It goes without saying that selling newspapers and magazines is basically permissible. But it is rendered prohibited if it leads to psychological, rational or social degeneration, such as girlie magazines that spread immorality and depravity and call for undermining all religious and moral values in the society.

Newspapers and magazines are genuine media means, intended for enhancing culture and enlightenment. They have moreover become among the basic needs, to the extent that man cannot do without them. Man needs to be aware of what takes place in his local area as well as the whole world around him. That is why newspapers and magazines are considered basic needs nowadays.

Hence, selling papers and magazines is originally permissible. This is based on the verse that reads: “…whereas Allah permitteth trading and forbiddeth usury.” (Al-Baqarah: 275) Selling papers and magazines is a form of transaction, and all forms of transactions are permissible so long as they conform with the Islamic regulations, contribute to people welfare and protect them from dangers which they may see as good for them, for Allah knows best about what may be of benefit to His servants.

Sheikhul-Islam, Imam Ibn Taymiyah, states: “Peoples deeds are of two kinds: acts of worship that pertain to their religion and help them be secure in the Hereafter, and transactions necessary for running the affairs of this world. Referring to principles of Shari`ah, we find out that acts of worship that are enjoined in Shari`ah are decreed by Allah Almighty. Transactions, on the other hand, are dealings which people need in everyday life.

Transactions are intrinsically permissible as they are not defined or enjoined by Divine Decree. Prohibited transactions are those which involve things prohibited by Allah Almighty. In other words, Shari`ah states both Allah’s orders and prohibitions. Acts of worship are explicitly enjoined by Allah. However, what is not decreed by Allah is not rendered prohibited. Rather it is considered permissible unless it violates the orders of Allah, in which case it falls under prohibition.”

The prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi adds (citing the views of Imam Ibn Taymiyah):

“Shari`ah dictates the manners of everyday life in eating, drinking, dressing, etc., as well as the ethics of transactions like buying and selling, donation, rent and so on. Transactions that involve harm whatsoever are prohibited; urgent and indispensable transactions are allowed as part of life necessities; improper transactions are rendered blameworthy, while those bringing about social welfare are commendable.

So, people are permitted to undertake commercial dealings so long as they do not violate Shari`ah. They are also permitted to consume anything so long as they keep away from things prohibited by Shari`ah. In between the lawful and the prohibited are some things commendable and others blameworthy. Any thing that is not specified by Shari`ah to be neither lawful or prohibited is taken to be originally permissible.”

It is now clear that the act of selling papers and magazines is permissible, unless it involves something that violates the original ruling. Such are like magazines that give vent air to ideologies that aim at demolishing the message of Islam or distorting its image. These also negatively affect rational thinking as they falsify what is true and illusively clothe falsehood in a fake cloak of truth. Such kind of distortion should be avoided in order to preserve man’s intellect. This is one of the five basic articles that have to be preserved: religion, intellect, soul (life), offspring and property.

Preserving one’s intellect is not restricted to shunning intoxicants. Rather, it involves all that may harm the mind physically or morally. Hence it is impermissible to sell magazines that spread perverted acts and enhance vices and immorality in the society. However, this is an exception from the original ruling which legalizes selling papers and magazines.

Prohibiting such immoral magazines is an act of warding off evil and combating immorality, and this is one of the elevated objectives of the Islamic message. Allah Almighty tells us about the description of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as given in the Previous Divine Scriptures saying: “ Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear.” (Al-A`raf:157)

Some people may argue that such kind of magazines is not at all harmful. Rather, they contain necessary aspects of culture, enhance in building up character. We’ll have to tell them what they claim is no more than an act of falsifying the truth. The harm involved by selling and reading such pornographic magazines is undeniable. This is agreed upon by people of sound intellect and high morality. Spreading vice is explicitly prohibited in the Qur’an, Allah says: “Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not.” (An-Nour: 19)

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, explained that one of the most essential functions of Islam is to purify the human soul and enable it amount to the peaks of nobility and purity. Explaining the very aim of his mission, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says: “I have been sent for the very aim of perfecting the morals good conduct.”
Imam Ibn-Al-Qayyem considered the main objective of Shari`ah to be people’s welfare and protection against any harm. So any deed that involves harm to anybody does not conform with the teachings of Shari`ah, i.e. it is rejected.

To put it in a nutshell, we conclude that working as a news vendor is originally permissible, since it is a lawful way of earning living. But it is considered prohibited if newspapers and magazines are used as means of spreading immorality and degeneration on intellectual levels. Publishing photos of unveiled women, let alone naked or semi-naked women, is totally prohibited. Yet there is nothing wrong in selling papers which publish a story about certain important incident and, inadvertently, publish a photo which is integral for the story and in the same time avoiding unveiling the woman in the photo.”

Almighty Allah knows best.