Fatwa for the Use of Images for Children

Aaishah said, “I used to play with dolls in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh), and my girlfriends used to play along with me.  Whenever, Allaah’s Messenger (pbuh) would enter, they would hide from him. So he called them to play with me.” [1]

In the classical commentary on Saheeh al Bukhari entitled Fath al-Baaree, Ibn Hajar al -’Asqalaanee wrote the following:

“This hadeeth is used as evidence for the permissibility of making dolls and toys with human and animal forms for the purpose of girls playing with them.  This category has been specifically excluded from the general prohibition against making images. ‘Iyaad [2] stated this to be categorically so and related that it was the position of the majority of scholars.  He further related that they permitted the selling of toys for girls in order to train them from their youth in their household affairs and in dealing with their children. [3]

Ibn Hibbaan entitled a chapter for his Saheeh: “The Permissibility for Children and Women to Play with Toys” and another: “A Man’s Giving Permission to His Wife to Play with Dolls”,

Aboo Dawood and an-Nasaa’ee collected this hadeeth in another chain from Aaishah in which she said, “When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) arrived after the expedition to Tabuk or Khaybar, the wind raised an end of a curtain which hung in front of my closet, revealing some dolls which belonged to me.  He asked me, ‘What is this?’ I replied: My dolls. He saw among them a horse made of wrapped cloth with wings, and asked, ‘What is this I am seeing among them?’ I replied: A horse. He asked, ‘A horse with wings?’ I replied: Have you not heard that Solomon had horses with wings? Allaah’s Messenger (pbuh) laughed so heartily that I could see his molar teeth.” [4] This hadeeth is very clear that the meaning of playthings (lu’ab) mentioned in the earlier narration does not refer to humans.

Al-Khattaabee [5] stated that this hadeeth indicates that playing with dolls is not like playing with other images which were warned about.  And permission was given to Aaishaah regarding them because she was not mature at the time.

The companion Ar-Rubayya bint Muawwath said, “we used to fast on that day (10th Muharram) and also make the children fast.  We would make toys figures out of wool for them, and if any of them cried for food, he would be given one until it was time to break the fast.”[6]

In this regard, Shaykh Naasirudeen al-Albanee stated in his book, Adaab az-Zafaaf: “These two hadeeths (the hadeeth of Aaisha’s dolls and the hadeeth about the sahaabah’s practice of giving their fasting children toy figures to distract them from their hunger) indicate the permissibility of creating images and of owning them when there is an educational benefit in doing so, one that will help in the cultivation and development of the personality. Whatever else is of benefit to the Muslims and Islam may be included in the same ruling of permissibility of picture making and use but everything beside that remains under the basic prohibition.”[p.196]

In the same vein, Shaykh ‘Abdullaah ibn Jibreen (member of the Committee of leading Scholars, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) responded to a long detailed question on image-making put to him by the editors of al-Usrah magaizine by saying, “Among the basic principles of the Sharee’ah is choosing the lesser of two evils in order to avoid the greater harm.  Without a doubt, for Muslim children to be busy in reading Islaamic magazines that include some pictures used to make ideas clearer is less serious than their habitual viewing of movies and picture (magazines) that ruin their morals, pervert their innocence and divert them away from good. That is what is apparent to me, and Allaah knows best.”

Shaykh Abdul Azeez al-Qaari’ (Imaam of Masji Qubaa and professor of tafseer and Quranic recitation at the Islamic University of Madeenah) had this to say about image-making in al-Usrah:

“Regarding the hadeeth of Aaishah that she played with dolls in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh), and in some versions of the hadeeth that one of the dolls was in the shape of a winged horse, this hadeeth indicates the permissibility of children’s figurative toys, owning them and using them, whether they are clearly representative or not, and whether skillfully or crudely fashioned.  There is no basis in the hadeeth for making a distinction. Those who say that Aaishah’s dolls were not distinctly representative have made an arbitrary judgement not based on any evidence. What do they say about a winged horse?”

  1. Sahih al Bukhari, vol.8, p95 no. 151 and Sahih Muslim, vol.4 p.1299, no.5981. See also Sunan Abu Dawud, vol.3 p.1373 no. 4913.
  2. Al-Qaadee Iyaad (1084-1149 CE) was a Moroccan scholar who was among the leading scholars of hadeeth of his time.
  3. Ibn Hajar stated here that some scholars like Ibn Battaal, held that the hadeeth of Aaishah was abrogated and that Ibn Abee Zayd related that Maalik disliked that a man purchase dolls for his daughter.  Consequently, ad-Dawoodee also concluded that the hadeeth was most likely abrogated. Fat-h al-Baaree, Vol. 10, p.544.
  4. Sunan Abu Dawud, vol.3,p.1373, no.4914 and authenticated in Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood, vol.3, p.932, no.4123.
  5. Hamd ibn Muhammad al-Khattab (931-998 CE) was an Afghani scholar of Fiqh and hadeeth well known for his commentary on Sunan Abee Dawwood called Ma’aalim as-Sunan, a commentary on Saheeh al-Bukhari, and a hadeeth dictionary called Gareeb al-Hadith.
  6. Fat-h al-baree, vol.10. pp.543-4.
  7. Sahih Al Bukhari, vol.3,pp.103.4. no.181.

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