Who was the prophet Muhammad?
The prophet Muhammad is the most important prophet of the Islamic religion. Aside from that, he was also its founder. In his early years, Muhammad worked as a merchant for his uncle, Abu Talib. At the age of 40, a lot changed, as Muhammad began to receive revelations. These revelations eventually formed the Quran, as well as helping to form Islam itself. In the year 630, he had united almost all of Arabia into one religion. In 2020, there are now 1.8 billion muslims worldwide, and that is all thanks to prophet Muhammad. By many, Muhammad is seen as a hero, so naturally, people are very fond of him and what he has done. It seems logical that people would want to have a wonderful painting of this fellow in their houses or in their mosque. However, we would advise against it currently, as the reaction you would get would be decisively negative.
Why is it not allowed to draw the prophet?
The ban on creating any sort form of visual representation of Muhammad often comes as a surprise to non-muslims. This rule, however, happens to be one of the most coveted aspects of Islam, the worship of God and God alone. Nowhere in the Quran is stated that you cannot draw Muhammad, so the believers have taken it into their own hands after interpreting Muhammads words in the Quran as a message that says “Don’t worship me, just Allah!”. To achieve this, muslim community has discouraged the drawing of the prophet to prevent a form of idol worship. Idol worship is the worship of other things or images that are not God. This could for example mean a young girl changing her appearance to look more like a particular celebrity, as they may be grealy idolise them. This, however, leads to the worshipping of that celebrity in a way that only God is meant to be worshipped in.
This idea was first brought to life in response to Christianity and the fact that they didn’t portray Jesus as a prophet anymore, but insead portrayed him as a god. The Muslim community did not want this to happen for Muhammad. The muslims feel as if the Christian belief in God himself has been weakened due to their worships of Jesus. To spread God accross multiple entities is to waste more time and to actually spend less time praying and carrying out Gods will. They feel, if they only worship Allah, they worship Allah with all their attention and, therefore, worship him more strongly.
Apparently, Muhammad himself did not want to be portrayed, according to Akbar Ahmed, who chairs the Islamic studies department at American University. He told CNN: ‘The prophet himself was aware that, if people saw his face portrayed by people, they would soon start worshiping him. So, he himself spoke against such images, saying ‘I’m just a man.’ ‘ This quote “I’m just a man” shows that Muhammad did not want to be worshipped. All he wanted was to create this way of worshipping Allah and no one else. According to him, Islam should not be about the messenger that had revelation. Instead, it should be about the sender of the revelations and only him.
As said before, it is not stated, in the Quran, that the Prophet may not be drawn. Who enforces this then? There are many Islamic scholars who have a lot of influence in the musilm communtity, it is their job to try and understand the Quran and to pass that knowledge on to others. These scholars tell other muslims what it is that the prophet would have wanted and what the best way is to worship God without succumbing to idol worship. This is why they preach that drawing the prophet is a form idol worship and it should not be done by anyone who calls themselves a follower of Allah.
The ban on depiction is not only about Muhammad. Jesus, Moses and a lot of other prophets are also banned from drawings. These prophets are also treated as prophets in Islam, so the portraying of them is no different from te portraying of Muhammad. In some Muslim countries, films such as ‘Noah’ and ‘Exodus’ were even banned. This is because these films portray hebrew prophets.
In Sunni mosques, the biggest group in Islam, there is no human imaging at all. These mosques are covered in verses of the Quran. As you can see in the image above, there is no human imaging here. Still these are some of the most beautiful interiors in the world.
In the Quran, there is ‘no statement from the prophet requesting his image not be recorded,’ Abdul-Malik told CNN. This idea comes from the Hadith, the secondary information source of Islam. The Hadith teels all kinds of stories about the life of Muhammad and his companions. The Hadith has created a lot of discussion within the global muslim community. According to many, there are contradictions to be found in the books. The idea of not being allowed to draw prophet Muhammad also comes from the Hadith.
Times that the prophet was actually depicted
You may be surprised to find that the prophet has been portrayed in Islam. In particular, in the Shiite branch of Islam. ‘We have had visual depictions of the prophet in the form of miniatures and pictures in the Iranian context, the Turkish context and the central Asian context,’ Said Omar Saffi, a religious professor at Duke University he spoke with CNN. ‘The one significant context where depictions of the prophet have not been image-related has been in the Arab context.’
Even historical renditions of Mohammed by Muslim artists were careful not to paint the prophet in too much detail. Theses paintings had to be made so that historical events could be remembered and not forgotten or lost. But even then, the prophet was not drawn in detail. This was, indeed, often done in the form of miniatures, very small depictions, which lack most detail.
