a religious context. The reason was because worship of physical idols was prevalent in the region when the religion was founded and it was an effort to reduce it.

    Depictions of religious figures in secular contexts are actually allowed.

    Salacious or inflammatory depictions of religious figures is also not allowed which is why we’ve seen people get upset in the past.

    This “article” is really a non-issue and the real story is that this one scholar has a very outsider opinion and is likely just confused.

  • petapixelguest

    PS: See the update to the article and follow the link where the head of the seminary confirms this.

  • petapixelguest

    The scholar looks to be confused. It’s complete nonsense what they’re claiming and doesn’t represent anyone but their own personal opinion. No one takes this seriously.

  • petapixelguest

    Taking pictures of live objects is not a sin. This scholar’s “opinion” is just that and is way off base. Just like any other religion, blowing yourself up to kill anyone else is actually two sins – suicide and murder. There is no justification. In a legit war, it’s a different story – but suicide is still a sin even in that context.

  • petapixelguest

    Elton: Where are you looking? I’ve seen many stand up – I think a million marched together recently. I guess we see what we want to see. Your rejoicing friend probably needs to do some introspection as to why they’re rejoicing when people are injured/killed – there’s no excuse no matter what religion you follow – we’re all human and are all the same.

  • petapixelguest

    Only that particular scholar seems to “know” – they’re clearly off their rocker.

  • petapixelguest

    These kinds of generalizations about such a large group shows the need for education – I hope you seek it out.

  • petapixelguest

    That’s the beauty of humanity – there is diversity in opinions and traditions – you’ve hit the nail right on the head. But I would say that the power is in the individual and their own beliefs – You have 1.5 billion people following a faith and each one has a slightly different interpretation – when you look at the extremes of the spectrum you’ll find crazy people no matter which religion you study.

  • superduckz

    Oh whatever.. No the march was not mentioned in the text. My comment was in response to another conversation. That leads to me getting criticized (even called racist by McLovin) for making a comment about the 9-11 Muslim gathering not being a great PR move and now it’s not the “issue”. Too many conversations going on I guess for me to keep up. I’m with you though. I actually could not care less. Have a nice day.

  • raitchison

    RAmen brother.

  • thingwarbler

    Not sure why you’re getting all these down votes for explaining how it works — much appreciated by some of us. So, it sounds like it’s basically the same kinda morally corrupt racket as the Catholic Church where self-appointed intermediaries decide what can be forgiven and how…

  • thingwarbler

    Exactly right. Xtians are much, much smarter: they just kill anyone who doesn’t share their religious viewpoint, but tend to avoid the whole messy C-4 strap-on business. So much neater, that. Just as morally retarded and profoundly ignorant, of course, but healthier for themselves.

  • thingwarbler

    Really no different than when fundamentalist Xtians call their holy book the “infallible” word of God, in spite of the countless contradictions and insane crap that is contained within.

  • religionandhistory

    There is certainly religion that is of bondage ….there is religion that is of hate …there is godless religion that offers no Savior . Freedom from religion though is embracing your transgressions , denying the free gift and power of God to redeem and transform us / God is love . We are free from hate when we are free both from bondage to sin and false religion ! We are not free if free from civilized moral absolutes or the living God. If you know not the eternal God of the holy bible you are not free ! You can hate without knowing God but you can not love your neighbor . Hate is blind , it can not see God clearly …it does not seek love …..nor can its disciples enjoy the beauty God created that photography only partially captures ! .

  • Davor Pavlic

    Talking about misinterpreting Kur’an… Idol and image worship (refering to christian icons) are forbidden. Nothing about photography of regular people and places is said there.

  • Carmen Johnson

    nice one

  • Odds Bodkins

    It seems to be oddly specific. Does the hadith also warn against video recording, film making, passport photography, silhouette portraiture, surveillance cameras or satellite imagery?

  • James

    Religion in all forms is extremism.

  • lidocaineus

    And all blanket statements are ignorant. See what I did there?

  • James

    I do, and I think the irony of that statement may have been lost upon you from the context you where using it. If all blanket statements are ignorant and the statement “all blanket statements are ignorant” is a blanket statement, which it is, then the statement “all blanket statements
    are ignorant” is an ignorant statement.

    So from that we can take that blanket statements are not ignorant? or that they all are to the point that it is ignorant to make assumptions about anything? Well not quite. You can side with Kant on this one if you want, but I prefer to believe that it is possible to learn something about the world around me even if it cant be proven to 100% certainty.

    You say it is ignorant to claim all forms of religion are extremism? Well let me ask you this? What else would you call a person who advocates murdering all of those who disagree with him morally? or a step removed from that, a person who thinks that it is ok to think and do that? Or one step further that, holds to the highest regard a document that says it is ok to do that?

    So, while it is possible to consider yourself religious and not hold values that are necessarily extremist, it all comes down to how you define extremism. And we could gripe back and forth about that all day long, but I think most will agree with me on this, that the humanist perspective is the best to base
    your self from for comparison. And very, very few religions offer the level of freedom needed to meet this point of non-extremism.

    So back the meat of what you actually said in your post. Maybe it is not the most correct statement, I know that there are religions that allow and encourage you to pick and choose what you personally want, but we’re back to definitions again then. Most people will read that, and know exactly what I mean; organized regimented honest religion breeds extremism. And while your statement might hold some
    value, shed some light on the matter I have one for you. The sun never shines on rainy days.

  • duartmc

    The Indian government allows Islamic fatwa in India?! Outrageous. Islam is so dangerous! It is a prison-house for the soul. It is a philosophical and ontological empty vessel ruled by supposed ‘Laws’ coming directly from God through the Koran and the Imams. More dangerous fairy tales! When will India return Muslim’s to their original homelands. They do not belong in the Land of the Veda.

  • duartmc

    Sorry, but I worked my way through the first half of the Koran and it made not real sense to me. It’s a grab bag of does, don’t’s and assumptions about the nature of Reality. It truly lacks intelligence.

  • lidocaineus

    I have a religion. It’s private, passive, and is never pushed upon anyone else. It basically is about accepting yourself for who you are.

    It’s not extreme. It’s a religion. Therefore the statement “Religion in all forms is extremism” is false. This is a basic example of a relativist fallacy. In addition, my statement was meant to illustrate the irony of your own statement. This was clearly lost on you.

    It’s also ironic that you voted me down for simply disagreeing with your statement. That seems more extremist to me than actual, intelligent discussion. However from your statements, you don’t appear to understand actual debate; please come back when you can speak like an adult.

  • duartmc

    Dear ehaba: define ‘perfection’, my little muslim philosopher!

  • James

    I spent a fair bit of time typing that out, and as such, hoped you would actually read my post, and reply to it in detail.

  • lidocaineus

    You wasted your time, as it’s a giant rambling mess. Please, keep voting me down – it clearly makes you feel better despite its futility, and you definitely need the help. I’ll even add my own downvote to help you out.

  • lidocaineus

    By the way – you missed that I was being deliberately ironic to the point of it being hypocrisy. You typed out a huge response that basically confirmed what I said. Yet you still don’t get it… I honestly hope English is not your first language, because you are missing an incredibly basic point.

    Again, please read up on relativist fallacies, of which you are continually stepping in.

  • James

    Keep with the Ad-hock, it’s clear you weren’t interested in discussing this matter anyways.

  • lidocaineus

    Ad-hock? Not even sure what that is.