Sunday, May 22, 2022 - 22 Shawwal 1443

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Depicting the prophets and messengers in movies

What is the ruling on depicting the prophets and messengers (peace be upon them) in movies and TV shows? Does Islam object to art?

Answer

Islam allows purposeful and respectful forms of art
The religion of Islam respects human innate talents and encourages creativity. God created us for a sublime purpose; namely, to worship Him, construct the earth, and promote good moral values. Islamic law permits the practice of various forms of arts like acting, painting, poetry, and singing as long as they are employed properly for a valid and respectful reason and according to the boundaries prescribed by God. In Islam, the legal maxim states that the means take the same rulings as their objectives. Based on this, acting is permissible per se provided it aims at presenting good moral values and building a sound mindset and balanced character, in which case it is regarded by Islam as a refined form of art.

On the other hand, it is a sin in the sight of God Almighty to act in, direct, or produce movies which spread indecency, lies, evils, etc. due to the immorality and they promote. In this case, acting is considered impermissible in Islamic law for the perversities it involves. Based on this, acting is but a kind of human activity—its good is desirable and its ugly is repugnant.

It is impermissible in Islam to depict prophets in movies
Although acting is permissible in itself based on the above mentioned conditions, there is no justification whatsoever for the depiction of the prophets and messengers of God (peace be upon them) due to their lofty status and infallibility. God’s prophets and messengers are the best of all humans, and He raised them high above depiction by any other human being. Moreover, God ranked them far above Satan’s impersonation in dreams. Abu Huraira (may God be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Name yourselves with my name (use my name) but do not name yourselves with my kunya name (i.e. Abu al-Qasim). And whoever sees me in a dream then surely he has seen me for Satan cannot impersonate me. And whoever tells a lie against me (intentionally), then let him occupy his place in hell-fire"(Bukhari and Muslim). This hadith clearly proves that God Almighty preserves the status of the prophets (peace be upon them) and protects their message. Satan cannot impersonate the prophets either in reality or in a dream.
Based on this, it is mandatory upon Muslims to respect our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and all the other prophets and messengers of God by refraining from presenting, producing, and releasing artworks that depict them. Lack of knowledge and ignorance may drive some authors to distort or manipulate the biography of any prophet for personal gain.
It is established in Islamic law that preventing harm takes precedence over gaining benefit. So, despite all the benefits filmmakers might find in producing movies that depict the prophets, these works involve real evil such as tampering with the prophets’ biographies and adding irrelevant and incorrect information.
Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy declared in resolution no. 100 of its 14th session of the 35th round held in Cairo on June 30, 1999 CE that it is impermissible to depict the prophets, messengers, the ten Companions who were promised paradise and the household of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in any form of art.

Based on the above, it is impermissible to violate the sanctity of the prophets and messengers by personifying them in movies or any other artwork. Producers and filmmakers should work on finding and presenting innovative ideas to introduce the biographies of the prophets in a manner befitting their status and avoid causing strife in the Muslim community.

And God Almighty knows best.