Depicting Mohammed (Watching Insubordinate Women Tortured In Hell)

(For “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” I’m moving this post back to the front page.)

This is a fascinating link to plenty of Islamic artistic renderings of Mohammed from before prohibitions were created.  From the site:

In 1999, Islamic art expert Wijdan Ali wrote a scholarly overview of the Muslim tradition of depicting Mohammed, which can be downloaded here in pdf format. In that essay, Ali demonstrates that the prohibition against depicting Mohammed did not arise until as late as the 16th or 17th century, despite the media’s recent false claims that it has always been forbidden for Muslims to draw Mohammed. Until comparatively recently in Islamic history, it was perfectly common to show Mohammed, either in full (as revealed on this page), or with his face hidden (as shown on the next page). Even after the 17th century, up to modern times, Islamic depictions of Mohammed (especially in Shi’ite areas) continued to be produced.

Below I’ve reproduced just a few of the many images available at Mohammed Image Archive, one representative of straight up Mohammed art, the others representative of sick religious misogyny:

Illustration showing Mohammed (on the right) preaching his final sermon to his earliest converts, on Mount Ararat near Mecca; taken from a medieval-era manuscript of the astronomical treatise The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries by the Persian scholar al-Biruni; currently housed in the collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (Manuscrits Arabe 1489 fol. 5v). This scene was popular among medieval Islamic artists, and several nearly identical versions of this drawing (such as this one[shown in detail below] and this one) were made in the Middle Ages.

Mohammed, along with Buraq and Gabriel, visit Hell, and see a demon punishing “shameless women” who had exposed their hair to strangers. For this crime of inciting lust in men, the women are strung up by their hair and burned for eternity. Persian, 15th century.

Next, Mohammed sees women strung up by hooks thrust through their tongues by a green demon. Their crimes were to “mock” their husbands and to leave their homes without permission. Persian, 15th century.

Further on, Mohammed sees a red demon that is torturing women by hanging them up by hooks through their breasts, as they are engulfed in flames. The women are being punished for giving birth to illegitimate children whom they falsely claimed were fathered by their husbands. Persian, 15th century.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • iris

    Dear Daniel,
    I am doing some research on Islamic art and I am desperately trying to get hold of Wijdan Ali’s essay.
    I am actually writing an essay myself about ‘depicting Prophet Muhammad in the ISlamic tradition’.
    For some reason I can’t access the website you linked above. Do you have a copy of it or would you know where I can find it?
    Thanks a lot!
    best wishes,
    Iris


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