A large difference that needs to be considered when discussing this topic is the geographical position of countries. Western countries are more tolerant in general, so muslims and others there often feel more free to for example draw what they want. It arab countries, there is a much smaller chance that you will encounter a drawing of the prophet.
There are many instances in which the prophet has been depicted, many of these depictions have gotten a negative reaction but there is also a more commonly accepted way of depicting the prophet. But, a thing that needs to be kept in mind either way is that most muslims prefer it if the prophet is just not depicted at all. Especially more radical groups have a very large problem with the fact that this happens.
Depictions of the Prophet, which had a positive reaction
Depictions of Muhammad with a positive reaction all detail important pieces of Islam history, such as Muhammad at mount Hira, his first revelation and the angels and him advancing on Mekkah. In all these depictions, Muhammad is portrayed without detail, often with a veil over his head. These are exceptions to the rule because Muhammad is not the focus of the pictures, they are about an important event and it just so happens that Muhammad was the vessel through which those events took place.
Another example is the movie “The Messenger”, an islamic history movie. In this movie, Muhammad was only portrayed in the shadows. This showed his big part in Muslim history without offending anyone.
These are examples where people tried to portray the prophet without offending anyone. Even though it’s designed to be that way, this aproach is not the most effective, according to many muslims. “Just don’t have a visual representation,” they say.
There are also many instances of almost the entire muslim world reacting in anger to a portrayal of Muhammad, in the 21st century alone there have been multiple occasions where this happened. Sometimes a bad portrayal can rile muslims up so much that there may be dire consequences.
Depictions of the Prophet with a negative reaction
Let’s start with the big one, Charlie Hebdo. This french satirical weekly newspaper had announced a newspaper with Muhammad as chief editor. They portrayed him with a big nose, looking kind of silly in the frontpage of the newspaper. The image was posted a few days prior to the release of the newspaper article. They greatly regretted this move later. On November 2nd 2010 their office website was hacked and a fire bomb was placed in the building, this attack did not discourage the writers, who said they were just using their freedom of speech.
In September 2012, Charlie Hebdo released satirical cartoons about Muhammad, some of them portraying the prophet nude. The outrage only grew after they also anounced a series of comic books about the life of Muhammad. Some editors were even added to an al-qaida kill list. In 2015, the hit took place, and 12 employees of Charlie Hebdo were killed by radicalised muslims.
Another Example of representation of the prophet that was not taken too well was in the adult cartoon TV-series, South Park. He was shown in a racist way and all he wanted to do was bomb people. Muslims all around the world were outraged and campaigned for the character and the episodes, in which he appeared, to be deleted. In response to the muslim outrage, Comedy Central took down the episode. Firm supporters of freedom of speech and freedom of creativity were not happy with the action of Comedy Central. They created ‘Everyone draw Muhammad day’ on May 20th. It was created as a protest against the limitation of freedom of speech.
To wrap up, Muhammad was the founder of Islam, but Islam is not about Muhammad, but about God. This is why Muslims prohibit the visual representation of Muhammad and other prophets to prevent idol worship. If someone breaks these rules, the consequences can be dire.
Facts and opinions
Lingual and written descriptions of Muhammad are accepted by all traditions in Islam, but there is controversy about visual depictions of Muhammad. Many westerners believe that one should be allowed to visualize Muhammad. The majority of Muslims, on the other hand, believe that it is blasphemy and idol worship to illustrate Muhammad. Regardless, there are still some Muslims who believe it shouldn’t be banned to draw the prophet.
Most Muslims believe that illustrating Muhammad is wrong because some supplemental hadith explicitly ban illustrations of any living creature, other hadith tolerate these illustrations, but do not encourage them. Another reason is because Muslims believe that there is only one god, Allah. Therefore, he is the only one who should be worshipped. Illustrating Muhammad can lead to the worshipping of him and images of him, idol worship. However, Shia Islam illustrations and images of Muhammad are quite common nowadays, even though Shia scholars were against at first. Still, a lot of Muslims, who think that you must not visualize Muhammad, will challenge depictions of Muhammad, also those which were created by non-Islamic people.
There have been many incidents that show that most Muslims really do not like it when Muhammad is drawn. For instance: Jyllands-Posten, a Danish daily broadsheet newspaper. They made 12 cartoons, in which Muhammad was depicted. They received a lot of backlash for it from Muslim communities inside of Denmark. This eventually led to protests all around the world, which resulted in an estimate of 250 total deaths.Another event that happened is the Charlie Hebdo Shooting. This happened because the French satirical weekly newspaper in Paris published a cartoon in which Muhammad had been drawn. Two brothers forced their way into the offices of the French satirical newspaper. Armed with guns, they killed 12 people and injured 11 others. On January 11th 2015, about two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity. 3.7 million people joined demonstrations all across France.
