Arts feature

Mohammed — in pictures

The Koran has no injunction against depicting Mohammed. In fact, within Islam, there’s a rich tradition of painting the Prophet

24 January 2015

9:00 AM

24 January 2015

9:00 AM

Two months ago I was sitting beside the tomb of a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, telling a story about the last week of the Prophet’s life. It was detailed enough to paint an imaginary portrait of him and included a mildly ribald joke from one of his wives, told to him on his deathbed when he was racked with fever. This kind of story often perplexes my rationalist friends back home. ‘Why can you describe the Prophet but not draw him?’ ‘Why can you make jokes but not draw cartoons?’ Where does this idea that it is forbidden to represent the Prophet come from?

There is no line in the Koran that forbids it. The whole tradition rests in the Hadith, the collected sayings of the Prophet — in essence what one of his wives or early converts remembered the Prophet Mohammed saying. Number 5963 in al-Bukhari’s multi-volume Hadith recalls him decrying that ‘Whoever makes a picture in this world will be asked to put life into it on the Day of Resurrection, but he will not be able to do so.’

What exactly did he mean? Now you must take a deep breath and dive into the murky waters of Islamic scholarship. On the one hand there are commentators who think this condemns every sketch and photograph ever made and their makers to eternal hellfire (including the snap used in your passport). On the other there are commentators who explain that this prohibition refers only to diabolical artists who attempt to create something with a soul — such as Dr Frankenstein. Still other scholars have pieced together all the relevant Hadith and argue that Mohammed was simply telling a parable to illustrate that mankind — for all its pretensions to creativity — will never make anything as useful or as beautifully compact as even a seed of barley.

Nevertheless, a sort of consensus has emerged. Most Muslims accept that two-dimensional images (photographs, films and television) are absolutely fine but that three-dimensional sculptures that cast a shadow are best avoided. If you go into a typical Sunni Muslim home, you will usually find a television on in the sitting room, often showing a football match or an Egyptian soap. There may also be a photograph of a heroic football team. Practically all public spaces are decorated with large photographs of the current ruler of the country.

Looking at the artistic tradition and history of the Islamic world sheds further light. The mosques of Islam are empty of human imagery but positively billow with beautiful representations of flowers, gardens, trees and buildings (such as those depicted in mosaic in the ancient mosque of Damascus). These have clearly always been acceptable. The imagery of ‘the garden’ is designed to remind the worshipper of the garden of paradise that awaits the pious in the life beyond.

The prophet Mohammed welcoming Jacob in his cave, from 'Zubdet ut Tevarih' by Lokman, 1583 (vellum)
A 16th-century Turkish image of Mohammed welcoming Jacob, from the ‘Zubdet ut Tevarih’ by Lokman (1583)

When we try to look at early Muslim two-dimensional art on paper, papyrus and parchment we face an historic blank. The Mongol decimation of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 13th century (epitomised by the sacking of Baghdad in 1258) was so horribly destructive that it wiped out 500 years of historical evidence. Only the chance survival of a 13th-century illustrated manuscript (the incredibly precious and much-reproduced Maqamat of al-Hariri — held in the French National Library in Paris) reveals a rich figurative tradition. And once again you have to choose between two antagonistic schools of thought: one holds that this wonderful corpus of 99 images is evidence of a brand new influence, that of the Turks and Mongols; the other that it is precious evidence of an earlier and confident Islamic figurative tradition.

The Shiite Persians believe the latter, and to this day have no problem about two-dimensional images, even those illustrating the life of Mohammed, though they prefer to depict the face of Mohammed as veiled, or subsumed by a halo of gold or green fire. Indeed the Iranian Republic continues to support public art depicting the heroes of Islam, which include fantastically vivid and romantic posters of Imam Ali (the Prophet’s cousin, first disciple and son-in-law) and his martyred son Husayn and their bloodied, riderless horses.

A Persian image of a veiled Mohammed (1539–43)

Whatever the heritage of their medieval past, Sunni Islam — in the Arab-speaking Middle East — had decisively turned its back on depictions of the Prophet well before the 18th-century emergence of Wahhabism. Once again there are no definite answers. It may have been a gut reaction to the magnificent art produced by their Iranian Shiite rivals but it also reflects a very real fear that Mohammed was slowly being turned into a demi-god and that in the process his actual prophetic message would be ignored. This was especially true in the far eastern frontiers of Islam, such as India and Indonesia (numerically the two largest Muslim nations in the world) with their ancient syncretic traditions. So the attack on imagery can also be seen to have a constructive element embedded within it, concentrating all attention on the text of the Koran and reinforcing the Arab nature of that revelation.

Confused? I would hope so. For that is the end point of all useful discussions about Islam and the beginning of wisdom.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Barnaby Rogerson has written biographies of Mohammed and his heirs.

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Show comments
  • sebastian2

    “So the attack on imagery can also be seen to have a constructive element
    embedded within it, concentrating all attention on the text of the
    Koran and reinforcing the Arab nature of that revelation.”

    I prefer to think that the attack has another motive. Any physical representation of the alleged prophet might diminish his status as an idol. As it is, the idolatry is the most pernicious of all – being psychological and emotional. The perfect man haunts the imagination and takes custody of the sentiments for the entire believer’s life, and the mental wraith is replenished at every prayer. Consider this from the MBC website:

    My eyes have never seen anyone more perfect than you
    No woman has given birth to anyone more handsome than you
    You have been created free from all defects
    As if you were created the way you wished”

    All this is more potent than any graven image that can be stood back from and examined. You cannot retreat from a cerebral infatuation. And unlike a public object of worship open to all, it is confidential and invisible – a private totem for every adoring believer. One by one each makes it up.

