Question: Your Eminence, I know that your time is precious, but I have to relate my problem to you in detail, so your Fatwaa (legal opinion issued by a qualified Muslim scholar) will be compatible with my actual situation, because, as far as I know, explaining the problem is as important as the Fatwaa itself. In brief, I am a graduate from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Cairo. I used to work as an artist to earn my living; drawing pictures on papyrus. This type of paper is expensive, even without drawings,and even more expensive with drawings. I used to draw pharaonic pictures of men, women, and birds. I used to live like so many Muslims, not knowing anything about Islam, except its name. I did not perform any of the Islaamic acts of `Ibaadah (worship), such as Salaat (Prayer) or any other type of worship. But Allaah (Glorified and Exalted be He) favored me with guidance and commitment to the Deen (religion) and enabled me to follow its Sharee`ah (Islaamic law). I hope that I will obtain Allaah’s Pardon from the Fire, enjoy His Mercy, and be among those who will be admitted to Paradise. I started to change my lifestyle, in accordance with the Sharee`ah of Allaah (Glorified and Exalted be He), but I did not know the ruling of Islaam on Tasweer (painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography). In the wave of detentions that swept Egypt, I was arrested just like any bearded young man was. I was arrested on 4/9/1981 at the Masjid (mosque) in my village during Jumu`ah (Friday) Prayer and sent to prison until 20/1/1983 – all praise be to Allaah in all cases. What is important is that while I was in prison, I learned from knowledgeable brothers that Tasweer is Haraam (prohibited), and consequently, the money that I earned from Tasweer was Haraam, and that I would have to change my work when I was released from prison.
All praise be to Allaah, I am now working as a calligrapher, writing signs and other such things. However, I am now asking for a Fatwaa, because I have some papyrus that I bought, which is worth around 800 Egyptian Pounds, that has pictures on it, and I paid for the paint to draw those pictures. I did this before I knew the Islaamic ruling on Tasweer, as I did this before I was arrested. I used to sell the pictures to European tourists, who were non-Muslims, but I still own some of these pictures now, as I was arrested beforeselling them. Following my release from prison, I am in dire need of money to repay the money my family borrowed to support me while I was in prison and also to pay the original cost of the paper. I support a family of four brothers, but I cannot save money from my current work and I have also made the intention to marry from the money I earn through this work. Should I sell these pictures and use the money, as I mentioned to Your Eminence, or would this money be Haraam, because it would be gained from the selling of Haraam pictures? It should be borne in mind that I sell these pictures to foreigners.
Answer: It is obligatory for you to erase the pictures of beings with a soul that you have, as you cannot benefit from them at all. As to the sheets of paper themselves, you may benefit from them by selling them or drawing on them – but not living beings with souls… read more here.