7222: Prohibition of images and erecting statues, and the effect this has on ‘aqeedah


I am having difficulties explaining to a muslim that erecting a non-muslim statute is haram. His response was this woman was a heroine and fought the muslims to defend her land, and she is my ancester before islamization.. Can a muslim idolize a statute, or erect one in memory of a hero?, even if the hero and/or heroine was not a muslim?

Praise be to Allaah. 

Firstly, it may be understood from your question that what is to be denounced is the fact that the statue is of a kaafir, and that if it was a statue of a Muslim it would be permissible to erect it. This is a mistake, because all statues of animate beings are equally haraam, regardless of whether they are made in the images of a Muslim or a kaafir. Indeed, making a statue of a kaafir is worse, because it combines two evils, that of making the statue and that of glorifying this kaafir. 

There follow details of the prohibition on the making of images and statues.

I.    The prohibition on statues is not just the matter of fiqh; it goes beyond that to the matter of ‘aqeedah, because Allaah is the Only One Who has the power of giving shape to His creation and creating them in the best image. Making images implies that one is trying to match the creation of Allaah. The matter also has to do with ‘aqeedah when these images are taken as idols which are worshipped instead of Allaah.

Among the daleel (evidence) that image-making is the exclusive preserve of Allaah are the following:

 1.     Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He wills” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:6]

“And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being); then We told the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam’” [al-A’raaf 7:11]

“He is Allaah, the Creator, the Inventor of all things, the Bestower of forms. To Him belong the Best Names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorify Him. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise” [al-Hashr 59:24] 

“O man! What has made you careless about your Lord, the Most Generous? Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and gave you due proportion. In whatever form He willed, He put you together.”

[al-Infitaar 82:6-8]

 These aayaat clearly state the belief that creating and giving form to creation is the preserve of their Lord, Creator and Fashioner, so it is not permissible  for anyone to encroach on that and to try to match the creation of Allaah.

 2.  It was reported from ‘Aa’ishah Umm al-Mu’mineen that Umm Habeebah and Umm Salamah mentioned a church which they had seen in Ethiopia, in which there were images. They  told the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about it, and he said: “Those people, if there was a righteous man among them and he died, they would build a place of worship over his grave and put images in it. These will be the most evil of creation before Allaah on the Day of Resurrection.” (narrated by al-Bukhaari, 417; Muslim, 528)

 Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said:

 This hadeeth indicates that making images is haraam. (Fath al-Baari, 1/525).

 Al-Nawawi said: 

Our  companions and other scholars said: making images of animate beings is extremely haraam and is a major sin, because severe warnings have been issued against it in the ahaadeeth. Whether the image is made to be used in a disrespectful fashion or for other purposes, it is haraam to make it in all cases, because it implies that one is trying to match the creation of Allaah, whether the image is to appear on a garment, carpet, coin, vessel, wall or whatever. With regard to pictures of trees, camel saddles, and other pictures in which no animate beings appear, these are not haraam. This is the ruling on making images. (Sharh Muslim, 14/81).

 3.  Sa’eed ibn Abi’l-Hasan said: I was with Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) when a man came to him and said, O Abu ‘Abbaas, I am a man who lives by what his hands make, and I make these images. Ibn ‘Abbaas said: I will only tell you what I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say. I heard him say: “Whoever makes an image, Allaah will punish him until he breathes life into it, and he will never be able to do that.” The man became very upset and his face turned pale, so [Ibn ‘Abbaas] said to him, Woe to you! If you insist on making images, then make images of these trees and everything that does not have a soul. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2112; Muslim, 2110).

 4.  ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: The people who will be the most severely punished before Allaah on the Day of Resurrection will be the image makers. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5606; Muslim, 2109).

 5.  It was reported from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: Those who make these images will be punished on the Day of Resurrection. It will be said to them, Give life to that which you have created! (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5607; Muslim, 2108).

 6.  It was reported that Abu Hurayrah entered a house in Madeenah and saw somebody making images in it. He said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: [Allaah says:] Who does greater wrong than one who goes and creates something like My creation? Let them create a seed or a small ant! (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5609; Muslim, 2111).

 Al-Nawawi said:

 Concerning the words of Allaah. “Let them create a small ant or a seed or a grain of barley!” means, let them create a small ant which has a soul and moves by itself, like this small ant which was created by Allaah. Or let them create  a grain of wheat or barley, i.e., let them create a grain which is eaten as food or which can be planted so it will grow and which has the characteristics of a grain of wheat or barley or other seeds which were created by Allaah. This is impossible, as stated above. (Sharh Muslim, 14/90). None can bring forth living vegetation out of nothing except Allaah, may He be glorified.

 7.    Abu Juhayfah said: the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade the price of a dog and the price of blood, and he forbade tattooing and asking to be tattooed, and the consumption or paying of ribaa, and he cursed those who make images. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1980).

