A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

The Wikipedia Stance

I’m totally siding with Wikipedia. History doesn’t just belong to modern-day Muslims, especially if it is related to Islam as done by Muslims of other centuries. After all, modern-day Muslims are a very, very small part of all the Muslims in history, and these modern-day Muslims have absolutely no right to try to negate the history of Islam’s other Muslims.

Historical negation aside, these images were taken from Islamic manuscripts intended to actually SPREAD Islam by using images when most people in the world did not know how to write or read. That actually makes them a pretty lofty cause as far as Islam is concerned, because they did manage to convert some Berber, Persian, and East Asians to Islam.

So yeah, go Wikipedia. [link]


Before the 18


Pixel Evolution


  1. Fatima

    Ahmad Al-Sholi, you’re quite right, I actually had truncated the references I had, because there is another version of the hadith in Bukhari which gave the same meaning (the wording was the wording of Muslim), and I thought I would make things simple. I’ll try to be more clear next time.

    What you have mentioned (of turning the curtains into cushions) is part of the reason why scholars have disagreed on 2D images: are they not allowed in and of themselves, or is it that they were being hung up? Did turning the curtain into a cushion change the images (maybe the horses were very big and got distorted when they were cut) or did everything remain the same except for the use of the material?

    When a scholar comes to a conclusion, they have to look through ALL of the resources and statements available. Again, I only mentioned two for simplicity, to show where the argument was coming from, because a blog (any blog) is usually not the most ideal place for a conversation like this. But here is another hadith that might help reconcile things a little:

    Narrated Aisha may Allah be pleased with her: “I bought a cushion (numruqah) having images (tasaaweer) on it. When Allah’s Messenger peace be upon him saw it, he stopped at the door and did not enter. She noticed the signs of strong disapproval on his face. She said: O Allah’s Messenger! I turn to Allah and His Messenger in repentance. What sin have I committed? He said: What is this cushion for? I said: I bought it for you to sit on and recline. Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘The makers of these images (suwar) will be punished (severely) on the Day of Resurrection and it will be said to them, “Make alive what you have created.”‘ He, peace be upon him, added: ‘Angels do not enter a house in which there are images (suwar).'” [Bukhari and Muslim]

    Again, there is so much more involved in the matter in terms of fiqh and usool al-fiqh and usool al-hadith which goes beyond the scope of this conversation… but does that help answer your questions at all?

  2. Ahmad

    Latest Featured Article


    Bonfire of the Pieties
    Islam prohibits neither images of Muhammad nor jokes about religion.

    “The Muslim Fury,” one newspaper headline screamed. “The Rage of Islam Sweeps Europe,” said another. “The clash of civilizations is coming,” warned one commentator. All this refers to the row provoked by the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper four months ago. Since then a number of demonstrations have been held, mostly–though not exclusively–in the West, and Scandinavian embassies and consulates have been besieged.

    But how representative of Islam are all those demonstrators? The “rage machine” was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood–a political, not a religious, organization–called on sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood’s rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party’s 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut.

    The Muslim Brotherhood’s position, put by one of its younger militants, Tariq Ramadan–who is, strangely enough, also an adviser to the British home secretary–can be summed up as follows: It is against Islamic principles to represent by imagery not only Muhammad but all the prophets of Islam; and the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. Both claims, however, are false.
    There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else. When it spread into the Levant, Islam came into contact with a version of Christianity that was militantly iconoclastic. As a result some Muslim theologians, at a time when Islam still had an organic theology, issued “fatwas” against any depiction of the Godhead. That position was further buttressed by the fact that Islam acknowledges the Jewish Ten Commandments–which include a ban on depicting God–as part of its heritage. The issue has never been decided one way or another, and the claim that a ban on images is “an absolute principle of Islam” is purely political. Islam has only one absolute principle: the Oneness of God. Trying to invent other absolutes is, from the point of view of Islamic theology, nothing but sherk, i.e., the bestowal on the Many of the attributes of the One.