    An outward representation or picture would exorcise this inner, intimate effigy of obsequious devotion. That’s surely why it’s haram.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Very perceptive comment.

    • bugalugs2

      Such a perfect man that he lived at first off the money of a rich widow, and held that monogamy was correct then later, after he no longer needed her and her money, held that he was allowed more than a single wife, as he pursued his career as a bandit warlord, murderer, rapist and child molester ….

      If that’s a ‘perfect man’, thank heaven for imperfection!

      • sebastian2

        Indeed 🙂

    • sfin

      Very well written.

      Your argument has a secular expression, on a more mundane level, in film adaptations of well loved books, where a character’s projection (physicality, voice, accent etc) runs counter to the individual’s imagination.

    • Helen of Troy

      Brilliant observation. Rings true.

      • sebastian2


    • TNT

      What a truly wonderful post.

    • Peterg123

      Well argued.

  • PeterS

    ‘Whoever makes a picture in this world will be asked to put life into it on the Day of Resurrection, but he will not be able to do so.’

    As all pictures are representations of wishes, all this statement says to me – within its religious context – is that the wisher will be challenged to realise his/her wish as representing paradise and find that it falls far short of the actual place (which is no place, or no place that can ever be envisaged spatially or temporally).

    Making pictures of Mohammed could be viewed as missing the point – as the prophet is only the vessel through which the ‘Word’ was given. A two-dimentional privileging of the conduit would most likely risk having the same intrinsic ‘charm’ as, say, Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans – where the branding is given (and taken as having) more value than the actual contents.

    But then, we might recognise the caution within the statement as being completely lost to today’s ‘fundamental’ Muslims. For anyone who truly loved Campbell’s soup, Warhol’s tacky representation of its label would simply be experienced as an inconsequential affirmation of one’s own refinement. To rage so much against the image, on the other hand, suggests the artist may be onto something.

  • la catholic state

    Who cares. He is only a false prophet.

    • AndyL

      “False prophet” is a tautology

      • la catholic state

        It isn’t. Christ used it.

        • Fat Flan

          How do you know that?

          • twinscrew

            It was in the Sun.

      • no it’s not: ‘a proclaiming prophet’ or ‘a teaching prophet’ would be a tautology…I think.

        • John

          It’s a tautology because prophecy is very obviously a false activity. It’s like saying ineffective alchemy or non-medical aromatherapy.

          • Dodgy Geezer

            Ceci n’est pas une pipe…

          • Gwangi

            And if you knew what a ‘pipe’ (pee-peh) meant in certain languages (eg Greek) then you’d be blushing now…

      • Helen of Troy

        Middle English prophete, from Anglo-French, from Latin propheta, from Greek prophētēs, from pro for + phanai to speak
        First Known Use: 12th century

      • I think you mean oxymoron. But it still isn’t even that.

        • AndyL

          I meant what I said.

    • paulvew

      Yes indeed.

    • Gwangi

      All prophets are false, and usually they were madmen too. Probably schizoid.

      • la catholic state

        Jesus Christ true God and true man is not false. But you can tell Him so at the Last Day.

        • AndyL

          How lucky for you that of all the religions that have ever existed, you were born into the one true one.

          How unlucky for the billions of others who were born into other religions or none, but who have to answer to your particular god at the “Last Day”

          • mattghg

            You know about la catholic state’s birth … how?

            You are not constrained by your birth. The offer of forgiveness in Christ is open to you right now.

          • AndyL

            you’re right, I don’t know whether la catholic was born into christianity, but I would say that there is at least 90% chance I’m right.

            Anyway, why do you think I need forgiveness, and if I do need it, why should I ask your god rather than say Allah or Zeus?

          • mattghg

            Bluntly, because Jesus said so and he came back from the dead to prove it. This is not something that someone is likely to be convinced of (or against) in a comment thread but I urge you to consider the evidence properly, starting here: There’s no comparison with the stories about Muhammad or Zeus once you start looking into it.

          • Ferox

            Are you sure that evidence wasn’t planted to fool you, by His Noodly Appendage?

          • mattghg

            Are you sure you aren’t a brain in a vat?

          • Ferox

            Not entirely. Epistemology is tricky, ain’t it?

            But if I claimed you were a brain in a vat, wouldn’t you place the burden of proof on me to show it? My reply of “well, prove to me that you are not a brain in a vat, then” would be unsatisfactory. Also, any writings in support of that contention in my Book of Truth (known to be true cause it says it is right here on page 3) would probably be met with skepticism.

          • mattghg

            You’ve lost track of the dialectic. The possibility of being a brain in a vat is analogous to the possibility of the evidence being “planted to fool you, by His Noodly Appendage”.

            And if you click through the link you’ll see that the evidence I’m talking about doesn’t reduce to “it’s true because it says it’s true”.

          • Ferox

            Actually I am right on top of the dialectic. The possibility of being a brain in a vat is analogous to any unknowable proposition; there is no evidence (either for or against it) .. in fact there is no evidence for the proposition that could meaningfully exist at all (if we are brains in a vat how could we possibly detect it?). That means the analogy works both for evidence planted by Noodly Appendages, and evidence of divine resurrection.

