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In the Name of God بسم الله
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Acc. to Sayyid Sistani:

‎مسألة 18 : التصوير على ثلاثة أقسام :

‎الأول : تصوير ذوات الأرواح من الإنسان و الحيوان و غيرهما تصويرا مجسما كالتماثيل المعمولة من الخشب و الشمع و الحجر و الفلزات ، و هذا محرم مطلقا على الأحوط . سواء كان التصوير تاما أو ما بحكمه كتصوير الشخص جالسا أو واضعا يديه خلفه أم كان ناقصا ، من غير فرق بين أن يكون النقص لفقد ما هو دخيل في الحياة كتصوير شخص مقطوع الرأس أو لفقد ما ليس دخيلا فيها كتصوير شخص مقطوع الرجل أو اليد ، و أما تصوير بعض بدن ذي الروح كرأسه أو رجله و نحوهما مما لا يعد تصويرا ناقصا لذي الروح فلا بأس به كما لا بأس باقتناء الصور المجسمة و بيعها و شرائها و إن كان يكره ذلك .

‎الثاني : تصوير ذوات الأرواح من غير تجسيم سواء كان بالرسم أم بالحفر أم بغيرهما ، و هذا جائز على الأظهر ، و منه التصوير الفوتغرافي و التلفزيوني المتعارف في عصرنا .

‎الثالث : تصوير غير ذوات الأرواح كالورد و الشجر و نحوهما ، و هذا جائز مطلقا و إن كان مجسما .


Image-making is of three types:

-Making a 3-D model/sculpture of humans or animals is haraam, whether it is a whole or an incomplete one, or one with defects i.e. without a leg or something like that. On the other hand, making an image of a part of the body that does not resemble a "body with defects" like a head or a foot by itself, is permissible. It is also permissible to possess images and buy and sell them, even though it is makrooh.

-Drawing humans, as well as taking pictures of them, is permissible.

-Doing any of the above for inanimate objects such as plants and rocks is permissible.

Regardless as to the legality of making 2D images, portrayal of the ahlul bayt (as) would take on sentiments of its own.

The view as expressed above by Sayyid Sistani (and other scholars as well) would not consider only possessing it to be haram as such, makrooh though. You would not have been allowed to have made it yourself however.

As to the distinction it comes to basic jurisprudential principles. That is, the basic principle applied to understanding the lawfulness of things is to assume lawfulness until prohibition is proven. So, to be able to say any of these forms are prohibited the scholar needs to have adequate proof. Also, you can't generalize the ruling for one thing and apply to something else, you have to be more specific. So in this case here, we can find a number of different scenarios, including:

- a complete three dimensional image of a living creature (e.g. a statue of a person)

- an incomplete three dimensional image of a part of a living creature (e.g. a statue of a hand)

- a three dimensional image of a non-living creature (e.g. a statue of the moon)

- a two dimensional image of the above three things (living creature, part of a living creature, non-living thing) and in different forms, e.g. a painting of them or a photograph of them.

Now, to say any of the above is forbidden, you need proof. And again, you can't generalize without evidence. So for instance, a photograph of a person is a two dimensional image of them. But few would say that is haram to do (which is why I asked the poster above you, who presumably thinks all images are haram).

As to that proof, there are a number of hadiths (both in Sunni and Shi`i collections) that are referred to in this regard, as well as there being a pretty solid precedent amongst the early scholars of something being prohibited here. Some jurist like Sayyid Sistani understand them only to prove the prohibition of making three dimensional images of living things, but some jurists (including Shi`i ones) understand them to include two dimensional images of living things as well. There are some other views as well, though those two are perhaps the most common ones. To see for yourself, here are some of these narrations:


I have not included or distinguished the gradings of the isnads on these traditions. That would be something else the contemporary jurist would likely be considering.

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