    The claim that the ban on depicting Muhammad and other prophets is an absolute principle of Islam is also refuted by history. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers. There is no space here to provide an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most famous:

    A miniature by Sultan Muhammad-Nur Bokharai, showing Muhammad riding Buraq, a horse with the face of a beautiful woman, on his way to Jerusalem for his M’eraj or nocturnal journey to Heavens (16th century); a painting showing Archangel Gabriel guiding Muhammad into Medina, the prophet’s capital after he fled from Mecca (16th century); a portrait of Muhammad, his face covered with a mask, on a pulpit in Medina (16th century); an Isfahan miniature depicting the prophet with his favorite kitten, Hurairah (17th century); Kamaleddin Behzad’s miniature showing Muhammad contemplating a rose produced by a drop of sweat that fell from his face (19th century); a painting, “Massacre of the Family of the Prophet,” showing Muhammad watching as his grandson Hussain is put to death by the Umayyads in Karbala (19th century); a painting showing Muhammad and seven of his first followers (18th century); and Kamal ul-Mulk’s portrait of Muhammad showing the prophet holding the Quran in one hand while with the index finger of the other hand he points to the Oneness of God (19th century).

    Some of these can be seen in museums within the Muslim world, including the Topkapi in Istanbul, and in Bokhara and Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and Haroun-Walat, Iran (a suburb of Isfahan). Visitors to other museums, including some in Europe, would find miniatures and book illuminations depicting Muhammad, at times wearing his Meccan burqa (cover) or his Medinan niqab (mask). There have been few statues of Muhammad, although several Iranian and Arab contemporary sculptors have produced busts of the prophet. One statue of Muhammad can be seen at the building of the U.S. Supreme Court, where the prophet is honored as one of the great “lawgivers” of mankind.

    There has been other imagery: the Janissaries–the elite of the Ottoman army–carried a medallion stamped with the prophet’s head (sabz qaba). Their Persian Qizilbash rivals had their own icon, depicting the head of Ali, the prophet’s son-in-law and the first Imam of Shiism. As for images of other prophets, they run into millions. Perhaps the most popular is Joseph, who is presented by the Quran as the most beautiful human being created by God.

    Now to the second claim, that the Muslim world is not used to laughing at religion. That is true if we restrict the Muslim world to the Brotherhood and its siblings in the Salafist movement, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. But these are all political organizations masquerading as religious ones. They are not the sole representatives of Islam, just as the Nazi Party was not the sole representative of German culture. Their attempt at portraying Islam as a sullen culture that lacks a sense of humor is part of the same discourse that claims “suicide martyrdom” as the highest goal for all true believers.
    The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade. Both Arabic and Persian literature, the two great literatures of Islam, are full of examples of “laughing at religion,” at times to the point of irreverence. Again, offering an exhaustive list is not possible. But those familiar with Islam’s literature know of Ubaid Zakani’s “Mush va Gorbeh” (Mouse and Cat), a match for Rabelais when it comes to mocking religion. Sa’adi’s eloquent soliloquy on behalf of Satan mocks the “dry pious ones.” And Attar portrays a hypocritical sheikh who, having fallen into the Tigris, is choked by his enormous beard. Islamic satire reaches its heights in Rumi, where a shepherd conspires with God to pull a stunt on Moses; all three end up having a good laugh.

    Islamic ethics is based on “limits and proportions,” which means that the answer to an offensive cartoon is a cartoon, not the burning of embassies or the kidnapping of people designated as the enemy. Islam rejects guilt by association. Just as Muslims should not blame all Westerners for the poor taste of a cartoonist who wanted to be offensive, those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy.

    Mr. Taheri is the author of “L’Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes” (Editions Complexe, 2002).


    Return To Top

    Subscribe Log In Take a Tour Contact Us Help Email Setup Customer Service: Online | Print
    Privacy Policy Subscriber Agreement & Terms of Use Mobile Devices RSS Feeds
    News Licensing Advertising About Dow Jones
    Copyright © 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

  3. Thanks ahmad for that article.

    Due to how Islam is taught in most sunni Muslim locales, you have a have majority of people like Abed Hamdan who believe far too many things in Islam to be “absolutes”. The historical reality (which is rarely taught in the Muslim world) is that far fewer things are “Absolutes” in Islam. Forbidding images is one of those things that aren’t absolutes except if you are modern-day sunni (like Abed) who thinks the Sunna (includes the hadith) is the correct form of Islam that the Prophet had intended for, 1400 years ago.

    The Sunna, and all of us sunnis follow a corrupted form of Islam since around 900 AD. In fact there were no Sunni’s during the Prophet’s time, nor in the next few generations after his death. Nor were the Hadith written down nor properly preserved (as the Qur’an has been) during his time or the time of his “rightly-guided caliphs”.

    Abed it is not your fault for what you believe, but if you would waste as much time reading non-polemical Islamic history as you do responding redundantly on this blog you may benefit and open your eyes to the history of Islam, and then you may understand that your version (Sunnism) is not what our great forefathers who spread Islam actually practiced.

