Jurists differed about the legal ruling concerning painting pictures of animate beings such as people and animals. The majority of scholars are of the opinion that this is unlawful, while some scholars see that it is lawful, but not recommendable if used as a manifestation of luxurious living.
Anyway, using paintings in media for educational purposes and calling to the right path is not prohibited; it is, rather, praiseworthy in the point of view of Shari`ah, especially if it proves to be interesting to people. But this does not apply if the subject matter of the pictures in question are prohibited in themselves, such as painting figures of wrong doers, tyrants, atheists or nudity.
Dr. Khalid Ibn Abdullah Al-Qassim, a Professor at King Saud University, states the following: Painting pictures of animate beings is controversial among scholars, but the majority are of the opinion that it is prohibited, for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was quoted by Abdullah ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with him) as saying: “The most severely punished among people on the Day of Judgment will be the makers of figures.’ (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Concerning photographs, the majority of contemporary scholars see that they are permitted on the condition that they are not used to glorify their subject matter. Their being permissible is due to the fact that they merely capture the image of real objects without originating them, which means they are not intended to imitate Almighty Allah’s creation.
With respect to using computers in drawing pictures for educational purposes and for the good of the Muslim Ummah as the questioner referred to, it is a praiseworthy effort; the least that can be said about it is that it is not harmful. It was reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) approved of `Aishah’s playing with dolls in the form of animals. (see Sunan Abu Dawud and Fath Al-Bari, vol. 10, p. 527). He (peace and blessings be upon him) also did not criticize `Aishah’s making pillows out of cloth with pictures on it. (see what Al-Bukhari and Muslim reported in this regard)
Moreover, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, also states: I have tackled in detail the legal rulings pertaining to paintings and related work of art in my book The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam). Therein, I clarified that in light of the Shari`ah evidence, I approve of the opinion of some jurists of the predecessors that says that the figures that are prohibited are those which cast shadows (meaning those which are solid), or in other words, statues. This is because this kind of figure imitates Allah’s creation which consists of three-dimensional corporeal beings as He Almighty says: ‘He it is Who fashioneth you in the wombs as pleaseth Him.’ (Aal-`Imran 3:6)
Almighty Allah creates man from a drop of seed, then fashions the drop into a clot, then fashions it into a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, then fashions it into bones and then clothes the bones with flesh, so blessed be Allah the Best of creators.
Almighty Allah also says in a Qudsi hadith: “Who does greater wrong than he who desires to create the like of what I create?”
Hence, it is the figures made by artists in the like of Allah’s creation, that is, three-dimensional beings, that are the point of prohibition in this respect. According to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) the makers of such figures will be punished on the Day of Judgment and will be reproached: “Bring to life what you have created!” But never will they be able to do so.
The only exception in this respect are children’s toys, for they are not intended to be accorded respect. As well as this children find great amusement in playing with dolls that have a human or animal shape.
Based on this, we can conclude that one-dimensional figures do not fall under the category of figures that are prohibited.
With regard to the question in hand, that is, using computers to draw cartoons and paintings for educational purposes, there are some other points that add to its permissibility.
First, the figures drawn here are of special nature; they do not comprise all the features of real beings.
Second, they are used for calling to the right path, as well as for educational and cultural purposes, especially that children find it extremely interesting and watch such programs regularly.
Third, the West has used this method for a long time in inculcating their cultural values into the minds of our children all over the Muslim world to the extent that it has become difficult to make our children dispense with watching it.
To face this cultural invasion, we are to produce for our children an Islamic alternative having the same interesting and educational characteristics. We should make use of this amiable method for both children and teenagers in teaching them moral values and establishing the principles and beliefs of Islam in their souls.
Furthermore, I see that with all the more reason we must engage in the media battle using expressive weapons of our religion, culture, and tradition. It is a collective duty upon our community to enter and master this effective field of art. Committed Muslim artists specialized in this field should spare no effort in producing useful programs and serials of this kind. People in authority and wealthy Muslim people should also help them convey this useful and necessary message. May Almighty Allah bless whoever contributes to this great work.