Consensus of Scholars and Ulemas on study and research of robots

25 Oct 2018 Ref-No#: 1104

I am a graduate student who would like to continue his study/research in the field of robotics. The research in the field of robotics has reached a point where the invention of intelligent and smart robots who are self-aware and self-conscious is possible. For example, humanoid robots which is research on human + robots, creating robots in the form of humans to help humans. Even in the form of animals like spiders, ants or dogs are actively being researched. It can even comprise of bionics, which is operating on patients with the help of robots, meaning robotic arms, hands and fingers. And also prosthetic limbs/arms which have built-in automatic functions. My first question, what does Islam say about robotics. Second question, can a Muslim 1) study robotics as his undergraduate/graduate research 2) Work as a researcher in robotics industry 3) Work in a company which deals with robotics but himself/herself doesn’t work on robotics directly, purely with the intention to benefit/help mankind. Third question, and if it is allowed then, a murder or any kind of sin committed by a robot because of an unintentional human error is it same as the person who help build it is himself/herself committing in Islam?

Answer

Wa’alaykum as Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

A robot is merely a machine made of advanced technology and software to provide it with artificial intelligence in order to make it carry out certain tasks. The actions of the robot could either be good or bad. There were already discussions at the Davos World Economic Forum to determine the feasibility of using robots in wars.

From an Islamic perspective, Islam does not prohibit technology or scientific advancements.  It is due to technology that our lives have been made much easier than before. Thus, we find many instruments which simulates intelligence and assist humans in carrying out their chores.

An issue which does affect the permissibility of robots is that if the robots are in a form of animate objects, then it will fall under the prohibition outlined in the following:

عن عائشة رضى الله عنها عن النبي صلي الله عليه وسلم قال: إن أصحاب هذه الصور يعذبون يوم القيامة، ويقال لهم: أحيوا ما خلقتم (متفق عليه)

‘Aaisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrates: Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “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 and Sahih Muslim)

In another narration Saeed bin Abi al-Husain (may Allah be pleased with him) relates,

  عن سعيد بن أبي الحسن قال كنت عند ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما إذ أتاه رجل فقال يا أبا عباس إني إنسان إنما معيشتي من صنعة يدي وإني أصنع هذه التصاوير فقال ابن عباس لا أحدثك إلا ما سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول سمعته يقول من صور صورة فإن الله معذبه حتى ينفخ فيها الروح وليس بنافخفيها أبدا فربا الرجل ربوة شديدة واصفر وجهه فقال ويحك إن أبيت إلا أن تصنع فعليك بهذا الشجر كل شيء ليس فيه روح (متفق عليه)

“I was with Ibn Abbaas when a person came to him and asked, ‘Oh Ibn Abbaas, I am a person whose livelihood is attained from manual work. I also draw pictures.’ Ibn Abbaas replied, ‘Whoever makes a picture, Allah will punish him and force him to blow life into that picture but he will never be able to blow any life into it.’ The person  and his face turned pale, Ibn Abbaas (May Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him) turned to him and said, ‘If you really have to draw then draw a tree or anything which has no soul.”  (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

ومن أظلم ممن ذهب يخلق خلقا كخلقي ، فليخلقوا ذرة أو ليخلقوا حبة أو ليخلقوا شعيرة (متفق عليه)

“Who is more oppressive than one who tries to create like My creation? Let him try to create a speck of dust, or a mustard seed, or a grain of barley!” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

From the afore-mentioned it is clear that if the machine is made in the shape of any animate object (human, animals, insects etc), then it is forbidden, and comes under the stern warnings that are stated above. For it to be permissible, there should be no face. Or, the features of the face (mouth, nose and eyes) should not be visible.

As for the researching and studying if robots, then that it permissible and there is no problem at all. Likewise, it is permissible to work in a company which deals with robots with the intention to benefit mankind, as long as you have no role in sculpturing the facial features of the robot.

One will not be accountable for any errors or misuse of a robot.

Having said all the above, we always keep in mind that no matter how far man advances in the field of technology, he will never be able to make anything that is  even close to the creation of Allaah.

فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ (سورة المؤمنون – 14)

“So Blessed is Allaah, the Best of all creators” (Surah al-Muminoon, 14)

References

وَقَدِ اتَّفَقَ الْفُقَهَاءُ عَلَى أَنَّ صَنْعَةَ التَّصَاوِيرِ الْمُجَسَّدَةِ لإِنْسَانٍ أَوْ حَيَوَانٍ: حَرَامٌ عَلَى فَاعِلِهَا، سَوَاءٌ أَكَانَتْ مِنْ حَجَرٍ أَمْ خَشَبٍ، أَمْ طِينٍ أَمْ غَيْرِ ذَلِكَ … ، وَكَمَا يَحْرُمُ صُنْعُ هَذِهِ الأْشْيَاءِ، يَحْرُمُ بَيْعُهَا وَاقْتِنَاؤُهَا (الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية –  7 / 8)

وإن كان التمثال مقطوع الرأس، فليس بتمثال (المحيط البرهاني – 309 / 5)

وإذا كان التمثال مقطوع الرأس ” أي ممحو الرأس ” فليس بتمثال ” لأنه لا يعبد بدون الرأس (الهداية – 65 / 1)

وظاهر كلام النووي في شرح مسلم الإجماع على تحريم تصويره صورة الحيوان وأنه قال قال أصحابنا وغيرهم من العلماء تصوير صور الحيوان حرام شديد التحريم وهو من الكبائر لأنه متوعد عليه بهذا الوعيد الشديد المذكور في الأحاديث يعني مثل ما في الصحيحين عنه – صلى الله عليه وسلم – «أشد الناس عذابا يوم القيامة المصورون يقال لهم أحيوا ما خلقتم» ثم قال وسواء صنعه لما يمتهن أو لغيره فصنعته حرام على كل حال لأن فيه مضاهاة لخلق الله تعالى وسواء كان في ثوب أو بساط أو درهم ودينار وفلس وإناء وحائط وغيرها  (البحر الرائق – 2/ 29)

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