Question: What is the ruling on taking photos and posting on social media? How does a woman or man need to be clothed in order for it to be okay to post photos?
While posting photos on social media both men and women must be in full observance of hijab rules. You should be covered as if you are in a public place, because your photos -even if you share them by your friends only- may be copied and forwarded to others or seized by third parties.
Normally, it is not forbidden to post your photos on social media, but when we compare our daily physical life to life in virtual environments, there are critical points to consider:
As you know, in daily life, a Muslim man or woman is not allowed to stay alone with a non-mahram person in a closed area without a third person accompanying them. Furthermore, the interaction between a non-mahram man and woman in a public place is regulated by the following verses:
“Tell the believing men to control their gazes and guard their private parts, because that is purer for them. Verily, God is all-aware of what they are trying to do.
And tell the believing women to control their gazes and guard their private parts. Tell them not to uncover their beauty except what is naturally seen. Tell them to put a part of their headscarves onto their chests and not display their beautiful parts except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women attendants, the captives who they are guardians of, the males that have no more sexual desire to women, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. Tell them not to stamp their feet on the ground for their beautiful parts to be noticed. Believers! Turn to God altogether, so that you may attain what you hope for.” (an-Noor 24:30-31)
The command to “control the gazes” is given both to men and women because it is a fact that people emotionally connect through their looks first. If we do not control our gazes, it may take us to the edge of an unlawful relation step by step. It is significant that according to the Quran, not only having unlawful sexual relation (zina) but also approaching it is prohibited:
“Do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse (zina). Indeed, it is an outrageous act and an evil way.” (al-Isra 17:32)
Muslims must observe these principles in their relations in the virtual environment, too. If we adopt these principles to social media, we can say the following:
If the postings on social media cause you to receive direct messages sent by a non-mahram person, which include enticing words, invitations, comments or photos sent by a non-mahram person, then posting photos would not be permissible.
As for the married people, setting up emotional connections with non-mahram people through sending messages, photos, etc. in the virtual environment would be an instance of approaching zina. It would also harm their family.
The singles who cannot find the means to talk face-to-face with the people they want to get to know with the intention of marriage can continue such relations only for a short period until they make their minds. In real life, the period that includes meeting and getting to know each other should be as short as possible since flirting is not an acceptable way of life in Islam. The same applies to the people we meet in the virtual environment. The intention must be marriage and the couple should introduce each other to their families in real life as soon as they make their minds.