Circulating photos of humans and animals
I import goods which include framed photos for desks and walls depicting men and women in wedding attire, couples on the beach, children etc… I also import telephone notepads with pictures of humans on their covers and small porcelain desk figurines in the shape of birds, children etc… to be given as gifts and put on display. What is the ruling for importing such goods—are they lawful or prohibited? What is to be done with the goods I already have?
There is no harm in circulating photos of humans and animals since they only capture light and are innocent of imitating Allah's creation, the prohibition against which the makers of depictions were strongly warned and if they are free of nudity and do not incite lust.
It is impermissible to manufacture or trade in statues if they are complete, do not entail any interest that calls for them or are made from an enduring material such as wood, metal or stone. This is indicated in the hadith of Sa'id Ibn Abu al-Hasan who said, "I was with Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) when a man came up to him and said, 'O Ibn Abbas! My livelihood comes solely from the work I manufacture with my hands and I make these depictions! Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said, 'I will only tell you what I heard the Messenger of Allah say. He said that whoever makes a depiction, Allah will torture him until he breathes life in it, and he will never be able to do that.' At this, the man trembled and turned pale. Ibn Abbas told him, "Woe unto you! If you must, depict trees and other inanimate objects" [Bukhari and Muslim]. There are other similar hadiths prohibiting depictions which scholars have interpreted to indicate statues as can be deduced from the context of the above hadith.
Just as it is prohibited to manufacture and trade in statues, it is likewise prohibited to acquire them due to the words of the Prophet who said, "The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a depiction" [Bukhari and Muslim]. This concerns a complete statue. However, if it is incomplete such that the depicted creature cannot remain alive without the missing organ, then it is permissible to manufacture, trade in or acquire it. Abu Huraira narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, "Jibril (peace be upon him) came to me and said, 'I visited you yesterday and nothing prevented me from entering except some statues by the door. Order someone to remove the heads of any statues in the house so that they resemble trees" [recorded by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi ]. Ibn Abbas said, "The depiction pertains to the head. If the head is removed, then it is not a depiction" [Narrated in both a raised chain and a halted chain hadith through Al-Baihaqi and others].
Exempted from the prohibition is any statue that entails benefit such as children's toys and educational illustrative figures since the Prophet permitted 'A`isha's dolls. Asbugh Ibn al-Farag, the Maliki scholar, permitted statues made from candy and dough. Some scholars restricted the prohibition of statues to those meant to imitate the creative act of Allah although this is a weak opinion.
Based on the above and in reference to the question, whoever trades in such goods must adhere to the previously mentioned legal standards concerning both permissibility and prohibition. Additionally, he must avoid pictures containing nudity which expose those parts of the body that Allah ordered to be concealed. It is permissible for the inquirer to sell the figurines in his possession following the opinion of those scholars who restrict the prohibition to an intentional emulation of the creation of Allah. This is because the figurines are not complete imitations.