    Ruba thanks for your post, and for citing wijdan’s scholarship on the subject.

  4. Ahmad


    I disagree with you when you said that’ In fact there were no Sunni’s during the Prophet’s time, nor in the next few generations after his death’. In our holy book, there is a verse ordering Muslims to obey Allah, his Prophet, and who is in charge in government if he does not abuse the island. The Sunni means any things were done by prophet like ablution or praying or eating …etc. even prophet told his followers to pray as he did .This dismiss your statement in above

    I quoted the previous article to not challenge Abed’s opinion because I am with him 85%. I wanted to show the Variety of views on the depicting prophet Muhammad.

  5. Ahmad Al-Sholi


    Thanks for taking time to respond. However, all versions are covered within hadith without historical order to judge which supersedes the other, not to mention they both may have covered same incident.

    In other words, it remains judgmental to which fiqih school the reader belongs to or to which “ifta2” they may recite to.

    In that sense, al azhar itself may have different views from disapproving the movie “al-risala” to allowing video games that glorifies Islam Era.

    Yet, no conclusive opinion was reached based on fiqih as the most rigid views depended on the artist intention to imitate god creation. Where, many arts were intending to glorify god and the beauty of his creation.

    The bottom line, is what have been agreed upon or most importantly proven in fiqih is the intention of the art. Thats even for the people following fiqih closely as a way of life.

  6. Ahmad, a Sunni Muslim for the last millenium is someone who follows Sharia through both qur’an and HADITH, and mostly through the teachings of either the Hanbali, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanafi schools of jurisprudence.

    FYI. all those folks were born after 711 AD (the year we Muslims reached Spain), with the exception of Abu Hanifa who was 12 years old at the time. The Umayyad dynasty was in charge of Islam then, and if you read the extensive works of Al-Tabari for example, you will realize that while Muslims during that time thought highly of Muhammad, his actions and words were not as big a part of “shari’a” or law as it was after 900 AD. There are many reasons behind this I won’t go into because you’d better read them from a scholarly source.

  7. Many insightful entries in this discussion.

    For me, it’s interesting how later variations on the Judo-Muslim tradition of aniconism deal with the subject.

    For example the Sikh religion, which has its roots in both the heavily iconic, natural Hindu religion and in Islam, advocates a formless, eternal, and unobserved god but does not dictate against the depiction of its founder[s], whom are considered to be strictly humans. Sikhism was born in the fifteenth century CE in northern India which was under [Muslim] Mughol rule and in a culture were drawing and painting was an established art-form in everyday life among Muslims of that place and time.

    The Bahai faith, which has its roots in Shi’i Islam, prescribes strict conditions for the handling and display of the photograph of it’s founder, who was contemporary to moderately developed photography technology, obviously out of respect and understandably as a precaution against abuse. But it doesn’t forbid it altogether.

    Wikipedia has fairly unbiased articles about the Bahai faith; its history and founder, and where the factor of “international secret conspiracy against” is not present (they are the conspiracy after all, wouldn’t most Muslims say? :). Still, Wikipedia includes the photograph of Bahaullah against the preference of Bahai’, who’s beliefs would drive them to immediately turn-off the monitor right away or even unplug their PCs with little precaution if they lay sight on the photograph of the founders of their religion.

    So yes, in my opinions encyclopedias shouldn’t be sensitive to the specific religious dictums of the faiths it articulate.

    After all, where such depictions are included in encylopedias and books – we’ve had some at home for ages before this was a popular subject – they are mostly non-derogatory, and unlike what some hereabove believe were indeed drawn out of respect by Muslim individuals whose interpretations of Islam didn’t find this offensive.

    Additionally, an encyclopedia won’t invent a derogatory image on purpose; and where a depiction that is considered by some to be offensive – like the ones of the Danish affair – is included in an encyclopedia, its out of articulating a historical event that had a great effect on so many people that covering-up on it is not acceptable. No?

  8. Sparky O'Neal

    There’s an interesting site that has collected a huge assortment of images of the prophet mohammed, and it shows many made by muslims themselves throughout the centuries. Be forewarned, however, that some of the categories may raise your blood pressue if you’re easily offended.

    Still, the historical images are worth taking a look at. If you’re likely to be offended by images of ridicule, avoid the category “extreme mohammed”.

    It’s here –

    Again, if you can’t take it, don’t look.

  9. Haya

    it’s nice how Roba wages such a discussion and does not participate!!
    Roba you seem to me a trouble maker like faisal al qasem…

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén