Saturday, February 9, 2008

Prophet Muhammad’s Images

To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker; one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for co-existence and world peace - God wants his creation to be in peace and harmony, and that is the chief purpose of Islam; peace.

Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Images

I am pleased to append the following two articles for the purpose of understanding the conflict about Prophet Muhammad’s images. Please free to forward and post it on your website of Blog.

1. Why Islam Should Tolerate Images – by B.R. Gowani
2. Wikipedia, Prophet Muhammad, and Muslims – by Sheila Musaji

Much has been written on the subject, a few things are worth reiterating;

1. Arrogance is the root cause of all evil, and the anecdote is humility through prayers.
2. Arrogance breeds a sense of immortality in mortal beings
3. Arrogance causes one to treat the other less than full and creates conflict.
4. Arrogance and spirituality are inversely proportional
5. Arrogance is the first kill in all religions – through the prayers.

Prophet Muhammad is one of the arrogance busters of the world and lived the example of his teachings. Unlike the Kings and heads of state that lived a vainglorious life by putting their pictures or busts in every public space and feel egged one, the prophet who was the head of the state, fountain-head of religion and the society, did the very opposite of it. He asked people not to do that. He wanted people to focus on God the creator and not Man the mortal, over a period of time he did not want people to convert Muhammad to become a God like figure. That is one of the greatest lessons in humility he taught us. I salute him for teaching us that humility. Ya Nabi Salaam Alaikum.

Thank God, Muslims have listened to him and they worship no one but God. His teachings are safe and we need to sense the humility it brings to us, humility is the step from which co-existence is reached.

Mr. Gowani has made a thoughtless comparision,"The Hindu deities are personalized and so are friendly as opposed to the Islamic God who comes out as some stern authoritarian dictator like Yahweh, the God of the Torah, i.e., the Old Testament."

Every religion presents all aspects of God, God is myriad of qualities, one has to read the whole page (or book) to grasp them all, however, one should never forget the dominant ultimate aspects; Grace and Kindness. God shows his wrath to those who kill other humans, his creation; If there is no punishment, what holds the individual from making a habit of killing? What will happen to the ensuing chaos? In Hinduism God is creator, destroyer and sustainer and Mr. Gowani elected not to give the whole picture. God is most certainly compassionate and kind, and that is highlighted more often than the stern aspect of God.

When someone else wants to identify the prophet through an image or a picture, how can we stop him or her? If they do in a remote Island, we cannot prevent it either. The advice prophet gave to worship no one but God was for Muslims, let’s follow that as individual Muslims. If others refrain out of courtesy that is welcome, but never should be push any one to do it. There shall be no compulsion; Islam is about choices and freedom.

Mike Ghouse

Why Islam should tolerate images
Every now and then one hears that Muslim "sentiments" are hurt because a picture or a cartoon of Mohammad (the Prophet and founder of Islam) was published. There are instances, such as in Denmark, Sweden, etc. where the cartoons, the one where Mohammad is wearing a bomb as a turban, were printed with no other intent but to malign Mohammad and Islam, and to hurt Muslim feelings. <1> Other times, the pictures are included as part of the articles without any ill intent.
As a consequence, the wretched and ignorant people in Muslim countries are incited by the corrupt and authoritarian leaders (the same leaders who if caught by those people wouldn't see another day) for their own political motives. Riots and chaos ensues. Lives get extinguished.

Who are the Losers?
Dozens of internet websites are replete with hundreds of recent and old cartoons and pictures of Mohammad, many of them are hundreds of years old and have originated in both Europe and Muslim countries. Several of them are of good quality and pleasing to the eyes. Others are extremely nasty, hate-invoking, and illogical.
Then there is this Iranian lady, Oranous Qasemi, who sells paintings of young Mohammad on internet. The Microsoft video game "Age of Empires II" has Mohammad in the segment "Saracens" or Arabs. One of the lawgivers (along with Hammurabi, Confucius, Charlemagne, Salon, Moses) on a bas-relief sculpture, on the US Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. is Mohammad. He is shown holding a Koran in the left hand and a sword in the right.
The real losers of this intolerance are the Muslim artists who would like to try their artistic skills in portraying their God, Prophet, and other members of Mohammad's family but cannot do it for fear of government reprisals and the wrath of the Islamic fundamentalists. Perhaps, few of them would do it in an unflattering manner but many of the Muslims, I am sure, would paint and draw pictures which could make Islam, like other religions, more understandable to its followers and outsiders.

