Have Pictures of Muhammad Always Been Forbidden?

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by asianobserve, Jan 17, 2015.

  1. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has published an issue which commemorates the victims of last week's shootings in France - using an image of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover. Most Muslims say that pictorial depictions of the founder of Islam are forbidden - but has that always been the case in all of the Muslim world?

    If you set aside for a moment the issue of whether satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are insulting, there's a separate and complicated debate about whether any depiction - even a respectful one - is forbidden within Islam.

    For most Muslims it's an absolute prohibition - Muhammad, or any of the other prophets of Islam, should not be pictured in any way. Pictures - as well as statues - are thought to encourage the worship of idols.

    This is uncontroversial in many parts of the Islamic world. Historically, the dominant forms in Islamic art have been geometric, swirling patterns or calligraphic - rather than figurative art.

    Muslims point to a verse in the Koran which features Abraham, whom they regard as a prophet:

    "[Abraham] said to his father and his people: 'What are these images to whose worship you cleave?' They said: 'We found our fathers worshipping them.' He said: 'Certainly you have been, you and your fathers, in manifest error.'"

    Yet there's no ruling in the Koran explicitly forbidding the depiction of the Prophet, according to Prof Mona Siddiqui from Edinburgh University. Instead, the idea arose from the Hadiths - stories about the life and sayings of Muhammad gathered in the years after his death.

    Siddiqui points to depictions of Muhammad - drawn by Muslim artists - dating from the Mongol and Ottoman empires. In some of them, Muhammad's facial features are hidden - but it's clear it is him. She says the images were inspired by devotion: "The majority of people drew these pictures out of love and veneration, not intending idolatry."

    At what point then, did depictions of Muhammad become haram, or forbidden?

    Many of the images of Muhammad which date from the 1300s were intended only to be viewed privately, to avoid idolatry, says Christiane Gruber, associate professor of Islamic Art at Michigan University. "In some ways they were luxury items, perhaps in libraries for the elite."

    Such items included miniatures which showed characters from Islam.


    Gruber says the advent of mass-circulation print media in the 18th Century posed a challenge. The colonisation of some Muslim lands by European forces and ideas was also significant, she says.

    The Islamic response was to emphasise how different their religion was to Christianity, with its history of public iconography, Gruber argues. Pictures of Muhammad started to disappear, and a new rhetoric against depictions emerged.

    But Imam Qari Asim, of Leeds Makkah Mosque, one of the largest in the UK, denies there has been a significant change. He maintains that the effect of the Hadiths, with their injunctions against any images of living things, is automatically a prohibition on depictions of Muhammad.

    He says the medieval images have to be understood in context. "The majority of these images relate to this particular Night Journey and the ascension to Heaven. There is a ram or a horse. He is on the horse or something like that.

    "The classical scholars have very strongly condemned those depictions as well. But they do exist."

    A key point is that they are not simple portraits of Muhammad. Asim also argues that the subject of many of the images is unclear. There is a question of whether all of these depictions actually intended to portray the Prophet or a close companion involved in the same scene, he suggests.

    Prof Hugh Goddard, director of the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World in the University of Edinburgh, says that there has been a change.

    "There isn't unanimity in either of the foundational sources - the Koran and the Hadiths. The later Muslim community has tended to have different views on this question as on others."

    The Arab scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, whose teachings paved the way for Wahhabism, the dominant form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia, was a key figure.

    "The debate has become much more vigorous - particularly associated with the movement of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. You had suspicion of veneration of anything other than God. That included the Prophet.

    "There has been a significant change over certainly the last 200 years, but probably 300 years."

    The situation is different with sculpture or any other kind of three-dimensional representation, notes Goddard, where the prohibition has always been clearer.

    [​IMG]

    For some Muslims, says Siddiqui, the aversion to pictures has even extended to a refusal to have pictures of any live being - human or animal - in their homes.

    The prohibition against depiction didn't stretch everywhere though - many Shia Muslims appear to have a slightly different view. Contemporary pictures of Muhammad are still available in some parts of the Muslim world, according to Hassan Yousefi Eshkavari, a former Iranian cleric, now based in Germany. He told the BBC that today, images of Muhammad hang in many Iranian homes: "From a religious point of view there is no prohibition on these pictures. These images exist in shops as well as houses. They aren't seen as insulting, either from a religious or cultural viewpoint."

    Differences in approach among Muslims can be seen along traditional Shia/Sunni lines, but Gruber says that those who claim a historical ban has always existed are wrong.

    It's an argument that many Muslims would not accept.

    "The Koran itself doesn't say anything," Dr Azzam Tamimi, former head of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought told the BBC, "but it is accepted by all Islamic authorities that the Prophet Muhammad and all the other prophets cannot be drawn and cannot be produced in pictures because they are, according to Islamic faith, infallible individuals, role models and therefore should not be presented in any manner that might cause disrespect for them."

    He is not convinced by the argument that if there are medieval depictions of Muhammad that suggests there is no absolute prohibition. "Even if it were that would have been condemned by the scholars of Islam."

    BBC News - Have pictures of Muhammad always been forbidden?
     
