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In verse 13: يَعْمَلُونَ لَهُ مَا يَشَاءُ مِن مَّحَارِ‌يبَ وَتَمَاثِيلَ وَجِفَانٍ كَالْجَوَابِ وَقُدُورٍ‌ رَّ‌اسِيَاتٍ (They used to make for him whatever he wished of castles, images, basins as (large as) tanks and big cook-wares fixed in their places), there is a somewhat detailed description of the jobs Sayyidna Sulayman (علیہ السلام) assigned to the Jinns. The word: مَحَاریب (maharib, translated above as 'castles' ) is the plural form of: مِحرَاب (mihrab) and is used to identify the noblest part of the house. When kings and men of authority make a state operation chamber, sort of power niche for themselves, it is also known as mihrab. Then the word: is a derivation from: حَرب (harb) meaning war. One makes a seat of power for himself, keeps it safe against being approached by others, and should anyone resort to any high-handedness, he would fight against the aggressor. Given this congruity, the special section of a mansion is called mihrab. Then the masajid or mosques as such are, on occasions, referred to as maharib. When reference is made to the maharib of sahabah from among the maharib of Ban' Isra'il and Islam, it means their Masajid or mosques.

The injunction of having a separate place for making a Mihrab in Masajid

As far as the blessed period of the Holy Prophet ﷺ and the rightly-guided Khulafa' is concerned, the custom of making the place where the Imam stands as a separate special unit just did not exist. After the early centuries of Islam, the kings promoted this custom for their security and, among common Muslims, it found currency due to the expedient consideration that the whole row where the Imam stands remains empty. It is in view of the large number of people praying in the congregation of masajid already short on space that only a place for the Imam to stand is made by going in depth toward the wall facing the Qiblah so that full rows could be formed behind him. Since this method did not prevail during the early centuries of Islam, some ` Ulama' have dubbed it as bid'ah (innovation in the established religious practice of Islam). Shaykh Jalaluddin as-Suyuti' has written a regular treatise entitled: I` lam-ul-'Aranib fi Bid` atil-Maharib on this issue. However, the correct position in this matter is that, should mihrabs of this nature be made for the convenience of the people praying, and in the best interests of the masjid - without taking it to be the desired Sunnah - then, there is no reason to call it a bid'ah (innovation in established religion). Yes, if this is made to be the desired Sunnah, and whoever does anything against it gets to be censured, then, this excess (ghuluww) can make such an action fall under the purview of bid'ah.

Ruling

If mihrab is made in the form of a regular place for the Imam to stand and lead the prayers, it is incumbent on the Imam that he stands slightly outside the mihrab in a manner that his feet remain out of the mihrab, so that the place in which the Imam and the muqtadis (those praying behind the Imam) can be counted as one. Otherwise, reprehensible and impermissible is the situation in which the Imam stands alone in a separate place and the rest of the muqtadis, in another. Some masajid would make a mihrab so spacious that it would be good enough to hold a small row of muqtadis within it. In a mihrab such as this, should a row of muqtadis also stand in the mihrab and the Imam stands ahead of them, being fully inside the mihrab, then, because of the Imam and the muqtadis being on common grounds, the element of harahah (reprehensibility) will no more be there.

The next word: تَمَاثِیل (tamathil, translated above as 'images' ) is the plural form of: J (timthal). It appears in the Arabic Lexicon, al-Qamus, that: تِمثَال (timthal) with a fathah on the letter: sUi (ta' is a verbal noun, and the word: تِمثَال (timthal) with a kasrah on the letter: اَلتَاء (ta) denotes a picture. In Ahkam-ul-Qur'an, Ibn-ul-` Arabi has said that timthal, that is, a picture is of two kinds: (1) The picture of animate and living things, (2) that of inanimate and lifeless things. After that, inanimate things are further divided in two kinds: (1) Jamad or inorganic in which there is no increase and growth, such as, rock or soil, (2) nami or organic in which increase and growth go on, such as, trees and crops. The Jinns used to make pictures of all kinds of these things for Sayyidna Sulayman (علیہ السلام) . To begin with, the very generality of the Qur'anic word: تَمَاثِیل (tamathil: images) lends support to the view that these pictures were not those of some particular kind, instead, were common to all kinds. Then there are the historical narratives in which the presence of the pictures of birds on the throne of Sayyidna Sulayman (علیہ السلام) has also been mentioned.