            Your link points to an argument based on testimonials in scripture, and some a priori reasoning that those testimonials must be true, and must be accepted according to our rules. But see above: if I begin by evincing doubt about the validity of your entire source material, and demand external proofs before I accept it, then any reference to the material itself as evidence for its validity becomes tautologous.

            I don’t mean to poke fun at your beliefs, honestly. But when you make a claim of fact, that your religious beliefs have more credibility than the religious beliefs of others, I have to step back and make that incredulous face for just a moment.

          • mattghg

            “Your link points to an argument based on […] some a priori reasoning that those testimonials must be true”

            No it doesn’t. That’s not the form of the argument. The a priori point, if there is one, is that they can be approached like other historical documents, which in general we neither blanketly accept nor blanketly reject in advance but evaluate for internal coherence, consistency with other sources, temporal proximity to the events they purport to relate etc. etc.

            And quite why you think that the historicity of the resurrection is an “unknowable proposition” on a par with global scepticism is beyond me. The (bold) claim is that this really did happen in history. There is historical evidence that can be assessed – which is what scholars on both sides of the argument have been doing for quite a while. Is the claim that Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC an “unknowable proposition”?

            In contrast, the idea that the evidence (such as it is) might have been planted by a superior intelligence in order to deceive us _is_ analogous to the brain-in-a-vat scenario, because both of those ideas ask us to image that our senses are unreliable and there’s nothing we can do about it.

          • Ferox

            I re-read your link, looking for any supporting evidence that was not (a) from Biblical sources; (b) from contemporary Biblical writers like Paul; or (c) a priori reasoning about what must be true based on a textual analysis of said Scriptures.

            Sorry, I am not the brightest guy ever, but I didn’t see a shred. I did see this gem, however: “We cannot use an supposedly ‘objective’ historical epistemology as the ultimate ground for the truth of Easter.”

            That’s from the lecture found at your link. And he’s right. If you are seeking evidence of something entirely outside human experience (like a resurrection) then a textual analysis is simply not enough. The burden of proof for resurrection is higher – its an extraordinary claim.

            Brain, meet vat.

            With regard to Caesar crossing the Rubicon – first, I would submit that a General crossing a river with some troops is a less extraordinary claim than a man coming back from the dead after three days. But that’s subjective, I admit.

            Second, there are several primary sources for the existence of Julius Caesar (Caesar himself, Appian, Seutonious, Tacitus, Plutarch, Virgil, and others) as well as contemporary evidence in the form of inscriptions, statuary, etc. For Christ, there are the Gospels (frankly of uncertain authorship), the Epistles of Paul, and … what? Flavius Josephus? His references are exceedingly obscure. Any contemporary inscriptions along the lines of “here, during the reign of Tiberius, a Galilean did rise from the dead and walk away from his tomb. Three centuries from the local Roman legion witnessed the event, and were much astonished.” ? I think an objective observer would consider the evidence for the existence of Caesar to substantially outweigh the evidence for the existence of Christ.

            Third, in the sense of the dramatic “Alea iacta est” moment of Caesar crossing the Rubicon – yes, its an unknowable proposition. So much so that its basically anecdotal, like Washington chopping down the cherry tree, or King Alfred burning the bread. Since we have considerable evidence, both literary and physical, that he was in Gaul in some point, and in central Italy at a later point, we can be pretty sure that he did in fact cross the river. But pretending to certainty about any of the details is academic overreach.

            Finally, I am not claiming that the resurrection didn’t happen. There isn’t enough evidence to make that claim. But I am claiming that there is also not enough evidence for someone to reasonably say that “There’s no comparison with the stories about Muhammad or Zeus once you start looking into it.”

          • Ferox

            (Oops, this should be below the following post. My mistake)

            I should add that if you are simply arguing for the existence of an historical Jesus as a man, then I would put it on a par with an historical Caesar, as a man.

            But if you are going further and arguing for the divinity or other supernatural feature of Christ, then I need something more than normal historical procedure for that. Analysis of texts isn’t going to make it.

          • mattghg

            It’s unclear to me what you’re asking for. Are you saying that no amount of historical evidence would ever be enough evidence of resurrection?

          • Ferox

            Of resurrection, no. What evidence would be required to convince you that Gilgamesh slew the Great Bull of Heaven? Or that Odin killed Ymir and thereby created the world?

            Christ as an historical, mundane figure (philosopher or political leader or what have you) – much lower bar.

            But more importantly in this discussion, any claim that Christ is a more plausible supernatural figure than, say, Mohammed or Krisna, is going to require more than some textual analysis as support.

          • mattghg

            “What evidence would be required to convince you that Gilgamesh slew the Great Bull of Heaven? Or that Odin killed Ymir and thereby created the world?”

            Well here are some things that would be a start, at least:

            – Being able to date and place the purported events within known history (this alone rules your deliberately mythological examples out).

            – Sources to the purported events that are
            –multiple and independent
            –concordant with other things that we know about what was happening at that place and time
            –internally consistent
            –demonstrably written within living memory of the events described.

            – Lack of a plausible explanation as to why the sources would make the stories up.

            I’m not saying that if I had those things then I would automatically believe the stories, but I feel justified in taking stories that lack those features less seriously than those that have them.

            “any claim that Christ is a more plausible supernatural figure than, say, Mohammed or Krisna, is going to require more than some textual analysis as support”

            ISTM that you’re the one making a strong claim here, namely that _all_ supernatural claims are _equally_ (im)plausible, irrespective of any historical evidence that might be brought for or against any of them. Why should we accept that claim?

