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Last Updated: 2007/09/18
Summary of question
What is the Islamic law about looking at pictures of a Muslim and non-Muslim woman without modest dress?
What is the Islamic law about looking at pictures of a Muslim and non-Muslim woman without modest dress?
Concise answer
The rules applicable to seeing or looking at a non-mahram woman are not applicable to looking at a non-Mahram woman's picture or watching such women's video unless the later is broadcast live. Therefore, if one does not seek to derive pleasure and he does not have lustful intention, and it is it is not feared that he might fall into  a sin and the picture also does not belong to a Muslim woman whom he might know, then there would be no problem in looking at it.
It has to be noted that as per the Islamic and juridical law, there is no problem in looking at such pictures without lustful intention. However, morally or psychologically speaking, it is necessary to avoid seeing such things because they are likely to sow the seeds of moral deviation and indecency in a person.  There are narrations from our noble religious leaders i.e. the Imams and the Prophet, peace be upon him and his family, who said:  There are doubtful things between lawful and unlawful things which most people do not know anything about. One who stays away from such doubtful things is sure to be saved (from the fire) and he who indulges in doubtful things will end up falling into haram. He is like a shepherd who allows his sheep to graze on the border line of other people's land or field. It is likely that they might get into their fields… The conclusion we can draw is that we should try to keep away from such things.[1]
An answer given to the above question by His Eminence, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani (may Allah grant him long life) is as under: It is absolutely forbidden to look at a non-mahram woman's picture with lustful intention. It is also haram to watch or look at all parts of a non-mahram woman's body parts except the face and hands up to the wrists.

[1] Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol.17, p. 324; Students' Book of Islamic Laws, Sayyid Mujtaba Husseini, p. 198; Tawzih al-Masail of Maraje', vol.2, p. 971.
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