"Mohammad, Messenger of God"
And when someone makes such an attempt, she/he is bogged down under so many restrictions that the final product looks ridiculous.
The case in point is Moustapha Akkad's 1976 film, "Mohammad, Messenger of God," about the Prophet of Islam.
The film was shot not in Mohammad's hometowns of Mecca and Medina, but in Libya!
It was not released in Mohammad's motherland, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia!! <2>
It was about Mohammad but without Mohammad!!!
Many other Muslim countries banned the movie but allowed it to be released after Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini permitted it to be shown in Iran. (Akkad's aim in making the movie was to improve the image of Islam. It is sad though that he himself got killed in 2005, along with his daughter, in a terrorist bomb blast in a hotel in Jordan. The Islamists were behind the blasts. Akkad also produced eight "Halloween" movies.)

Images are Necessary

Many philosophers, intellectuals, and those with similar bent who believe in some supreme power are capable to fulfill their belief without resorting to any kind of image of goddesses, gods, or God, in an idol or other form. One can fathom their contentment with an abstract image of a deity. Many of those may even be critical, not wrongly so, of the religious spectacles which have become a regular nuisance, and which often ends up in rioting in many countries.
However, most of the people, whether educated or otherwise, are not that advanced in their understanding of the supreme deity they believe in and so cannot shun images and idols as part of their believing or religious rituals. It's a natural tendency. Doesn't it happens that when the loved ones are not around, most of the human beings try to find some solace in pictures, paintings, audios, and videos? So in the same manner, when the prayers are offered most of the people would like to have some object/s in front of them to look at and find the image they have created or perceived in their minds of the deities they believe in.
For believers the whole Universe is God's creation and yet they assign a certain place as God's house and give it a name of mandir, masjid, gurudwara, synagogue, church, etc. Why? It is precisely because they don't see God everywhere but only in the places assigned and that's why they go over there-of course, there are social, political, economical, and other reasons, too. Because if it was otherwise that they could feel the presence of God everywhere, then the mullahs or the clerics would have allowed poet (Mirza Asadullah) Ghalib (1796-1869) to drink in a place of worship, heeding his complain:
O imam, let me drink in the mosque
Or show me the place where God isn't
The Shia branch of Islam is not that rigid about pictures and paintings of Mohammad and his family members. However, it can't be said that most of the Sunnis, except the puritans and Wahhabis, are absolutely devoid of object worshipping. They do have their objects which they revere while praying or paying respect. Take, for example, Koran or the names of Allah and Mohammad or the Koranic verses written in calligraphic form on walls, papers, and clothes. Muslims touch them reverently, or kiss them or embrace them to their bosoms not because they see some aesthetic beauty in them; but rather it's the Godly attributes which they feel in them. In mosques and shrines, the Koranic verses are in simple or calligraphic form all around. Not that the believers are incapable of appreciating the artwork, but basically their aim is different, whereas the non-religious, atheists, agnostics, and some artistic minded Muslims would only check if they find them beautiful.
(The dargahs or shrines of sufi teachers in South Asia are not only visited by Muslims but also Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and others. And the persons entombed in the shrines are invoked for help.)