          • Ferox

            Sorry about the delay, real life intrudes.

            Good response, and I will absolutely concede that there is more to support Christ’s supernaturalness than Odin’s or Gilgamesh’s. Fair enough.

            But let me address your specific bullets one by one:

            “Being able to date and place the purported events within known history (this alone rules your deliberately mythological examples out)” – but also doesn’t differentiate with many other religions (Islam, Buddhism).

            “Sources of the purported events that are:

            -multiple and independent” – I question that this is true about the Resurrection specifically. Christ as a living man, ok. But the supernatural Resurrection event, not so much. Unless you are claiming that the Gospels are each independent sources.

            “–concordant with other things that we know about what was happening at that place and time” – again, this is support for the existence of Christ the man, not Christ the supernatural being. Unless you are claiming that resurrections were a common occurrence at that time and place.

            “–internally consistent” – This one is your weakest point, in my opinion. Lots of things are internally consistent, many even more so than Judeo-Christian creation myth. Just for one popular example, Tolkien’s middle earth creation mythos is much more internally consistent than the Biblical one.

            “–demonstrably written within living memory of the events described” – First, I don’t concede this about the Gospels. See wikipedia ( Quote: “Estimates for the dates when the canonical gospel accounts were written vary significantly; and the evidence for any of the dates is scanty.” Do you have another source for the Resurrection specifically, as opposed to just the mundane existence of Jesus?

            “-Lack up a plausible explanation as to why the sources would make the stories up” – Sorry, burden of proof is on you, not on the skeptic. Resurrection is an extraordinary claim, in the most literal sense, otherwise the cemeteries would be empty. If you are going to claim that someone lay dead for three days and was then alive once again, I don’t need to show why a person would lie about that. Similarly, I don’t need to demonstrate why UFO spotters relating their story on national television would lie.

            “ISTM that you’re the one making a strong claim here, namely that _all_supernatural claims are _equally_ (im)plausible” – Prior to the exhibition of supporting evidence for them, they are. All claims of supernatural power or events are extraordinary claims, by their very nature, and are therefore all subject to higher, rather than lower, levels of proof. That includes parting seas with staffs, returning from the dead, etc.

            Thank you for the civil discussion on this, by the way. Quite enjoyable.

        • Gwangi

          Oh FFS – do you really think some fairytale god lurves you and will give you eternal life whilst condemning rational persons like me to hell? How very 15th century of you. You’re more like loonie Muslims than you can ever know…

          Nice to know Christianity has lost none of its vicious spite in the 21st century, despite almost everything Christians have believed for the last 2000 years being shown to be false and absurd by rational, scientific, intelligent analysis.

          • What vicious spite of Christianity? Rational and scientific analysis …don’t you get tired of spouting the same rubbish thinking human perception and rationale are all there is ignoring short comings …just a tad arrogant don’t you think? Doubt there was another civilisation that believed so much in their omnipotence …sort of sad and small minded but this sort of argument always ends up at the first cause …try and tone it down as nobody likes bigotry

          • AndyL

            The vicious spite that says that people need to ask for “forgiveness” – apparently just for having been born.

          • Can’t say I ever heard that one Andy I went to church and was never asked to apologise for being born by anyone not even in my school run by priests

          • AndyL

            Really? Don’t Christians believe everyone is a sinner? That we all have to ask for forgiveness – even babies?

            Being born is just about the only thing that all of us have done.

          • Nobody is asked to apologise for being born and In fact one main thing religion promotes is procreation and family…anyone can sin and repent…all people are not naturally capable of joining society from day 1

          • AndyL

            As I understand Christian teaching, everyone alive has sinned. Therefore unless we ask for forgiveness we are all punished for being born. By the deity that made us.

            Christians think their god is loving. Vicious seems more accurate.

          • vicious? Now That’s plain stupid …who has been punished for being born? Any examples?

          • AndyL

            Supposedly everyone who was ever born has to grovel to the correct god in the correct way or face eternal damnation. That sounds vicious to me. (do Christians still believe in Hell?)

          • Nah even casual research would show that few are so orthodox although you might well face eternal damnation for something like murder …stop looking for demons where there are none …I bet you think national identity and religion cause war even when you watch conglomerated secular global unions going to war against Russia and Islamic state …Obama goes to war for Christianity and the usa right…hehe

          • AndyL

            No, I just think Christianity is one religion amongst many, and I’ve no idea why I would prefer one over another. Most if not all societies have had some form of religious belief, whether in a tree, the sea, or someone in the clouds. There’s probably an evolutionary reason for this – perhaps societies with religious belief were more successful as it supported greater central coordination.

            As far as Christianity goes, the basic construct of everyone needing to ask forgiveness for other or face an unspecified punishment seems the opposite of loving.

          • Christianity for historical reasons (Roman empire adoption) is part of the west and over centuries been a mainstay intertwined with our minds and culture it might well have been Islam if the franks hadn’t stopped the Arab invasions in the 8th century but centuries of Christianity has made it the most accepted and compatible…religion creates community yes which gives people unity but is not politically powerful like in the Middle Ages …the benefit of church and state separation is that religion can be about what it’s supposed to be

          • Peterg123

            Religion evolves. We are not in 1300. Islam maybe still is.

          • AndyL

            Sure, but the need to ask Christ for forgiveness is basic Christian belief.

