CAIRO - Feeling the heat of a fresh debate, the leader of the most influential Muslim religious school in India and South Asia has denied issuing a fatwa that bans photography as un-Islamic.
Darul Uloom does not have powers to ban anything. It is the government that has such powers, Abul Qasim Nomani, the rector of influential Islamic seminary Darul Uloom of Deoband, told Hindustan Times.
Our fatwa department simply issues religious advice when its views are voluntarily sought by an individual for his or her own personal use.
Nomani comments followed reports that he has issued a fatwa saying "photography is unlawful and a sin".
According to media reports, the fatwa came as an answer to a question over the phone from an engineering graduate saying he was passionate about photography and wanted to pursue it as a career.
Answering the question, Nomani has reportedly said, according the Times of India, that "Photography is un-Islamic.
Muslims are not allowed to get their photos clicked unless it is for an identity card or for making a passport, he added.
The Times of India added that Nomani agreed with the fatwa issued by Darul Ifta in Deoband about photography.
"Photography is unlawful and sin. Hadith (recorded Islamic tradition) warns sternly against it. Do not do this course. You should search any suitable job based on your engineering course," reads the fatwa posted on the school's website.
Founded by a group of Indian scholars in 1857 CE, the Deoband is the most influential Muslim intellectual school of thought in South Asia.
The school, which follows that of Imam Abu Hanifah with regard to fiqh and minor issues, has thrust into the spotlight in recent years after it has issued several fatwas denouncing terrorism.
As reports spread about the claimed ban on photography, Nomani said that his fatwa was a religious advice applicable to a person who formally seeks it and a query could be about any aspect of Islam.
If a Muslim in genuine need of advice on Islam's position on such matters were to approach us, then we are duty bound to give the advice, he said.
He refused to directly comment one way or the other on whether photography was un-Islamic.
We can't issue fatwas just for making news, Nomani added.
Despite Nomani's denial, the fatwa found support among All India Muslim Law Personal Board (AIMLPB).
"Islam forbids photographing of humans and animals. Whoever does that will be answerable to God," AIMLPB member Mufti Abul Irfan Qadri Razzaqi told Times of India.
When reminded that Saudis allow it, he said, "Just because they are richer than us doesn't mean they are also correct. If they are allowing photography they will be answerable on the Day of Judgment in the court of God."
Opinion about photography in Islam differs according to Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
"Photography as a medium of communication or for the simple, innocent retention of memories without the taint of reverence/shirk does not fall under the category of forbidden Tasweer, he said.
However, one cannot make an unqualified statement to the effect that all photography is halal. It all depends on the use and function of it.