OnIslam.net

Islamic Views on Erecting Statues

Question and answer details
Anan
2012/02/12
Dear scholars, As-Salamu `alaykum. How does Islam view the issue of making statues for leaders, thinkers, or scientists?
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
Jad Al-Haqq `Ali Jad Al-Haqq
`Atiyyah Saqr
Answer

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All thanks and praise are due to Allah and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed on the prohibition of making statues with the purpose of worshipping or revering them. If this is the case, the sin of making statues involves the sculptor, the buyer, the worshipper and deifiers.

There is also an agreement among scholars that the statues made to be an object for training and children toys, i.e. dolls of animals and humans are not included in the prohibition.

However, scholars have differed regarding some other points as follows:

The majority of scholars are of the opinion that defaced or incomplete statues are not prohibited so long as they are not worshipped. However, some scholars prohibit the use of statues under any circumstances whatsoever.

On the other hand, the full-figured statues are, according to the majority of scholars, prohibited, even if they are not worshipped or revered. By the passage of time, there is a possibility of people turning such statutes into objects of worship as did the people of Noah (peace be upon him) who made statues of their pious ancestors in order to remember them, and they ended up worshipping such statues.

Some scholars, however, hold the view that making statues is permissible if they are not deemed to be worshipped.

Deep thinking will show that it is more haram to erect statues commemorating tyrant rulers. Perpetuating the memories of rulers, thinkers, and scientists is best achieved through establishing organizations carrying their names or issuing books about their efforts and achievements.

In this regard, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states:

Islam prohibits statues and three-dimensional figures of the living creatures. The prohibition is even more stressed in case the statue is for a being already dignified i.e. Angels, prophets, the Virgin, or idols like cows for Hindus.

We need to understand the Islam’s stand on this issue as a means of safeguarding the concept of monotheism. Some people may argue that such ruling belongs to the old ages when paganism was rampant, not in these days that worshipping idols exist no more. Such argument is weak especially as we know idolatry and paganism still keep their traces in some people’s minds and are reflected in their conduct. People do still believe in myths and even the educated ones sometimes fall in such errors. Therefore, the statues of ancient Egyptians are prohibited. Some people may use busts like the head of some ancient Egyptian queens as an amulet to protect against evil eye or evil souls, in which case the prohibition of amulets is added to that of the statues. The only type of statues that is permitted is children dolls.

Bellow, we'd summarize the rulings pertaining to figures and figure-makers:

1. The most strictly prohibited figures are those which are made to be worshipped in the place of or in addition to Allah. If the one who makes them does it intentionally for this purpose, he is going in the direction of unbelief. The most detestable among such figures are statues. Anyone who has a share in propagating or glorifying them will bear the sin proportional to his part.

2. Next to this in sinfulness are figures which are not made to be worshipped but which are intended to imitate Allah's creation. If the artist claims that he originates and creates as Allah does, he is an unbeliever. This matter pertains solely to the intention of the artist.

3. After this are statues which are erected in public places in order to commemorate great personalities such as kings, rulers and celebrities; this applies equally to full-length statues and to busts.

4. Next are statues of living beings which are neither worshipped nor reverenced. There is general agreement that they are haram, except those which are not treated in a manner indicative of respect. Dolls or figures made of chocolate or sugar are clear exceptions.

Late Sheikh Jadul-Haqq `Ali Jadul-Haqq, former Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, may Allah bless his soul, adds:

The Qur’an was brought to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when he was among a nation of pagans who used to set up idols around the Ka`bah. The Prophet warned against statues and the making thereof to avoid worshipping them or imitating Allah’s creatures.

Likewise, all the Prophets, were sent to prevent their peoples from worshipping idols or taking such as means to bring them near to Allah. Allah Almighty says: ( We worship them only that they may bring us near unto Allah.) (Az-Zumar 39: 3) In the Qur’an the story of Abraham (peace be upon him) with the idolaters is oft-repeatedly mentioned in order to draw people’s attention to the Oneness of Allah.

According to the scholars’ understanding, the dialogue between the Prophets, peace and blessings be upon them all, and their peoples concerning statues fluctuated between detest and prohibition.