          • Peterg123

            You are quite clueless and I don’t believe in Christianity in total at all. You are simply off base and making a hopelessly plonker argument any 8 year old Catechist could blow holes in.

          • Peterg123

            Christians believe that the genetic transmission between humans also carries animal instincts to which we have to struggle against. The derivation of “original” in Latin has to do with genital reproduction. It is not saying reproduction is evil or wrong- only that we carry within us the potential for acting horribly, in an animistic way ( I am not sure you could deny this). That is what is meant by original ( i.,e. transmitted through birth) sin(i.e. evolved potential savage characteristics in each human).

            Looking at how some religions have treated each other, they are perfectly right!

          • AndyL

            I too believe that civilisation requires us to struggle against some of our natural animal instincts.
            What I don’t believe is that each of us has to ask forgiveness for that struggle.

          • Peterg123

            The modern Christian belief is that evolution brought knowledge, and that knowledge is the edge between pre-moral and moral animal instinct. It’s a very interesting point. That is animals without knowledge of right and wrong conduct ( or good and evil in other terms) cannot ever act “wrongly”. But humans and only humans can act morally or immorally because by genetic transmission ( we already discussed that) they also transmit the ability to discriminate between right and wrong conduct.

            You don’t have to believe Christianity and I mostly don’t, to see some ideas have quite profound and surprisingly correct basis. Armed with the above explanation, the story of Adam and Eve “falling” by eating of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” takes on a metaphorical truth.

          • Peterg123

            There is no vicious spite in acknowledging that we are all born with The Beast as potential within us, and if we express it or not ( except in cases of mental disorder) is up really to us. People can choose evil ways individually or as Germans did, en masse. Nobody has to ask forgiveness for being born. That’s piffle.

          • Gwangi

            Oh dear…the Nazis were Christian and Hitler was a devout Catholic who got all his ideas about power and theatre from the omnipotent abusive merciless greedy bullying beastly Catholic church.

          • Go back to bed

          • Peterg123

            Hitler was not any sort of Catholic nor were Nazi’s Christian, please done try to fool me with such undergraduate tripe. History records perfectly well that Nazis were at best New Age cranks and at worst stone cold materialists and atheists. One can read enough serious historians who very well know how the Nazis used Christianity the same way Stalin did Orthodoxy, not to have to swallow your juvenile and facile comparison. Sorry mate you deserve it…

          • Gwangi

            Oh gosh…where to start. Maybe start with Horrible Histories and work upwards eh? Ask a grown-up to help if you get stuck (or maybe call a nurse if you start foaming at the mouth, what with all the forgiveness and love you’ve got in there).
            ‘Small-minded’ because I don’t believe in a fantasy construct? Ummm. Show some evidence for the existence of god or gods and I may change my mind. Until then, you just enjoy your sad bigoted arrogant delusion and leave rational persons alone eh?

          • What’s irrational about a medium for morals and community? Something that has been a mainstay of society for millennia..from the beginning of society ..God as we know him in doctrine and images is a human construct but his existence is not and you can argue human omnipotence but it all comes down to asking can something come from nothing? You are a rational logical human but what’s is that when no two people have the same perception we are individuals with limited faculties and technology available is very limited …have you heard of theoretical science? Infinite Galaxy and dimension guess work …all things are limited

          • Peterg123

            Shallow and arrogant reply on the lines of “non-believers clever, believers not clever”. Frankly a little time spent amongst the anti-religious makes one fond of the church one has not been to for 50 years….

          • mattghg

            Saying that you’re rational doesn’t make you so.

          • Gwangi

            But being a religious obsessive who believes in fairy tales and lectures others about them does rather does show you to be irrational – not to mention pompous.
            Keep your religion private – like a willy. Don’t force it on anyone, esp children, and only take it out in the privacy of your home or in front of others who share your tastes. Easy.

          • mattghg

            I’ll leave it to everyone reading this thread to judge for themselves what my comments say about me, and what yours say about you.

          • Childish comment I bet you laughed away to yourself re reading that! Keeping it private defeats the purpose and suits your bigotry

          • Gwangi

            Not childish at all. Child-like in its simple truth, yes. If you treated your religion as a willy then maybe you wouldn’t force it on anyone else, especially children, and the world would be a better place.

          • The world would be a better place really! And how would that be achieved? Through Maoist teachings by any chance?

          • Peterg123

            I am not a practicing Christian but do not believe religions are fairy tales – in themean way you intend that, but attempts to interpret moral and existential reality by other means. You seem far too cocky and sneering than some of the religious people you attack.

          • Gwangi

            Nope, I just see religion for what it is: a product of Man’s imagination, like fairytales and all stories and myths. It has an evolutionary basis too – not only for social reasons, but for the advantage of having an imagination and imagining the future (those cavemen who could see that in 2 moons the buffalo would cross the river a week’s walk inland, got to hunt them; those cavemen living ‘in the now’ snuffed it (or perhaps moved to Goa to sell beads and smoke hash…) Religion is a product of evolution, frankly.

          • Peterg123

            If that is so it is as natural as being gay, one would argue in a modern way…so stop being so theophobic!

        • mikemixer

          Of all the sperm that lost the race the day you were made one or more could have been a thinker instead of a follower, I pity your success.

    • fatslaphead

      They all are.

  • frankludwiggrossmann

    Anyone who prophesies about God can’t be false. After all, Allah, Yahwe, Theo, Dios, Gott, God … all are the same words for “God”. And that is without going into the eastern religions who have their words for God, or the American Indians, etc.