Most outsiders of Islam believe that drawing Muhammad is part of freedom of speech and that it should, therefore, not be prohibited. They do not think that it is blasphemy to draw Muhammad. An argument that some people use is that “Christians do not mind when Jesus or God is drawn, so why can we not have drawings Muhammad? Most Christians do not mind when someone makes a joke or cartoon about Christianity, so Muslims should also not care about it.”
In conclusion, all of this shows that both sides of the problem have a strong opinion, some people even kill others to take revenge because someone illustrated Muhammad. The westerners also have a strong opinion. This can be seen because of the rally of national unity and the demonstrations all across France. It is probably for the better to not draw Muhammad so that there will not be any more terrorist attacks and such. We agree with the point that illustrating the prophet is part of freedom of speech, but it is smarter to not illustrate him so that there will not be any more deaths because of the protests or attacks.
Why we should be allowed to draw Muhammad
Buddha, Jesus, the Roman gods and the Greek gods. We have all seen them depicted many times and, whether or not these depictions are correct, they are globally seen as acceptable representations. These religions, both the ancient and the new, allow these depictions of their gods. However, there is one particular religion which very strictly bans any visual illustrations of their characters. That religion is Islam.
In the Islam, it generally believed to be wrong to depict either Allah, their prophets or any other one of their characters. This is because that is stated in the Hadith. The character, around which most controversy takes place regarding this ban, is the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Hadith is believed to be a record of the words, actions, and the silent approval of Muhammad, which, because of this, must be followed and obeyed by all Muslims. However, the Hadith isn’t actually an official part of the Quran. The Quran being the collection of all 114 holy revelations, which the prophet Muhammad received Allah, and the holy book of the Islamic religion. Because the Hadith is not an official part of the Quran, there has always been uncertainty and doubt about whether or not its followers are truly fulfilling the will of Allah. Therefore, people have always been unsure about Allah’s will regarding the depicting of Muhammad.
The reason why it is not allowed to depict Muhammad, has to do with the idea of idol worship, the worshipping of anyone or anything else other than God. Muslims were afraid that, if images of the prophet were made, people might begin to worship them instead of Allah. Muslims didn’t want Muhammad to be worshipped, so, to prevent this, they decided to ban the drawing of Muhammad. This was partially a reaction to Christians, who depicted both Jesus as a God.
Muhammad may not be depicted because of the fear that people will worship him as a god. But the ironic thing is Muhammad is already worshipped as a God very much within certain branches of Islam. Some Muslims will speak of Muhammad as if he is Allah himself. This, of course, does not count for all of Islam, but it is still an important thing to point out.
Moving along, he main and reason it should acceptable to draw the prophet is a part of the constitution of almost every country. Freedom of expression. It is one of the most important things of the world today. People can say what they think is good or bad, right or wrong on every topic there is. This reaches from important issues, like Politics art education, to lesser, but still just as controversial topics, such as food and art. It is the foundation of the freedom we as a society all favour and treasure so much. So why must we not express our freedom regarding the illustrating of people such as Muhammad, when do have the freedom to criticise and share our thoughts on all other topics.
We believe that it is very important for our society to be allowed to express ourselves and make use of the freedom we have been given. Therefore, we believe that all people who wish to depict Muhamad, should be free to do so. Still, we may yet have a long way to go before that is accepted by the Muslim community, when bearing in mind in mind the consequences it has already brought. People like Theo van Gogh and the redaction of Charlie Hebdo were brutally murdered because of their depictions of Muhammad. Regardless, we hope that slowly, but surely, people’s freedom in this will grow so far that drawing Muhammad may be done without consequences.
We chose this topic because we thought it was one of the more interesting ones. With, for example, the topic of the headscarves, it would have been about the freedom of Muslims being oppressed. However, with the topic of whether or not people should be allowed to draw the prophet Muhammad, it is actually the freedom of people in general, but mostly westerners, which is being threatened. It is a very controversial topic, and both sides have good arguments defending their opinion. We knew that there is a lot of controversy surrounding this topic and we wanted to get to its roots to find out what the reasons behind it are. We personally believe in freedom of speech for all people, so our statement was, of course, going to be in favour of being allowed to illustrate Muhammad. Still, we were very interested in why Muslims so strictly forbid it and why the depictions of the prophet, that have actually been made, caused so much anger and violence.