Sunday, February 05, 2006

Historical depictions of Muhammad

An article in The Australian discusses historical depictions of Muhammad by Muslims.

Depictions of Mohammed were common during the Ottoman Empire, when the taboo on portraying him was less strong, although often his face was left blank. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a 16th-century picture of Mohammed in a mosque, wearing long sleeves to hide his arms and hands.

A 14th-century Persian miniature shows the angel Gabriel speaking to Mohammed, whose face is shown. Medieval Islamic pictures often echoed Christian iconography. The University of California has a 14th-century Turkish painting of the newborn Mohammed in his mother's arms, like pictures of the Christ child.

The taboo is stronger in Sunni Islam than Shia -- and even today in Iran, which is mainly Shia, pictures of Mohammed can be bought illegally in markets.

Even in the holiest Muslim city of Mecca, Mohammed has been depicted. Edinburgh University has a 14th-century miniature of him rededicating the black stone at the Kaaba mosque in Mecca, to illustrate A Monumental History of the World by Rachid Ed-Dine.


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