Does Islam Really Forbid Graven Images?

Posted: February 10, 2006 in International, Politics

http://www.slate.com/id/2135670/?nav/fo/

Not all Islamic traditions ban images of Mohammed, and some are pretty lax about pictures of lesser figures. For Muslims, the rule against depicting God and the prophets comes from the Hadith, a collection of sayings and actions attributed to Mohammed. (A few passages in the Quran have been taken to offer oblique support to this notion.) The doctrine has been interpreted in various ways over the centuries. Persian art of the 15th and 16th centuries shows the figure of Mohammed with his face, hands, and feet covered. Some earlier Persian works show full views.

Arab Muslims tend to be the strictest about religious imagery. Shiites are more flexible than Sunnis; for example, they display images of Husayn,* the grandson of Mohammed. Devotional portraits of leading teachers are generally OK, as long as they don’t fall under the Hadith ban on depicting the major prophets. Pictures of people in religious scenes—like pilgrims on the Hajj—are also allowed. These are more likely to be displayed in the home than at a mosque, and some conservative Muslims will refuse to pray in their presence.

Additional Slate Links:

Reza Aslan explains why, as a Muslim-American, he’s offended by the cartoons. Christopher Hitchens makes the case for mocking religion. Slates “International Papers” reported on the reaction of the Arab press to the cartoons, and in “Letter From London,” Geoffrey Wheatcroft discusses the reaction in Britain. The “Explainer” answers whether Islam prohibits depictions of religious figures.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s