The Difference Between a Mirror Image and a Photograph

By Moulana Imraan Vawda
Posted: 15 Rajab 1423, 22 September 2002


Q.) I have a very strange question that has often come to my mind. We all know that making of paintings (of living objects) and idols is prohibited in Islam.

Lets look scientifically at the nature of the snapshots taken from a camera or a live broadcast shown on a television. In case of a camera light is allowed to fall on a photo-sensitive film and without any human interaction the actual image gets preserved due to the ionization of silver coating on it.

Like-wise what is happening in a broadcast is that frames are being captured as it is at the source and being aired in quick succession producing the animation effect. No idol or painting is "Made/Created". Its just the transfer and preservation of a scene that is involved. Let me give an analogy in this connection.

If a bird sits in front of a mirror and an observer sitting at a distance sees the image of it in the mirror and cannot see the bird directly. Will it be a sin? And if we have an array of mirrors so that the image is carried through reflections over a considerable distance it would be just like a broadcast.

I look forward to a convincing and a comprehensive reply in light of the above example. [Aamir Ansari]

A.) Your analogy is incorrect.

When looking at a photograph, the rays of light move from the photo onto the eye. This is exactly what happens in the case of looking at a painting. When looking at a mirror, the rays of light emit from the object and enter the eye. The mirror only serves to redirect these rays of light. It would, therefore, be correct to compare the photograph with a painting, and not with a mirror. And Allah Ta'ala Knows Best

Albalagh Note: It would shed some more light on the subject if we recall that the mirror, unlike the electronic medium, cannot permanently hold the picture; the "picture" vanishes as soon as the object being mirrored moves away.