Photo Filters

Is it permitted to change a photo with filters (reshape the face or part of it, add animal parts, etc.)?

عَنْ أَبِي طَلْحَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، قَالَ: «لاَ تَدْخُلُ المَلاَئِكَةُ بَيْتًا فِيهِ كَلْبٌ وَلاَ صُورَةٌ»

Sahih al-Bukhari, 3322

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ  said, ‘The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture.’

In this Hadith, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has prohibited ‘Soorah’ (صُورَة) which is an image and it’s understood to be a prohibition on images of humans and animals. When photography became widespread in society, the Muslim scholars had to provide a legal ruling regarding its permissibility and the discussion was centred on Hadith narrations that speak about the prohibition of images or ‘Suwar’.

Some scholars felt that the prohibition found in the Hadith, which certainly does apply to drawings and paintings, can and should be extended to photographs because they are essentially the same thing – they are images of humans or animals.

Other scholars felt that there is a difference between what’s being prohibited in the Hadith, namely ‘Soorah’, and a photograph. The difference they identified was that with a drawing or a painting you cannot capture the image as it is so you will necessarily change it, whereas with a photograph you will not change it, you will capture the image as it is. This group of scholars concluded that photographs in and of themselves are permitted. No doubt if the photograph is of something prohibited, like a person’s Awrah then it is Haram, but there is no automatic prohibition on photographs.

This group of scholars further explained that the prohibition on drawings and paintings relates to changing the creation of Allah (Most High), because you cannot capture the image as it is when you draw or paint, so you will necessarily change it and that is why it is prohibited. Due to this they felt the photograph in itself is permitted because you’re not changing anything, you’re capturing the image as it is.

However, nowadays a lot of people have taken to changing the image after the photograph has been taken or even whilst a photograph is being taken. Therefore, even scholars who originally gave the fatwa that it is permitted to take photographs would not permit this practice because it contradicts the reason they gave for permissibility, namely you are not changing the image, rather you are capturing it as it is. Consequently, there is no sound opinion that permits changing photos in this manner so this practice is prohibited.