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  3. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Why do Muslims consider Mohammad as infallible? Did he not kill people? Did he not lust women? Did he not have impure thoughts when he was alive? My hunch was he was just an ordinary bloke like you and me. The only difference was that he has a large amount of charisma that was so convincing to a lot of nomadic ignorant people. He came at the right time and place to start a religion based on voices and visions in his head.

    I have no doubt that if Mohammad started his religion now (by claiming those creative visions of God and paradise and how to live your lives) he will be automatically dismissed as seriously lacking in screw in his head... (the same thing with Jesus Christ, although I think his more humanist worldview is more in step with our times)
     
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  4. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Some more old paintings of the prophet Mohammad from ISlamic sources:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nice find :)
     
  6. Tamil Soldier

    Tamil Soldier Regular Member

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    It's not so much a visual depiction as it is "cursing" or "blaspheming" the prophet. These European cartoonists were trying satire with the intention of provoking a response from the Muslim community, and voila, they got it.

    Only solution would be to ban Muslim immigration and conduct mass deportation of existing residents.
     
  7. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    Literature have always been used to take a dig a societal stigma. Doesnt mean it have to be nice and appeal all audience.
    There is always alternate means.. peaceful protests and like..which are done by other religions..
    But
    Provocation leads to fallout like islamophobia..
     
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  8. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Shias too have paintings but faces are always covered
     
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  9. Tamil Soldier

    Tamil Soldier Regular Member

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    Peaceful protests aren't an "alternative", they should be acknowledged as the norm and all offended peoples should subscribe to it and it alone.

    Muslims think they're above infidels and the law, hence the violent outrage. Hollywood produces blockbuster films about how Jesus had an affair with Mary Magdalene and conceived an illegitimate child, and yet, no amount of anger was enough to impel Christians to kill people.
     
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  10. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    If you dont have truths or facts to instill faith and conviction , you need "Fear" or "Death punishment" to instill faith and conviction.

    Old rule : Convince or Confuse.
    Here confusion is the mother of all fckups
     
  11. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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  12. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Not only Shias, but Sunnis too. There is a Turkish painting with face covered in a veil.
     
  13. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    How old is that painting ? Shias continue this practice till today (they do it for Ali of that I am certain)
     
  14. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    My reasonable guess is these paintings were made by Hui or other eastern Asian Turko-Mongol converts to Islam who had an existing tradition of drawing images and icons.

    I notice the similarity between Muhammad and Ghengiz Khan or Kublai Khan.

    I have earlier posted a picture of a mosque with figures of animals on the building.
     
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  15. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    I said Turkish. Well, it is Ottoman, and they were/are mainly Sunnis.

    [​IMG]
    A 16th-century Ottoman illustration depicting Muhammad at the Kaba. NOTE: Muhammad's face is veiled, a practice followed in the Islamic art since the 16th century. Islam discourages its followers from portraying Muhammad or any other prophet in paintings, sculptures or other artistic representations. To do so can become a form of image worship, i.e., idolatry, and divert one from the true worship of Allah.

    [SOURCE]
     
  16. Redhawk

    Redhawk Regular Member

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    Islam is a religion that obviously takes matters to extremes. Bans on depicting Mohammed or any other "prophet", and what makes a religious figure a prophet, I couldn't tell you, is taking injunctions against idolatry much too far. Clearly, moderation is not a feature of Islamic doctrine or practice.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2015
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  17. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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  18. Redhawk

    Redhawk Regular Member

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    Why wasn't Anthony Quinn gunned down by Moslem fanatics after making this flick? Or the director? Or the screenwriter? Or the producer? Or at the very least, where were the screaming, hysterical mobs all across the Islamic world protesting with screaming rage against the film and its makers for depicting Mohammed on celluloid. That was in 1976 or 1977, yet I can't recall anything of the sort happening in those years.

    We never heard a peep out of Moslems about depictions of Mohammed until 2005 and the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons controversy, see below. Before that, nil! That makes me think that the whole thing was contrived by Moslem extemists and fanatics.

    It is exceedingly strange that Moslems would have waited until 5 years into the 21st century, that is, 2005, to protest about depictions of Mohammed. Why is that? I wonder.

    [​IMG]

    Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons controversy
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2015
  19. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    From the Wiki article:
    Quinn did not play the Prophet in the movie.
     
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  20. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    I have seen it and enjoyed it. See my reply to Redhawk about the permissions sought by the producer, who is a Muslim
     
  21. Redhawk

    Redhawk Regular Member

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    Oh, all right, Anthony Quinn played Hamza, Mohammed's uncle. Below is an excerpt from the Wiki article about the depiction of Mohammed in the film. The character of the story was not depicted nor was his family.

    Wiki: "Whenever Muhammad was present or very close by, his presence was indicated by light organ music. His words, as he spoke them, were repeated by someone else such as Hamza, Zayd or Bilal. When a scene called for him to be present, the action was filmed from his point of view. Others in the scene nodded to the unheard dialogue or moved with the camera as though moving with Muhammad."

    With that sort of direction and effects, it must have been a strange film. As far as religious films go, it must be in the vein of "the greatest story ever told." Take that, Jesus! In the 1965 film, "The Greatest Story Ever Told" Max von Sydow played Jesus but I don't know whether he had "light organ music" to indicate his presence.

     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015

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