The prohibition of making and using pictures of the living in Shari’ ah

The cited verse (12) tells us that making and using pictures of the living was not haram (forbidden) in the Shari` ah of Sayyidna Sulayman (علیہ السلام) . But, experience bore out that pictures of people were made among past communities to pay homage to them, then they were put in their houses of worship to serve as reminders of their devotion in the hope that it might enable them too to devote likewise. This did not happen. Gradually, what really happened was that these people made these very pictures the objects of their worship and thus began the worship of idols and icons.

In short, the pictures of the living creatures made in past communities became the conduit of idol-worship. Since it is divinely destined that the Shari` ah of Islam must stay and survive right through the Day of Judgment, therefore, particular attention has been paid there to block the intrusion of the undesirable. Hence, the way sins and initially haram things have been made unlawful, similarly, their conduits and close causes have also been made unlawful by appending these to main sins and haram things. Of crimes, the real one, and the most serious, happens to be shirk and idol-worship. When this was forbidden, the law of Islam did not leave the ways and means that could smuggle idol-worship in it unchecked. It was boldly and wisely checked when the conduits and close causes of idol-worship were also prohibited. Making and using pictures of the living was made prohibited on this very basis. That it is unlawful stands proved on the authority of the ahadith of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، ahadith that are sound, authentic, and have been transmitted in an uninterrupted succession.

Similarly, when liquor was made haram, also made haram were its buying and selling, wages to deliver or carry it, and its making, everything about it, being the conduits of drinking. When theft was made haram, the very entry in someone's house without permission, in fact, even peeping in from outside the house was prohibited. When zina (fornication, adultery) was made haram, even casting a look intentionally at a non-mahram was also made haram. Comparable examples of it abound in the Shari` ah of Islam.

The prohibition of pictures: A common doubt and its answer

It can be said that the use of pictures during the blessed time of the Holy Prophet ﷺ could have become a source of idol-worship. But, in our time, pictures serve many purposes, such as establishing identity of criminals, advertising trademarks, meeting friends and relatives, investigating events and circumstances and so many other things. For this reason, it has been included in one of the necessities of life. In this, the apprehension of any idol-worship is far too remote to conceive. As such, this prohibition that was made to offset the danger of idol-worship should now be lifted.

Answer to this doubt is that First of all, it is not correct to say that, in our time, pictures are no more a source of idol-worship. Even today, there are so many sects and groups who worship their peers. Then, it is not necessary either that the wisdom behind an operative divine order should be found in every individual case. In addition to that, the sole reason for the prohibition of pictures is not that it is a conduit of idol-worship. In fact, there are Sahih (sound and authentic) ahadith in which other reasons for this prohibition have also been given. For example, picture making is a duplication of the special attribute of Allah Ta’ ala. The name: مُصَوَّر (musawwir: the giver of form, shape, color and real presence) is one of the most beautiful names of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ ala, and making of pictures (and the giving of form, shape and presence) is, in reality, befitting for Him and it lies within His power to create among His creations thousands in terms of genus, race, class, category and kinds with millions and billions of living units in each kind, each different in shape. Take the example of human beings. The form and shape of men is different. So is the form and shape of women. There have been billions of individual men and women. None of them were absolutely like anyone else. The distinct features of every person are so manifest that an onlooker would easily recognize him without much hesitation. Who can claim to give the creatures such marvelous shapes other than Allah Almighty? A human being who makes a picture, or painting, or statue of someone living is claiming, for all practical purposes, that he or she too can make (the same) 'images.' Therefore, it appears in the Sahih of al-Bukhari and in other ahadith that, on the Day of Judgment, those who make pictures will be told: When you have tried to imitate Us, make the imitation perfect too - if you have the power to do so. We did not simply make an image. We have invested it with a spirit too. If you claim to have 'created' it, then, you better put a spirit inside the thing you have 'made’. Another reason why a picture is prohibited appears in Sahih ahadith where it is said that the angels of Allah hate pictures and dogs. Angels do not enter the house that has these, because of which, the bliss and radiance of the house is gone, and the ability of the inmates to worship and remain obedient to Allah is reduced. Then, along with it, not so wrong is the well-known saying: خانہ خالی را دیو می گیرد (A vacant house is occupied by demons). So, when some house remains unvisited by angels of mercy, who else but the devils and demons will be all over it staying there to sow scruples of sins first and then give the intention and the courage to fall into them.