    If you believe in God, then the language of the name is meaningless. How can there be a “false God” or a false prophet of God, if God is God?

    • justsomeone

      A false prophet is like a false ambassador, an imposter.
      If someone says he represents you and he doesn’t, the fact that you exist doesn’t mean he isn’t an imposter.
      So a false “prophet” can definitely exist.
      A false God is trickier to think about, but even if God exists, in the same way as Obama exists, if someone, a “God” says (through a ‘prophet’) that he is God and then tells us to do this or that, there being a God doesn’t make this God, God, anymore than I would be the President of the United States, even if someone says I am.

  • Jean de Valette

    Excellent work. However one ought not forget the very fine images of Mohammed contained in the 1307 manuscript by Rashid al-Din. One can view them either by going to Edinburgh University Library or, if the librarians have now removed them for fear of having their necks chopped by Islamists, by clicking here:

  • The Masked Marvel

    This would have been more helpful if it had been published two weeks ago when a number of commenters pointed this out and even linked to some of these images. Why the late reaction? Still, better late than never.

    It may have been a gut reaction to the magnificent art produced by their Iranian Shiite rivals but it also reflects a very real fear that Mohammed was slowly being turned into a demi-god and that in the process his actual prophetic message would be ignored.

    Ironically, that’s happened because of this attitude.

    In any event, from now on I shall say that anyone who objects to these images isn’t a proper Muslim and is merely a psychopath posing as one (beginning @ 33:05).

  • David Prentice

    Behead those who say Islam is violent!

    • They usually shout racist far right bigot at those who say it’s violent which is worse than a beheading for some

  • Jeremy Poynton

    Sense from Islam? Far too late for that.

  • hello?

    in todays ignorance, false is true and true is false.

  • thethe

    just another con perpetrated by con men.

    • Gwangi

      and women…

      Indeed, women are proven to be more religious than men everywhere and in all faiths. Usually the motivation for war, violence and suicide bombers are women too. Mother must be obeyed by little Mo…

      • Helen of Troy

        Women are also more oppressed than men are, Eddie. That’s why they have needed the comforts of the only thing left to them — the promise of a life better than this one. Get it?

        P. S. Because you’re swift to jump on whatever was left unsaid, I’ll add that when I say ‘women are…’, I mean non-Western women for the most part, and when I say ‘them’, I’m not including myself: I’m a lifelong atheist. Glad we’ve got that straight.

        • Gwangi

          No. People are oppressed. Women no more than men actually, Indeed, men are more oppressed because in 3rd world countries they are expected to fight in wars and die, whereas women stay at home and just encourage them through their religions nonsense and hectoring.
          Women’s brains are innately risk-averse and emotional – that is because they are meant to be mothers and so constantly aim to minimise risk and create social bonds. That is why they are prone to be religious. Women are less rational too. Innate brain biology, mostly not learned – although women are massive conformists (again avoiding risk) so will always support the majority view more than men.
          In the UK women are more likely to vote Tory than men, far less likely to be radical and want change (left or right – Labour or UKIP). In the 1930s, women were the backbone of the family-orientated Nazi party and voted in Hitler. In the US, ‘Mothers for America’ supported him.
          Typical feminist post – blaming me for anything daft that women do or think!

          • So you’re saying women are behind most of our misfortune ? Is that why all leadership has been male through millennia? In spiritual and secular world …family orientated nazis? They were an idealistic nationalistic socialist group of murderers headed by an Austrian lunatic

          • Gwangi

            No, dimwit. I am countering the ABSURD feminist claim that all bad in the world is because of men, and women are all poor wickle peaceful bunny wabbits and if they ruled the word we’d all live enveloped in lurve and peeeeace. It is PEOPLE who cause and fight wars – and women are often the motivation for conflict, in big conflicts (look at the Islamic mothers encouraging jihad) and in everyday situations (most fights between men are because of one of two things: women or money, and usually the two are connected).

            btw Hitler was a catholic choirboy and a Christian who believed strongly in having faith schools. He got his ideas about theatre + oppression from the masters – the Catholic church. So there!

          • Rubbish hitler was a left wing socialist nationalist and at best raised as a Christian but in his dictator days Christianity was not a desirable quality in his party and he never attended church or expressed religious faith and was never in cahoots with any Christian hierarchy as you should know he believed his party and himself to be the ultimate power that’s why all who questioned that power got wiped out…money and women ? Honestly and when’s the Trojan horse appearance scheduled for?

          • Gwangi

            Oh dear…yet more red herrings from those blinded by religiosity. Tal about denial!
            Hitler was a Catholic and always supported Faith schools. He attended Church all through his childhood and feel in love with power and theatre in the Catholic church.
            Also the Catholics were big supporters of those that supported the Catholic church, Franco, Mussolini and Hitler.
            Read some history eh?

          • Hitler in his childhood was raised in a catholic home but later in his political life he was not as it was incompatible with party ideology same goes for Mussolini and Franco was a Military general that intervened to stop terrorist insurgency of radical left wing groups and should have stepped down rather than becoming a dictator ..interestingly Franco was the only conservative of the 3 you mention…I read history and can tell you there was no Catholic influence on the nazis whatsoever and in fact the German right rejected the nazis …of course

          • Helen of Troy

            Yes I know your scorecard, of old. Women are blighters, men are poor things except for how wonderful they are. By the way, you must have been a dreadful teacher: I’m sure your auto-disrespect of the girls communicated itself in all manner of ways. Which of course would have depressed their performance. Which of course would have confirmed you in your prejudice against them.

