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What is the Islamic ruling regarding depiction of prophets (peace be upon them all) or companions of Prophet Muhammad (God bless them) in movies and TV shows?

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This is a Sunni Salafi view/Ijtihad and not necessarily agreed to by other Islamic schools/scholars:

Majority of the scholars have prohibited depiction of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wassalam) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them all). This is because the harm and evil done through them is much greater than the goodness in them (even if it is there at all).

The scholars mention the following reasons for it:

  1. Depicting them in movies makes a mockery and ridicule of their high status with Allah. The actors usually depicting the Prophets or companions need not have piety or righteousness, needless to say not even a little compared to the people they are depicting.

  2. These movies are taken by some director and producer. No matter how hard they try to depict the actual truth, there will be some of their individual opinions creeping into the script of the movie. So, what will happen is some of the companions might be shown in bad light (mistakenly or on purpose). This is create a big dispute among people. This will be a great harm to their status. Not only that, some people will take their "Seerah classes" from these movies and it will be in their heart that this is the actual truth.

  3. Portraying the life of Prophet and his companions will necessitate that they portray their enemies like Abu Jahl and his followers also. Now, we don't have exact conversations that took place between them. For the script of movie, they will probably fabricate something and this can be exaggerated. What will happen is the character portraying Abu Jahl may end up cursing the Prophet and his companions or talking bad about them.

  4. Since there were also women in the life of Prophet and their companions like their wives, mothers, it is possible (very likely) that they be shown not properly covered and this is a high disrespect to them. Not to say, watching them would be haram also.

  5. Also, remember, the non-Muslims would take the biography of the Prophet from the movie and if the movie gives them a bad opinion about the Prophet, then that is where the misconceptions about the Prophet rises. And it is a great harm done to the Dawa'h effort done by people.

So, one of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence is that if something is a pure evil (or evil is dominant in it) then it becomes forbidden. Featuring the companions may Allah be pleased with them regardless of the estimated benefit, still contains a dominant evil.

Because of this, most scholars prohibit the depiction of Prophets and his companions.

More: Denunciation of producing movie 'Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah'

Watching the movie 'The Message'

  • Thanks for the detailed answer, in particular subject of women in the life of prophet and their companions, and for the references – Yaman ALTareh Jul 14 '12 at 8:28
  • "1" is tricky; obviously professional actors aren't prophets, and in many cases won't "measure up"; however, for "2", "3", "4" - would a version that draws only on the recorded words, using appropriate dress/covering be permissible? For "5", such a version, drawing only on the recorded words, surely cannot give an inappropriate opinion (good or bad) - it is just "this is what is stated". Personally (speaking as a someone outside Islam) it seems like this could be a useful intro to the material. Is this view naive? – Marc Gravell Jul 15 '12 at 8:00
  • @MarcGravell Not all words in the life of the Prophet is recorded. There are several events that are recorded through the Hadith. But, if you were to put them like a movie, it would lack continuity and most movie producers would try to compromise authenticity to make the movie look continuous and interesting. Regarding appropriate dressing, the hijab that the prophet's wives wore were not the modern day ones. They almost enveloped them. Obviously this doesn't work for the movie and believe me, there are movies made on Prophet and all those movies fall short on these aspects. – Abdullah Jul 15 '12 at 8:07
  • @MarcGravell So I am not speculating. Regarding "this is what is stated". There are many sects in Islam, you might know that I guess. Each sect might have their version of "this is what is stated" with certain deviations, so it will rather bring dispute among them. – Abdullah Jul 15 '12 at 8:09
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    What if movies are found to be the most effective way of teaching people about Islam--especially under the current state of the world? And what if the hazards you mentioned can be avoided to a good extent so that the positive impact greatly outweighs the negative? I also edited this answer to highlight the fact that it is written from a Sunni Salafi perspective. – infatuated Sep 28 '15 at 17:03

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