Back in 2006, many Muslims were angered when a right-wing Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons that portrayed the Prophet Mohamed in a negative light. At the same time, many other Muslims were rather taken by a portrait of Mohamed as a young man that was making the rounds in the markets.
That image was understood to be an old image of Mohamed on one of his early trading journeys up to Syria. It had been sketched by the Christian monk Bahira, the legendary figure of early Islam, who confirmed the prophetic status of the young man.
The contrasting responses to these two sets of images suggest that the issue is not whether one represents Muhammad, but how.
A study of the scriptures does not confirm any prohibition on images. The Quranic proscription of idolatry, the story of Abraham as a idol-breaker, and the condemnation of the Golden Calf, are all specific elements of the prohibition of images as objects of worship. But they do not prevent anyone from producing images of men — even sacred ones. [Continue reading…]