What is the ruling for personifying the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them) in movies and serials? Does Islam object to arts?
Islam allows purposeful and respectful forms of art
The religion of Islam respects human innate talents and encourages creativity. God created us for a sublime purpose; namely, to worship Him, construct the earth and promote good moral values. The Shari’ah (Islamic Law) allows practicing various forms of arts like acting, painting, poetry and singing as long as they are employed properly for a valid respectful reason and according to the boundaries prescribed by the Law Giver (God). In Islam, the legal maxim states that the means take on the same rulings as their objectives. Based on this, acting is admissible per se provided it aims at presenting good moral values and building sound vigilant mindset and balanced character, in which case it is regarded by Islam as a refined form of art.
On the contrary, if film-makers take on acting, directing, or producing movies which spread indecency, lies, evils, etc., it would indeed be a sin in the sight of God the Almighty due to the immorality and corruption it brings to the communities. In this case, acting is considered impermissible by the Shari’ah for the perversities it involves. Based on this, acting is but a kind of human activity—its good is desirable and its ugly is repugnant.
It is inadmissible in Islam to embody Prophets in movies
Although acting is allowed per se based on the above-mentioned conditions, there is no justification whatsoever for the embodiment of the Prophets and Messengers of God (peace be upon them) due to their lofty stature and infallibility. God’s Prophets and Messengers are the best of all humans, and He raised them high above embodiment by any other human being. Moreover, God ranked them far above Satan’s impersonation in dreams. Abu Hurairah (may God be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Name yourselves with my name (use my name) but do not name yourselves with my Kunya name (i.e. Abu al-Qasim). And whoever sees me in a dream then surely he has seen me for Satan cannot impersonate me. And whoever tells a lie against me (intentionally), then surely let him occupy his place in Hell-fire”(Bukhari and Muslim). This hadith clearly proves that God the Almighty preserves the grandeur of the Prophets (peace be upon them) and protects their message. Satan cannot impersonate the Prophets either in reality or in a dream.
Based on this, it becomes mandatory for Muslims to respect and revert the grandeur of our Prophet and all other Prophets and Messengers of God by refraining from presenting, producing and releasing artworks that personify them. This is because all Prophets and Messengers are highly revered by God and infallible. The lack of knowledge and ignorance may drive some authors to distort or manipulate the biography of any Prophet to achieve personal gains.
It is established in the Shari’ah that preventing harm takes precedence over gaining benefits. So, despite all the benefits film-makers might find in producing movies that personify the Prophets, these works involve real perversities such as manipulating the reality of the Prophets’ biographies and adding irrelevant incorrect information to meet a certain plot written beforehand.
In its 14th session, held on June 30, 1999, of the 35th round, the Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy in Cairo declared in its resolution No. (100) that it is impermissible to embody Prophets, Messengers, the ten Companions who were promised Paradise and the household of Prophet Muhammad in any form of art whether it is theater, movies, serials and the like.
Based on the above and in reference to the question, it is inadmissible and it is an offence to violate the sanctity of the Prophets and Messengers by personifying them in movies or any other artwork. The production of any film on the Prophets is not sanctioned by Islam. Instead, producers and film-makers should work on finding and presenting innovative ideas to introduce the biographies of the Prophets in a manner befitting their grandeur and splendor and avoid causing strife in the Muslim community.
And God the Almighty knows best.