Language Options:





What is the ruling of building monuments or memorials as remembrance for certain events?



Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

It’s undeniable that our country Malaysia has experienced numerous incidents of tests and tribulations such as the tragedies of MH370, MH17 and the great flood in Kelantan which were unforgettable dark tragedies. Following these tragedies, there are suggestions to build monument or memorial for them. Hence, this issue is presented to the Office of Mufti of Federal Territories.

In the above stated issue, it is best to first understand the meaning of the term monument or memorial itself.

According to the 4th edition of Kamus Dewan, monument is any building (idols and others) in remembrance of someone or something important, monument. While the meaning of memorial is anything that is built to remember a historical figure or events.

According to the above definition, it is clear that it means any building or construction in remembering someone or some important event.

The Decision of National Muzakarah Fatwa and Its Explanation

Let us refer to the decision made by the National Muzakarah Fatwa. The 86th National Council Fatwa Committee on Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia which was held on 21-23rd April 2009 discussed the Ruling of Building Memorial Monument for Soldiers. The Muzakarah has decided that Islam prohibit its ummah from practising anything that has elements of shirk or resembling the jahiliyyah practise, excessive and wasteful.

Hence, Islam prohibits the act of building, carving or sculpting any type of idol, whether it is in human or animal form for the purpose of worship, remembrance or others.

However, if the build is a sign of remembrance that only consist of names and shape or form other than human or animal, the Muzakarah has agreed that it is permissible as long as it is not a waste of resources and does not include any elements of worship and practises that contradicts the syarak.

Events such as memorial service which includes supplication, recitation of Yasin and tahlil is prohibited from being conducted in front of the build but in a separate place such as a mosque or other building commemorating the event.

Guideline for Building and Managing Memorial Plains and Others in Islamic Perspective


There are numerous hadiths that prohibit and restrict the act of carving and keeping idols for whatever purpose with the exception of children’s toys. Among them is:

لاَ تَدْخُلُ المَلاَئِكَةُ بَيْتًا فِيهِ كَلْبٌ، وَلاَ صُورَةُ تَمَاثِيلَ

“The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or an image of an animate being.”

Sahih al-Bukhari (2106)

From Abdullah, he said, I heard the Prophet PBUH said:

إِنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَذَابًا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ القِيَامَةِ المُصَوِّرُونَ

“The people who will receive the severest punishment from Allah will be the picture makers.”

Sahih al-Bukhari (5950)

Imam al-Nawawi in his book al-Minhaj Syarh Sahih Muslim state that painting animals is prohibited and is considered as a great sin for trying to imitate the creation of Allah. As for painting trees or plants and inanimate objects, then it is permissible. Islam prohibits carving or building idols even if it is for the non-Muslims.

In determining the permissibility or prohibition of an act, the method of Saddu az-Zarai’ should be taken into consideration for if it is implemented, will it lead to more harm or greater damage, then if it does, it should be stopped.

Apparently, any building of structures such as monuments, cenotaph and others as a remembrance. This practice is prohibited in Islam if these structures is of human or animal carvings. Any forms of carvings, if its purpose is to be honoured and wasteful, then it is prohibited in Islam. However, if it is just a normal structure or just carvings of words as a remembrance of a historical event which are not excessive, then it is not restricted.

The practice of building monuments is actually passed down from the practice of the colonizers. Events such as meditation, singing, the Rouse and placing flower garlands in front of monuments contain elements of shirk and is prohibited in Islam.

The practice of building memorials if left without certain guidelines will continue and be uncontrollable in the future. A specific guideline should be made ensuring certain remembrance is permissible without it being wasteful.

Fatwas issued previously regarding “Last Post”, meditation of bowing one’s head for 20 seconds, placing flower garlands, recitation of poems, singing and the Rouse should be retained.


Generally, building of statues or memorials in the form of complete or mostly completed humans or animals is prohibited. Regarding statues of which have been damaged such as a person without a head, then it is permissible according to the majority of scholars. However, there are scholars who are firm and state that it is still prohibited, such as Imam Mutawalli from madhhab Syafie, stating: “No, there is no difference whether if the statue’s head is cut or not.” This means that building any statues is prohibited. (See al-Fath 12/512)

The same applies to situations of which it is feared it would become a place of worship, meditation or excessively honouring it, then it is prohibited. But if it is just as a remembrance then it is permissible when the parties responsible in building it fulfil the set conditions.