However, making full-figured statues of humans or animals is prohibited. Masruq, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “We entered, along with Abdullah, a house where there were some statues. Pointing at one of them, Abdullah asked: “Whose statue is this?” They answered: “The Virgin”. Thereupon he quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying: “Among the people receiving the harshest punishment on the Day of Resurrection will be carvers or sculptors”

Sheikh `Atiyya Saqr, former Head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, adds:

There is a disagreement among scholars concerning the issue of statues. Following is a summary of their opinions and views:

Muslim scholars unanimously agree that the possession of statues deemed to be worshipped is haram (prohibited). Allah says: (So shun the abomination (worshipping) of idols and shun lying speech) (Al-Hajj 22: 30)

The possession of statues is also prohibited if the following conditions exist, even if they are not to be worshipped:

1- If they are full-figured statues.

2- If there is no need to acquire them.

3- If they are formed of a substance that lasts for a long time, i.e. wood, metal, or stone.

Therefore, we can say:

a) The possession of busts or statues with a missing part without which a human being can not survive, i.e. the head or the stomach is permissible, but yet disliked.

b) The possession of statues becomes permissible once there is a need to acquire them, i.e. girl’s dolls or statues used in practical training. According to Al-Bukhari and Muslim authentic books, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed `Aishah to play with dolls, but this was an exception for girls. According to some scholars, erecting statues to commemorate great men is only detested, not prohibited.

d) According to the Maliki scholar, Asbagh bin Al-Farag, the possession of statues made of candy or pasta is permitted.

Shedding more light on the issue, Professor Muhammad `Imarah, the well-known Egyptian Muslim thinker, says:

The Islamic ruling regarding statues is derived from the Qur’an in which there are many verses tackling this issue. The Qur’an, for example, refers to the making of statues as a form of His Favors on the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him). This was because such statues were not worshipped at that time and thus did not pose any threat to the belief in the Oneness of Allah. Allah Almighty says: (And unto Solomon (We gave) the wind, whereof the morning course was a month's journey and the evening course a month's journey, and We caused the fount of copper to gush forth for him, and (We gave him) certain of the jinn who worked before him by permission of his Lord. And such of them as deviated from Our command, them We caused to taste the punishment of flaming fire They made for him what he willed: synagogues and statues, basins like wells and boilers built into the ground. Give thanks, O House of David! Few of My bondmen are thankful.) (Saba' 34: 12-13)

On the other hand, the Qur’an relates how Abraham (peace be upon him) destroyed the idols worshipped besides Allah. Likewise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was sent among a nation of idolaters, received the same Qur’anic legislation, i.e. destruction and elimination of the worshipped idols.

It is obvious, therefore, that the Qur’anic view as regards this issue depends on whether such statues are used as a kind of decoration which turns them to be one of Allah’s favors or as idols worshipped beside Allah, hence, they must be destroyed.

The Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, followed this very direction which does not generalize the ruling. They destroyed and eliminated the idols of the Arabs. In the same time, they kept intact the statues that people did not worship in the countries in which Muslims entered. They did so in Egypt, Afganistan, India and many other territories.

The renowned Muslim scholar Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, Vice Chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, states:

The issue of statues should be addressed in light of the following points:

Making, buying or possessing statues falls under the well-known principle of jurisprudence which reads: “Everything is lawful unless there is an attribute turning it into an unlawful matter.”

If the statues are made to be worshipped, then buying, selling or possessing such would be one of the grave sins.

Making statues to imitate Allah’s creatures is also a grave sin. However, such statues could be of a spiritless object, i.e. the sun, the moon … etc or of a lawful doll. Hence, some scholars said that the permissibility or otherwise of such statues depends on the intention of the one who makes them.

Statues or flat drawings made to commemorate great men in a way that may lead to some kind of worship are prohibited; this is out of blocking the ways leading to evil; a rule unanimously agreed upon by scholars.

Statues and drawings which are neither worshipped nor revered are permissible, even if there is no legitimate need for them. Making such statues becomes commendable if there is a legitimate reason, i.e. children dolls are lawful according to the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

Allah Almighty knows best.


Banner