If you think that you have just one life, think again. There's the life you think you have, the life others think you have and the life you really have- three lives!

Friday, March 02, 2007

One for Halal Hippie

I got this interesting article by email.
Food for thought!

Imagery in Islam

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.


halalhippie said...

Wow, thanks, If only the director of "Islam - the Message" had known that. The plot of the movie would have been a lot easier to understand.

And the Taleban. They could have saved the explosives for the Buddha statues.

But still, depicting the Prophet is blasphemous - not because the Qu'ran says so or doesn't say so - but because most Muslims agree on it.

howie said...


This guy is a friend of mine...I would enjoy your thoughts


howie said...

I don't think I posted that correctly:


The Usual Suspect said...

I knew you would find this one interesting- but what you say is right- it's considered blasphemous because most Muslims would probably say they find it offensive. I doubt that most Muslims actually know what the Quran actually says on the topic at all.

Thanks for the link. I agree that the Darfur genocide is being ignored by the international community. There are a lot of Muslims who just don't want to admit that it is happening as well. They are in denial- like they are with the whole Islamic terorrism thing- they don't want to believe that Muslims are doing this- they prefer to believe that it is some kind of Western media created smoke screen.
I really can't fathom that mentality but I assume it's associated with what I've written about before- you know the focus on the glory days of the Islamic Caliphate which clouds everything else.
The West is not doing much either- Darfur is another Rwanda. Years from now someone in Hollywood will make a film about it and the world will gasp in shock "how could this happen, how could we let this happen" and then everybody will go back to their 9-5, their air conditioned homes and their goals of buying that Mercedes and it will happen somewhere else, and somewhere else, and somewhere else- the same pattern.

You know Howie- I'm also not entirely convinced about the whole "peace keeping" approach to this. Fact is we're not dealing with a war in which two sides are equally equipped to kill and maim combatants on the other side. We're dealing with the indiscriminate killing of civilians by a brutal force with the sole aim of wiping out an entire group of peoples - where is the peace to keep?
The other thing that I think is wrong is this whole focus on the "international community"- what exactly is it? Is it the UN- ineffective and obsolete. Is it a body of people or is it an imagined community of 6 billion + human beings most of whom don't give a shit or can't give a shit. All this talk about the "international community" just confuses the situation and fails to address the issue. If we continue to rely on this somewhat ill defined community to do anything we are in fact putting our hopes on a mirage- a false image- a ghost.
I don't have the answers, only questions.

howie said...


I too have too many questions...

Philosophically, I could say people are more designed to be part of tribes rather than countries...You in Austrilia...me in the USA...hard for me to relate to "America"...what does that mean? Hundreds of ethnic groups, regional politics, every race and religion on the planet etc. What is American? I don't even know.

With Darfur...the UN..you know..maybe it would help to look at the micro instead of the macro. If save one family...and that family is yours...well then that is a pretty big deal...So maybe you and I will say one family...can't save Darfur, but can help save parts.

That guy that wrote the story is coming to my house next week for a week. When you get to know folks like this personally, it puts a much different face on it.

pommygranate said...


Happy International Women's Day!

The Usual Suspect said...

Sorry I haven't responded for a while- life took over, as it does.
I get what you're saying about tribes/ nationalism- but where do you think it comes from? People like you and I are able to see ourselves as part of a big world but there are the majority who only see themselves as part of an imagined community of others who are "like me" and separate to those who are "not like me"- the others.
When you see yourself as part of a global race then Darfur hurts you because you don't see a difference between your family and a family of people living in the midst of a genocide forgotten by a world of people who are more concerned with their bank accounts and their mortgages. That's the difference. You don't know what American is, I don't know what Australian is- I can't tell you what that means but I can tell you what it means to be human to have compassion and to realise that you in America, me in Australia, whoever in any part of the world- we're all the same really in terms of our desires and needs- we were just born into different contexts. Quite by accident I'm sure.

howie said...


I am kind of fascinatated by the concept of free will vs. accident of birth.

What if I was born to Osama bin Laden and raised in a cave in Afganistan. What chance would I have had to think about things in this matter?

I can only think that one has to go through the pain of striving for truth and the pain of self-examination. But yes...some strive for decency...others for power.

The Raccoon said...


Howie -

A Buddhist friend told me once that he wakes up happy every morning because in this reincarnation, he has the time to seek enlightenment; the mind to understand the words of Buddha; and the security to aid him in his studies.

Just a random Raccoonish thought (one that's not about garbage :) )

HalalHippie said...

"When you see yourself as part of a global race "........you carry the world on your shoulders. No human (or even huNam, mr. Raccoon) can do that all the time. So we care, when we have care to spare, and then we care about our mortgage and rent. And then we care a little more again.

We try to be good, as best we can.
Sorry, I should be sleeping instead :-)