Yet another reason appearing in some ahadith is that pictures are unnecessary embellishment of this world. Of course, in our time, pictures yield many benefits but thousands of crimes, including those that range between immodesty and pornography, also breed and flourish from these very pictures. In short, it is not simply one reason alone that was made basis for its prohibition, rather, there is a host of reasons why the Shari'ah of Islam has declared it prohibited to make and use pictures of the living. Now, if we were to suppose that there is some particular person in whom those causes are not found, then, from this stray incidence, the rule of the Shari'ah cannot change.

According to a narration from Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Masud ؓ appearing in the .Sahih of al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Holy Prophet ﷺ has been reported to have said:

اَشَدُّ النَّاسِ عَذَاباً یَّومَ القِامۃ المُصَوِّرُونَ

Of people the most affected by punishment on the Day of Judgment shall be the makers of pictures.

And in some other narrations of Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ t has been reported to havb cursed the makers of pictures. Then, a narration from Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ appearing in the two Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim reports that the Holy Prophet ﷺ t said:

کُلُّ مُصَوِّرِ فِی النَّارِ

Every maker of pictures will be in the Jahannam.

This humble writer has put together detailed evidences concerning this issue from the narrations of Hadith and the practice of the early forbears of Islam in his treatise entitled, At-taswir li-ahkam-it-taswir.

Also included in it, there are answers to doubts entertained by people. If needed, please consult.

A photograph is also a picture

Some people argue that a photo is outside the definition of taswir or picture, because it is a shadow, or reflection, as it would appear in mirror or water. So, they would argue, the way it is permissible to look at yourself in a mirror, in the same way, a photo picture is also permissible. But this argument is absolutely wrong, because a reflection or shadow is a reflection until it has not been made to last through some device. Take the example of mirror or water. Your reflection in it will be gone once you move away from it. If the reflection of this figure were to be made lasting through the use of some chemical process or device, this very thing will become a picture, the forbiddance and prohibition of which stands proved from ahadith appearing in an uninterrupted succession. A detailed discussion relating to the issue of photographs has also been included in my treatise on pictures referred to earlier.

The next word: جِفَان (jifan, translated in the text as 'basins' ) is the plural of: جَفنَۃ (jafnah) which means a large dish-like pan or tub to hold ample supply of water, and the word: اَلجَوِاب (aljawab, translated above as 'tanks' ) in: کَالجَوَابِ (kaljawab) is the plural of: جاَبِیَۃ (jabiyah). A small water tank is called: جابیہ (jabiyah). The sense is that they would make water-storing utensils so large as would hold water equal to that of a small tank. The first of the next two words: قُدُور (qudur, translated above as 'cook-wares' ) is the plural of: قِدر (qidr) which is spelt with the Kasrah of the letter: القَاف (qaf). It means a pot (to boil or cook. The last of the two words: رَاسِیَات (rasiyat, translated as 'fixed at their place' ) refers to their state as being set where they were. The sense is that they used to make these cauldrons so huge and heavy that they were virtually immovable - and it is also possible that they would have made these cauldrons fixed on the ovens of solid rock, and therefore they were immovable in that respect. Early Tafsir authority, Dahhak has given this very explanation of these words.

