Drawing Funny Caricatures of People

First of all, we would like to refer to the fact that one of the basic Islamic morals is to avoid mocking others and rendering them a laughing-stock of others. Such thing is likely to breed enmity and sow the seeds of hatred among people. Referring to this, Allah Almighty says: “O ye who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith. And whoso turneth not in repentance, such are evil doers.” (Al-Hujurat: 11)
This fact is highly stressed by Dr. `Abdul-Fattah `Ashoor, professor of Qur’anic Exegesis at Al-Azhar University, as he says:
“In Islam, playfulness and humour are governed by certain parameters and moral ethics. Such thing, for instance, should not represent, address, or refer to a certain person in a way that makes him a source of mockery by others, for this may ignite enmity, and disseminate envy among people.”
Elaborating more on this point, the well-known Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states the following:
“It is not permissible, as far as Islam is concerned, to mock a certain person as Allah Almighty says: “O ye who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are…”
However, this should be distinguished from other forms of playfulness resorted to by the press and with which some people’s manners and conduct are put in focus. Thus, if the aim of such artistic portrayal of people is to criticize false ideas, to change perverted behaviour, then there is nothing wrong in using that. But, we have to emphasize that such things should be restricted to the norm of necessity, and it should be carried out without any violation to the basic Islamic principles.”
Tackling the issue of drawing caricatures and the conditions that are supposed to govern them, Sheikh Faisal Mawlawi, deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, adds:
“Caricatures that are common in today’s newspapers try in some cases to portray a person in a way that his physical features are altered. Such a procedure is permitted if the following conditions are met:
Drawing funny caricatures of a person should not be intended to mock the person himself or to defame or inflict harm on him. Rather, such drawings should aim at criticizing an action rather than its doer. It is reported in Sahih Muslim that `Abdullah Ibn Sargas used to say “I saw the bald man kissing the stone”, and people saw nothing wrong in that saying. It stands to reason that the previous fact is based on the well known Prophetic hadith, which states that “Actions are based on the intentions behind them, and every one shall have but that which he intended…”
There should be a distinction between ordinary persons (i.e. the general public), and people at the helm. People in authority are trusted to pay attention to the common weal and people’s public interests. However, if those people are inattentive to daily corruption and fail to play the positive role that they should assume, then there is nothing wrong in criticizing them through caricature. As long as it is permitted to criticize the actions of those people through legal channels, then there is nothing wrong in drawing caricature of a person with a caption, as long as the Islamic rules are applied.”