Is Erecting Statues Permissible in Islam?

03 July, 2020
Q Does Islam prohibit erecting statues? What about the idols that were built around the Kabah? Were statues allowed during the time of Prophet Solomon?

Answer

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.


In this fatwa:

Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed on the prohibition of erecting 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.


Answering your question, Sheikh Jadul-Haqq `Ali Jadul-Haqq, the late Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (may Allah bless his soul) states:

Idols Around the Kabah

Allah revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he was among a nation of pagans who used to set up idols around the Kabah. The Prophet warned against statues and the making thereof to avoid worshipping them or imitating Allah’s creatures.

Likewise, Allah sent all the Prophets 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 Quran, there is much reference to the story of Abraham (peace be upon him) with the idolaters 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, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prohibited making full-figured statues of humans or animals. 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.”

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

Statues during the Time of Prophet Solomon

There are some verses in the Quran that tackle the Islamic ruling regarding statues. The Quran, 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 people did not worship such statues at that time and thus the statues 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)

Prophet Ibrahim and Destroying Statues

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On the other hand, the Quran relates how Abraham (peace be upon him) destroyed the idols worshipped besides Allah. Likewise, the Prophet (peace be upon him) received the same Quranic legislation, i.e. destruction and elimination of the worshipped idols.

It is obvious, therefore, that the Quranic 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 followed this very direction which does not generalize the ruling. They destroyed and eliminated the idols of the Arabs. At 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, Afghanistan, India and many other territories.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.