Whether representation – even something respectable – is forbidden in Islam is a complex debate.
For most Muslims, this is an absolute taboo: neither Muhammad nor any other prophet of Islam should be portrayed in any way.
Idols – Idols – are considered to promote idolatry.
This view is undeniable in many parts of the Islamic world.
Historically, the dominant forms of Islamic art were geometric, rotating, or signature forms – rather than metaphorical art.
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Muslims quote a verse from the Qur’an in which they consider Abraham to be a prophet:
[Abraham] They said to their father and to his people, “What are these images you are clinging to? They said, ‘We have seen our forefathers worshiping these things.’
According to Mona Siddiqui, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, no provision in the Quran explicitly prohibits the depiction of the Prophet. Rather, the idea was born out of hadiths, life stories of Muhammad, and words collected in the years following his death.
Siddiqui quotes depictions of Mohammed by Muslim artists – Dating of the Mongol and Ottoman Empires.
In some of them, though Muhammad’s facial expressions are hidden, it becomes clear that he is.
He says these images are inspired by devotion: “The majority of people painted these images with love and reverence, with no intention of idolatry.” When was the depiction of Muhammad forbidden or forbidden?
According to Christian Grooper, an associate professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan, many images of Mohammed from the 1300s onwards should only be viewed in person to avoid idolatry.
“In a way, these are luxury items, perhaps in elite libraries.”
Among these objects were figurines representing the characters of Islam.
According to Ms. Gruber, the emergence of mass-circulation print media in the 18th century was a challenge.
He says it is significant that some Muslim lands were colonized by European powers and ideas.
The response of Muslims is to point out how different their religion is from Christianity, with the history of its public portrait, says Ms. Kruber.
Mohammed’s images began to fade, and a new rhetoric emerged against the depictions.
But Imam Qari Azim of the Mecca Mosque in Leeds, one of the largest mosques in the UK, denies any significant change.
He says that the effect of the hadiths is to automatically ban the representation of Muhammad, with their injunctions against any image of living beings.
According to him, medieval films need to be understood in their context.
“Most of these films are about this particular nocturnal journey and ascension to heaven. There is a lamb or horse. He is on horseback or something.”
“Classical scholars have strongly condemned these depictions as well. But they are.”
One important thing is that these are not simple portraits of Mohammed. Azim also argues that the meaning of many films is not clear.
It is debatable whether all of these depictions are actually intended to depict the Prophet or a close associate involved in the same scene, he suggests.
Says Professor Hugh Goddard, director of the Alwaleed Center for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh.
“There is no consensus on the two founding sources – the Qur’an and the Hadith. The later Muslim community, like everyone else, had different views on this issue.”
The Arab scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was a prominent figure who paved the way for Wahhabism, the dominant form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia.
“The debate is very serious – especially with the movement of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. You were skeptical about worshiping anything other than God, including the Prophet.
“There has certainly been a significant change in the last 200 years, but probably in 300 years.”
The situation is different in sculpture or any other type of three-dimensional representation, Goddard notes, where the barrier is always clear.
Siddiqui says that for some Muslims, hatred of images extends to refusing to keep images of any creature – human or animal – in their home.
The ban on representation has not been extended everywhere, however – many Shia Muslims have a slightly different view.
Contemporary images of Mohammed are still available in some parts of the Muslim world, according to former Iranian cleric Hassan Youssef Eshkowari, now in Germany.
Today, he tells the BBC that pictures of Mohammed are hung in many Iranian homes: “From a religious point of view, there is no restriction on these pictures. These pictures are in shops and at home. They are not considered religious or defamatory. Cultural.”
Differences in attitudes among Muslims can be found in traditional Shia / Sunni ways, but Mr Kruber says those who say there has always been a historical barrier are wrong.
This is an argument that many Muslims do not accept.
Dr Assam Tamimi, a former director of the Islamic Institute of Political Thought, told the BBC: “It is accepted by all Islamic authorities that the Qur’an does not say anything but that the Prophet Muhammad and all the other prophets can not be drawn. Made in films.
He does not believe in the argument that there is no absolute ban, if there are medieval depictions of Muhammad.
“Even if it had been so it would have been condemned by Islamic scholars.”
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