In verse 13: اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرً‌ا وَقَلِيلٌ مِّنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ‌ (Do good, 0 family of Dawud, in thankfulness. And few from My slaves are thankful." [ 34:13]), after having stated that Sayyidna Dawud and Sulayman (علیہما السلام) were particularly blessed by Allah Ta’ ala, they and their family and children have been ordered to remain grateful.

The reality of Shukr (gratitude) and its injunctions

According to Al-Qurtubi, the reality of shukr (gratitude) is that one admits that this blessing has been bestowed by such and such giver and then goes on to use it in consonance with the spirit of his pleasure and in obedience to him. Therefore, using the blessing bestowed by someone counter to his pleasure is ungratefulness and a virtual denial of that blessing. This tells us that the way gratefulness can be in words, it can also be expressed by acts. When expressed by acts, it would mean the use of that blessing in accordance with the pleasure of the giver and in obedience to him. Abu 'Abdur-Rahman As-Sulami has said that Salah is gratitude, fasting is gratitude, and every good deed is gratitude. And Muhammad Ibn Ka'b al-Qurazi says that gratitude is the name of piety and righteous conduct. (Ibn Kathir)

In the verse under study, the noble Qur'an could have used the comparatively brief expression اَشکُرُونِی (ushkuruni: thank Me), but the words used are اعْمَلُوا شُكْرً‌ا ‌ Perhaps this expression is adopted to release the hint that the gratitude expected from the House of Dawud was gratitude in practice. (The translation in the text has taken care of this hint by saying, 'Do good....' )

This injunction was carried out so faithfully by Sayyidna Dawud and Sulayman (علیہما السلام) and their families and children, both in word and deed, that no time passed in their homes when they did not have an individual member of the family standing exclusively devoted to worship. In fact, specific time was allotted to all family members for this purpose. As a result, the prayer mat of Sayyidna Dawud (علیہ السلام) would not remain unoccupied at any time by one or the other maker of prayer. (Ibn Kathir)

According to Hadith in al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that the dearest prayer to Allah is that of Dawud (علیہ السلام) . He would sleep half of the night, stand in worship for one third of it, and then, sleep -during the last one sixth. And the dearest fasts to Allah are the fasts of Dawud علیہ السلام ، for he would fast on alternate days. (Ibn Kathir)

It has been reported from Fudayl (رح) that following the revelation of this command of gratitude to Sayyidna Dawud (علیہ السلام) ، he submitted before Allah Ta’ ala: '0 my Lord, how could I show my gratitude to You fully and sufficiently while my gratitude too, be it oral or practical, is nothing but a blessing bestowed by You? On this too, a separate gratitude becomes due.' Allah Ta’ ala said, اَلاٰنَ شَکَرتنِی یَا داؤدُ (Now, 0 Dawud, you did thank Me). The reason was that he had realized his inability to thank Him as was His due, and had made a confession to that effect.

Tirmidhi and Abu Bakr al-Jassas (رح) report from Sayyidna ` Ata' Ibn Yasar ؓ that when this verse: اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرً‌ا (Do good, 0 family of Dawud, in thankfulness) was revealed, the Holy Prophet ﷺ came to the pulpit, recited this verse and then said, "There are three acts whoever accomplishes them would achieve the same excellence as was bestowed on the House of Dawud." The noble Sahabah asked: "Ya RasulAllah, what are those three acts?" He said, "Staying firm on justice in states of pleasure and displeasure both; and taking the path of moderation in states of prosperity and adversity both; and fearing Allah both in private and in public." (Qurtubi, Ahkam ul-Quran, al-Jassas)

In the last sentence of verse وَقَلِيلٌ مِّنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ‌ soon after having given the command for gratitude with special emphasis, the reality on ground was also pointed to by saying that 'And few from My slaves are thankful.' which is an admonition for a believer, and an incitement to observe gratitude.