          • Gwangi

            No – you assume that women are more religious because of social conditioning and ‘nurture’. You are wrong. MRI scans prove that because women cannot turn off the emotional side of their brains as men can – and are less rational. Ergo more religious.
            No, stop ranting little ms femi-hysteric and go read a science book about the difference between male and female brains and instincts and behaviour. Maybe start with Darwin? Or David Attenborough?

        • So women are only religious to give them the courage to face abuse? Tad over the top

          • Helen of Troy

            That has a lot to do with it, yes. And life IS a ‘tad over the top’, don’t you find?

          • Gwangi

            Siding with a religious nut. Now I know your desperate. I doubt you even believe your own argument – which dates from circa 1973. Tell me, are you wearing dungarees?

          • Not sure I understand why you go around in such a frenzy insulting everyone very uncivilised …I get it that you are absolutely convinced that you’re right but I beg to differ gwangi

          • Gwangi

            Well if I really wanted to know how to be abusive, spiteful, nasty and mean I’d start emulating the Church, wouldn’t I? They are the experts and have meted out abuse and pain on the innocent for centuries.

          • The church have meted out no abuse or pain and never had an army even although they did pull political strings in the Middle Ages …baseless rant on your part

          • Or maybe women have a stronger belief in community and don’t feel the need to parade their tail feathers so much

          • Helen of Troy

            Why, even if that is so, would it lead specifically to religious belief? Men and women and both wounded beings, but women are the more powerless (historically and throughout the contemporary world). Powerlessness creates profound unhappiness. There is then a need to call on powerful help, even if it’s invisible and not terribly effectual. Given the state of women’s powerlessness relative to men and vis-a-vis men, it’s clear that women have needed this help more.

          • Depends on role acceptance over history but I doubt many were motivated to be religious for the reason of protection against abuse …I am not sure many woman have such a strong sense of being helpless or abused …I mean I never heard that come out in discussion or argument with any of the women in my family

          • Helen of Troy

            Yes but ‘protection against abuse’ was precisely your formulation, not mine.
            And I assure you, women do — whether they talk about it or not (especially with a man and especially with one that is not their partner!). But anyway, I wasn’t talking about modern Westerners. I’m talking about the great mass of humanity that has NEVER known our privileges — or our rights!

          • Gwangi

            Yes, and that includes men who have suffered more than women in history from what I read and see. Being blown to pieces and sliced open in war is a tad worse than making do with domestic tasks non?
            Fact is: women always moan and whinge. They do so now, when they are massively privileged, and always have done. Just so easy – blame men for my sad menopausal femi-half-life. But it really doesn’t cut the mustard.

          • Do you find that male chauvinist approaches work in discussion? Unless your intention was to just offend

          • Helen of Troy

            To the contrary: most of it is Nature’s doing or has Nature as its ultimate source. Thus, injustice is natural.

          • Gwangi

            UTTER nonsense. It is PEOPLE who are poor and powerless, women no more than men. You theory is SO wrong-headed as to be classes a comedy!
            MRI scans and evolutionary research has now proven that men and women have different brains which give them innate differences and differing instincts. That is why most technicians and mechanics are male, and most in childcare jobs are women.
            Female brains are always-on emotionally speaking and are, frankly, less rational than male brains. That is why women tend to be more religious. They are also more likely to believe in homeopathic, alternative medicine twaddle than men, and horoscopes and other nonsense. Innate. Not learned.

      • Women are usually motivation for war? What are you a ghost from troy?

  • Chris Hobson

    Notably all before the days of the printing press when imagery could be tightly controlled.

  • paulvew

    The evidence that Muhammed lived is fairly persuasive but it is far from certain. The biographical details date from two centuries after his life and too late to have much credit. I wrote about this here:

    • Guest


  • Dodgy Geezer

    …‘Whoever makes a picture in this world will be asked to put life into it
    on the Day of Resurrection, but he will not be able to do so.’…

    Concern about life-like images has a long history, pre-dating Mohammed. Plato would have banned artists from his ideal Republic, because their life-like representations would confuse people about what reality was.

    It is hard, in our music and image rich society, to get into the mind of a medieval or classical thinker, who would be exposed to both very rarely. Their view of heaven included wonderful lights and constant music. Now we have both in any disco, and we know that it’s nothing like paradise!

    But I suspect that the rare examples of public art or music held a very powerful attraction for earlier societies, and that people proposing ideal ways of living would be quick to notice this and propose limits. Rather as if someone nowadays were to propose limits on advertising…

  • Gwangi

    Indeed – and ‘living things’ can be seen depicted all over Islamic buildings – such as the Alhambra in Spain with its famous lion fountain.
    This shows just how backwards and barbaric so many UK Muslims and their imams are – wanting to ban music, all books except the Koran, all images of living things etc. Worse are the so-called liberals who want to see these puritanical austere literalist Muslims as representing all UK Muslims – as Tony Blair pandered to the self-elected socalled ‘moderates’ ( who are anything but) of the Muslim Council (whose leader Iqbal Sacranie repeated many times that Salman Rushdie should be tortured before being killed, and got a knighthood for that too!)
    All this really makes me want to start drawing pictures of Mohammed and displaying them publicly. Or maybe I’ll just get a teddy bear called Mo instead eh?