  II.     Islam prescribes that idols should be destroyed and smashed, not made and repaired. Among the evidence for this is the following:

  1.   ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) entered Makkah [at the Conquest], there were three hundred and sixty idols around the Ka’bah. He started hitting them with his stick and saying, “Truth has come and Baatil (falsehood) has vanished. Surely, Baatil is ever bound to vanish” [al-Israa’ 17:81 – interpretation of the meaning]. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2346; Muslim, 1781).

 2.   Abu’l-Hiyaaj al-Asadi said: ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib said to me: Shall I not send you on the same basis as the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent me? Do not leave any statue without destroying it, and do not leave any built-up grave without razing it to the ground. (According to one report: and do not leave any picture without erasing it). (narrated by Muslim, 969).

 Ibn al-Qayyim said:

 Tamaatheel is the plural of Timthaal (statue), which refers to a representative image.

 Shaykh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyah) said:

 The command is to destroy two types of images: images which represent the deceased person, and images which are placed on top of graves – because Shirk may come about from both types. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa, 17/462).

 (al-Fawaa’id, p. 196).

  III.      The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) warned against bringing images into the house, and said that this is a sin and deprives a person of good. Among the evidence for that is the following:

 1.      Abu Talhah said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or statues.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3053; Muslim, 2106).

 2.      ‘Aa’ishah Umm al-Mu’mineen (may Allaah be pleased with her) said that she bought a pillow on which there were images. When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw it, he stood at the door and did not enter. She saw on his face that he was upset, and said: O Messenger of Allaah, I repent to Allaah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). What is my sin? The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: What is this pillow? She said, I bought it for you so that you could sit on it and recline on it. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: On the Day of Resurrection, the makers of these images will be punished and it will be said to them, Give life to that which you have created. And he said: The angels do not enter a house in which there are images. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1999; Muslim, 2107).

  IV.     Making images is a way of falling into Shirk, because Shirk starts with the veneration of those who are depicted in the images, especially when people have little or no knowledge. The evidence for this is:

 Ibn ‘Abbaas said: The idols of the people of Nooh were known among the Arabs later on. Wadd belonged to (the tribe of) Kalb in Dawmat al-Jandal. Suwaa’ belonged to Hudhayl. Yaghooth belonged to Muraad, then to Bani Ghutayf in al-Jawf, near Sabaa’. Ya’ooq belonged to Hamadaan. Nasar belonged to Humayr of Aal Dhi’l-Kalaa’. These were names of righteous men from the people of Nooh. When they died, the Shaytaan inspired their people to set up idols in the places where they had used to sit, and to call those idols by their names. They did that but they did not worship them, but after those people died and knowledge had been forgotten, then they started to worship them. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4636).

 Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:

 The reason why al-Laat was worshipped was the veneration of the grave of a righteous man which was there. (Iqtidaa’ al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem, 2/333).

 And he said:

 This problem – i.e., veneration – which is why Islam forbids (images), is the reason why so many of nations have fallen into committing Shirk to a greater or lesser degree. (al-Iqtidaa’, 2/334).

 Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, describing how the Shaytaan plays with the Christians:

 He plays with them with regard to the images which they have in their churches and which they worship. You cannot find any church which is free of these images of Maryam (Mary), the Messiah, George, Peter and others of their saints and martyrs. Most of them bow to these images and pray to them instead of to Allaah. The Patriarch of Alexandria even wrote a letter to the ruler of Rome supporting the idea of bowing to these images: (he said) Allaah commanded Moosa to make images of cherubim in the Tabernacle; and when Sulayman the son of Dawood built the Temple, he made images of cherubim and put them inside the Temple. Then he said in his letter: this is like when a king sends a letter to one of his governors and the governor takes the letter and kisses it then touches it to his forehead [a sign of respect], and stands up to receive it. He does not do this to venerate the paper and ink, but to venerate the king. In the same way, when one bows to an image, it is to venerate the person represented by the image, not to venerate the paints and colours.

 This is exactly the same as the example given to justify idol worship. (Ighaathat al-Lahfaan, 2/292).

 And he said:

 In most cases, the reason why nations fall into Shirk is because of images and graves.” (Zaad al-Ma’aad, 3/458).

 V.  The aayaat and ahaadeeth quoted above indicate that the prohibition of images is for two reasons:

The first is: because it implies that one is trying to match the creation of Allaah.

The second is: because it is an imitation of the kuffaar.

The third is: because it is a means of veneration and falling into Shirk.

From the above it is clear that it is forbidden to make statues, whether the statue is of a Muslim or a kaafir. Whoever does that is trying to match the creation of Allaah and thus deserves to be cursed. We ask Allaah to keep us safe and sound, and to guide us. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.

Islam Q&A
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
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