The Wisdom of the Prohibition of Statues

We include the opinion of Dr Yusuf al-Qaradhawi in al-Halal wa al-Haram fi al-Islam, where he stated the wisdom of the prohibition of statues. He said:

First: Among the wisdoms why statues are prohibited, although this is not the only reason, such as the assumption of people which is to protect tauhid and to avoid from acting in a similar way to the idolaters who worshipped idols made from their own hands, where they are then purified and honoured and people would stand in front of these idols bowing in concentration. It is crucial in Islam to protect tauhid from any forms of shirk. Islam is consistent in its effort to always be the right and true path. The reason is, it has happened in previous generations, where they build statues of pious people who passed away and their names are recalled. After a while, bit by bit, these pious people are then carved and revered, which ultimately then be made into figures of god who are worshipped other than Allah SWT; depended on, feared and asked blessings from.

This is what has happened to the people of Wud, Suwa', Yaghuts, Ya'uq and Nasr. It’s normal for a religion which is based on closing the doors to harm to close every opening that may introduce shirk, whether it is clear or vague from entering the mind and heart of its followers or roads that could lead to the resemblance of idolaters and extreme religions. Furthermore, Islam itself is not a law for specific people or time but it is for the whole world of all generations until the last day. The reason is, sometimes something may be considered weird and unacceptable now but may be considered normal in the near or far future.

Second: The wisdom of the prohibition of carving statues for sculptors is so that the sculptor is protected from arrogance due to his ability to create something from soil. The reason is, it usually takes a long time to complete a statue or sculpture and once completed he would stand and look at the statue admiring it as if talking to the statue with arrogance: O statue talk! The Prophet PBUH said:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَصْنَعُونَ هَذِهِ الصُّوَرَ يُعَذَّبُونَ يَوْمَ القِيَامَةِ، يُقَالُ لَهُمْ: أَحْيُوا مَا خَلَقْتُمْ

"Those who make these pictures will be punished on the Day of Resurrection, and it will be said to them. 'Make alive what you have created.'"

Sahih al-Bukhari (5951)

In a qudsi hadith, Allah SWT state:

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنْ ذَهَبَ يَخْلُقُ كَخَلْقِي، فَلْيَخْلُقُوا ذَرَّةً أَوْ لِيَخْلُقُوا حَبَّةً أَوْ شَعِيرَةً

“Who are most unjust than those who try to create something like My creation? I challenge them to create even a smallest ant, a wheat grain or a barley grain.”

Sahih al-Bukhari (5953) and Sahih Muslim (2111)

Third: People who are involved in art do not stop at certain limitations, they would even draw (and carve) naked or half-naked women. They would also draw (and also carve) shirk and other religions’ symbols, such as the cross, idols and others of which the principles are unacceptable in Islam.

Fourth: More than that, all these statues, figurines and sculptures are a symbol of wealth and status for the rich and wealthy, where they would fill their palaces and mansions with these statues, decorating their rooms or designing certain carvings from different symbols. If Islam is persistent in fighting against all types of pretentiousness which includes gold, silver and silk, then it is expected that it also prohibits these statues as a symbol of wealth in the house of Muslims. (See al-Halal wa al-Haram fi al-Islam 179-181)

Several Suggestions on the Building of Monuments and Memorials

If monuments or memorials are to be built, the following are some of our suggestions:

  • Not in the form of statues or figures of something. The reason is the consensus of scholars have prohibited it. Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haitami in al-Zawajir state that it is considered as a major sin.
  • There are no pictures that is painted or carved.
  • The structure is not excessive that it would be considered wasteful.
  • A common structure that is not considered as holy or honoured.
  • It is suggested that the structure is built in the form of a high wall or gate.
  • If one wants to paint murals on it, then he should avoid painting any living creatures in the mural.
  • Avoid any forms that are prohibited according to the Muzakarah Fatwa.
  • Paint abstract murals.
  • Set guidelines and regulations for visitors so that it does not contradict the syarak.

When all the conditions are fulfilled, then it is permissible for any parties to build monuments or memorials. Lastly, I would like to state that Islam is particularly concerned regarding anything that could affect a person’s worship and deviate someone from the real teachings of Islam.