  • Frankie

    Hmmm, yet another article from a Muslim or “Islam apologist” employing obfuscation to divert attention away from the violence encouraged in this so-called religion. Of course images of Mo are not banned in Islam. Those people in France were slaughtered by Muslims because they mocked the prophet – just like countless others have been slaughtered down through the centuries ever since since the prophet himself had hundreds butchered for the very same reason. Islam is a violent and hate-filled cult which encourages its followers to lie in the furtherance of Islam – it’s called taqiyyah. This is what is happening every time one of the bearded buffoons is trotted out by the media to claim that it is “the religion of peace”. All westerners ought to read the Quran and then the collections of Hadith in the Sahir Bukhari. It explains what is happening perfectly – Islam is based on the premise that all people of other religions should convert, be subjugated or be killed. There is no other option to these people!

    • Andrew Pantelli

      I think that research will show, that he was not what would be termed as a handsome man!

      • Frankie

        No, but all the evidence points to him having a severe personality disorder. Read some of the things he said and did. The frightening thing is that he is held as the “perfect example” by Muslims – and don’t forget this is the guy that ordered critics to be murdered, who had 700-900 male members of the Qurayzah tribe beheaded, and who married a six year old…although in fairness, he did have the decency to wait until she was nine before consummating the marriage!

        • Gwangi

          Yes, that is historical fact. He also traded and kept slaves, had all critics murdered, killed many more – for example anyone who refused to convert to his new warlord empire-building religion.
          This jars rather with the constant parroting of UK Muslims that Mohammed is a perfect man whom they all love, and the vile and constant pandering of our media (esp TV) which insists on calling him ‘the prophet Mohammed’ as though that is a fact (saying ‘the warlord paedo Mo’ would be more accurate!)

    • Gwangi

      Yes, but they are just following what Mohammed did himself. In his lifetime, some Bedouin poets wrote verse criticising him.
      What did this so-called prophet do? He had them all killed by having their turbans nailed to their heads.
      Ah the religion of peace, doncha just lurve it?!

  • Jen The Blue

    A pointless article really. To start with one cannot just ignore Hadith in Muslim theology.
    Secondly, the fact is many Muslims consider images of Mohammed blasphemous… witnessed by the thousands of anti-Charlie Hebdo demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Notice also that while a few Muslim leaders condemned the killings there has been no Muslim outpouring of support for freedom of speech…rather that the west introduces Sharia blasphemy laws.

    The punishment for which …is……er…….death!

  • paulvew
    • ugly_fish

      I read the book recently – fascinating. That what is now known as Islam (and the koran) has its roots deep in a form of Syriac Christianity, which kept its Jewish traditions, denied the Trinity, and was anathematized at the Council of Nicaea is, for me, beyond doubt (seems more plausible than the story of the koran being the immutable word of god told to a warrior-p*dophile in a cave by an angel). Muhammed was a title meaning the chosen or preferred one. There is good evidence to suggest that it was applied by early Christians in the area to Jesus Christ, and the inscription in the Dome of the Rock (originally built as a church on one of the supposed sites of Christ’s tomb) can be interpreted to reflect this.

    • Fasdunkle

      probably not

  • David Green

    Who cares about an Arab on a mountain.

    • Guest

      Who cares about an Arab on a tree?

      • TNT

        Or hanging around in a supermarket?

        No. Wait…

  • Grandad9

    I just find it so difficult to understand how anybody, of sound mind, can get heated up about this. Having read the history of Mohammed, written within a hundred years of his death, I can find nothing to like about the man. Religion really is for idiots. Moses? The illegitemate son of an Egyptian Princess, allowed to grow up as Royal but never allowed to have power, well of course he was going to nab a few disgruntled slaves and try his luck grabbing somebody else’s land. Jesus? a Jew who went East in his travels and came back preaching Eastern Bhuddist philosophy of peace and love. Married to Mary Magdalene, because you couldn’t teach in a Jewish community without being married. Mohammed? Well here’s a story, orphaned boy, brought up by uncles family, not with love but with duty. Leader of the camel caravans for a rich woman, attacked and stole other caravans to get in the good books, married his employer then killed her when he became rich and powerful. A coward who wouldn’t enter villages controlled by Jews or Christians. Went into settlements who still worshipped many gods, took the village elder and said convert, if he said no Mohammed slit his throat in front of the villagers, they all converted. If we are to progress we must take all this religious rubbish and confine it to the dumps of history, to be dragged out now and then to look at and say “wow people were that stupid”.

    Dare I go on? Well why not. St Peter the founder of the Christian Church. As said before, to be a teacher in a Jewish society you have to be married. This means St Peter was married but therein lay his problem, he was Gay. He was a true misogynist who couldn’t understand why Jesus loved Mary M. more than he loved Peter. So Christianity is founded on misogyny, just look at the Catholic Church. Celebacy is just a cover for homosexuality, no man can refuse his sexual needs therefore we have child abuse.
    If I have upset anybody then good. Look at your rediculous faith in the clear light of day and reject it, it is for fools.

    • Grandad9

      I add any misspellings and bad grammar are the result of limited education in a Capitalist country, they rely on taking the mickey out of intelligence by promoting their own superiority in minor grammatical errors.

  • swatnan

    Well done for putting the record straight!
    Monty Python mueally da filmte Lif off

  • Doc Lemm

    Religions are like gangs within their group dynamics…