Pictures – An Erroneous Fatwa

Question:  The  following  fatwa  appears  on  darulifta  deoband  website.  Is  it  correct?

Question: Can we treat a video or photo as an evidence against or for any person in order to prove him guilty or not? If so, then video, photo must be allowed. As you know that videos, photos and many other things preserves events in a real time i.e. when it happens. So, to know the truth these techniques are extremely helpful to deliver the justice. Islam wants justice to be revealed at any cost and there must not be even an iota of injustice to anybody. In fact these techniques help us to know the truth and a person can not lie if he or she knows that his or her video or photo is taken and can be produced in a court. Like for example I have a shop which has video camera in it, so if somebody attempts to thief and his activities are captured by camera. So, is it allowed in Islam to produce that as an evidence against the thief in a court? If it is allowed then photography, videography must be allowed in Islam if not then why?

Answer: Generally, photography and picture making is unlawful and haram, Hadith sternly warns about it.

إن من أشد الناس عذابا يوم القيامة المصورون (البخارى).

However, in the light of other provisions, the Ulama allowed it at the time of need, such as for Identity Card, PAN card, Aadhar Card and other documents. Allama Sarkhasi, may Allah have mercy upon him, writes:

وإن تحققت الحاجة له إلى استعمال السلاح الذي فيه تمثال فلا بأس باستعماله (شرح السير الكبير 1/463)

Hence it shall be allowed to make video or take photograph of the activity of theft, violence, incident or any other event out of need for justice (i.e. it is feared that if it is not done then someone’s right shall be lost). However, it shall be unlawful to make video or take photograph unnecessarily and for show in each case.–Haram/62258

ANSWER [Majlisul Ulama]

The  fatwa  of  Darul  Uloom Deoband  on  the  permissibility  of  video  and  the  like  as  evidence  to  prove  guilt  and  gain  a  conviction  is  incorrect.  It  is  in  fact  injustice  in  terms  of  the  Shariah  because  a  conviction  is  gained  without  Shar’i  evidence.  The  honourable Mufti  did  not  apply  his  mind  correctly.  Whilst  a  haraam  act  could  be  availed  of  in  dire  need,  the  need  in  this  case  is  not  dire. 

Furthermore,  this  type  of  ‘evidence’  abrogates  the Shariah’s  explicit  rule  of evidence  which  stipulates shahaadat  (testimony  by uprighteous  human  beings).  Pictures  regardless  of  the  method  of  production  can  be  doctored  to  implicate  innocent  people.  All  ways  of  securing  evidence  by  technological  means  are  not  valid  in  an Islamic  Court.

Justice  ‘at  any  cost’  as  the  questioner  says,  is  not  justice  in  Islamic  terms.  Justice  is  justice  as  ordained  by  Allah  Ta’ala.  Three  pious,  truthful  males  witnessed  a  couple  committing  fornication.  After they  reported  the  crime,  a fourth  pious  male  could  not  be  found  to  testify.  All  three  will  be  flogged  80  lashes  each,  and the  Qur’aan  brands  them  as ‘liars’,  yet  they  have  100% certitude  regarding  the  crime  they  had  witnessed.  In  addition  they  had  videoed  the  entire  act  of  zina  in  progress.

A  pious  man  having  personally  witnessed  a  theft,  reports  the  thief.  Since  only  one  person  testifies,  the  thief  cannot  be convicted  although  the  witness  has  100%  certitude  regarding  the  crime.  If  a  trader  testifies  in  an  Islamic  court  that  the  thief  has  stolen  his  property  and  he  presents  video  pictures  as  evidence,  the  Islamic  court will  not  convict  the  ‘thief’ regardless  of  the  trader’s  right  having  been  usurped.  Two  pious  male  witnesses  are  incumbent  to  secure  a  conviction.  Thus,  the  honourable  Mufti  of  Deoband  has  grievously  erred  in  his  view  which  elevates  video  to  shahaadat,  and  which abrogates  the  Shariah’s  law  of  evidence  based  on  Sareeh  Nass.

The  text   of  Allaamah  Sarakhsi (Rahmatullah alayh)  does  not  support  the  opinion  of  the  honourable  Mufti.  This  basis  for the  Mufti  Sahib’s  view  is erroneous.  The  example  of  a  sword  with  pictures  engraved  on  it,  is  not  an  issue of  shahaadat.  It  does  not  interfere  with  any  law  of the  Shariah.  On  the  contrary,  it  is  based  on  the  principle  of  dire  needs  legalize prohibitions. This  principle  is  a  temporary  concession  applicable  to  a  case  of  dire  need.  It  does  not  halaalize  the  haraam  for  all  time.  It  does  not  provide  a  blanket  permission  for  all  and  sundry  to  indulge  in  the  haraam  act  which  is  legalized  temporarily  for  a  specific  case. 

The  reasoning  of  Darul Uloom  on  the  basis  of  what  Allaamah  Sarakhsi  says  is  baseless.  The  issue  stated  by  Allaamah  Sarakhsi  does  not  apply  to  the  utilization  of  haraam pictography  for  the  purpose  of  evidence  in  a  court.  Using  a  sword  on  which  a  picture  is  engraved  will  be  permissible  if  there  is  no  other  sword  / weapon  available  with  which to fight  the  enemy.

Assuming  there  is  a  dire  need  for  camera  surveillance,  then  whilst  such  surveillance  will  be  permissible,  the  pictures  will  not  be  evidence  in  an  Islamic court  and  a  conviction  will  not  be  achieved  by  it.


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