Total Freedom Would Benefit Islam
Hinduism has been around for over twice the time Islam has been and is the third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. The Hindu deities are personalized and so are friendly as opposed to the Islamic God who comes out as some stern authoritarian dictator like Yahweh, the God of the Torah, i.e., the Old Testament.
As technology advances and becomes easy for people, through internet and other means, they explore these outlets to creatively put out their religious ideas for others to experience.
Last year in September, the Cartoon Network in India released four animated films on Lord Krishna. Then there is Virgin Comics, of Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, which produces comics based on Hindu mythology; associated with him are Gotham Chopra and filmmaker Shekhar Kapoor.
In the west, movies, TV programs, and plays such as "Benhur," Ten Commandments," "Moses," "Jesus Christ Superstar," and uncountable others have been produced.
Islam needs to be relaxed; it's long overdue. It shouldn't worry about losing to other religions. In this market of religions, if it loses few followers, it can gain a few, too. Either Islam can permit more freedom to its adherents by relaxing many of the obviously irrational restrictions and flourish like other religions, or carry on the US style rough and tough attitude and keep people within its fold with a danda <3>.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) declared God as a dead entity in 1880s; nevertheless, the religions are going to stay for a long time to come-because the system built by the ruling classes and the merger of religious, business, and political interests and their exploiting of the people to the maximum leaves those people no other option but to be at the mercy of goddesses, gods, and God for solace and comfort. Or to quote Karl Marx:
"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
And so it's unthinkable that Islam would like to leave the field so soon.
B. R. Gowani can be reached at
<1> In 2005, the same Danish newspaper had refused to print cartons of Lord Jesus Christ. The excuse from its Sunday editor Jens Kaiser was: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."
<2> The Saudi rulers treat Mecca and Medina, the holy cities for Muslims, as their private property. In the US, the film's release was postponed because a Muslim group took 22 workers of a Jewish organization B'nai Brith as hostages. A reporter was shot dead and few people were beaten and shot. It was released in 1977 as "The Message."
<3> The US could have managed the Taliban menace through non-violent means. Instead it opted for the only thing it knows best- annihilation through war. This has created more "terrorists," more mess, and more instability in the Middle East and the surrounding regions.

Wikipedia & Prophet Muhammad's images

Wikipedia, Prophet Muhammad, and Muslims in need of Islam 101
by Sheila Musaji

The most recent non-issue being turned into a major incident by the thoughtless reaction of some Muslims is the Wikipedia entry on Prophet Muhammad. This wikipedia entry contains some paintings showing images of the Prophet from very old Islamic texts. Images also available to anyone who owns copies of the books in question, or who visits a museum or online academic archive of images.

Some Muslims have demanded removal of the pictures. Put together petitions to “cleanse” wikipedia of the pictures. Muslim blogs are posting requests to complain to wikipedia and sign petitions. Non Muslim blogs see this as an attempt at censorship.

Islamonline published an article expressing the opinion that the pictures should be removed and also referred to the Jylland posten Danish cartoons incident as if this could be considered in the same category.

There is more than one petition online. One which only has 178 signatures reads: “To: Wikipedia Authorities. The Wikipedia has shown the picture of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in their article on Muhammad. It is highly deplorable act and i request you all to order the Wikipedia to remove this picture which is fueling religious hatred. Who ever has placed this picture is a true terrorist as he is trying to incite more then 1 billion Muslims of the world.”
The main petition mentioned in Blogs, articles, and even emails going out, now has over 116,443 signatures. This petition states: “In Islam picture of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and other Humans are not allowed. But Wikipedia editors are showing illustrations with face illustrated and face is veiled or white washed. But still they are offensive to Muslims. I request all brothers and sisters to sign this petitions so we can tell Wikipedia to respect the religion and remove the illustrations.”
The number of signatures on this site disturbs me as the number of signatures for truly important issues like endorsing The Common Word statement, or The Amman Statement, A Pax on Both Our Houses: A Multireligious Call & campaign for US-Iran Peacemeking, or even the National Interfaith Statement Against Domestic Violence have received very few signatures in comparison.
Even the NYT has noted the flap, and the NYT article notes that the Muslim petition site was informed that Wikipedia readers could set their personal viewer so that images are not shown on any page. “The site considered but rejected a compromise that would allow visitors to choose whether to view the page with images.” Since Wikipedia is not an “Islamic” site, this seems like a perfectly reasonable adjustment to the sensibilities of some readers.
Wikipedia has refused to delete the pictures and has released a statement as to why they are not removing the pictures. This statement seems perfectly reasonable to me as a Muslim.

And, of course, as such things go, someone has posted a petition to fight Islamic pressure to censure Wikipedia. Once again, some Muslims who have a particular point of view express themseves in such a way that non-Muslims see this as “the” Islamic position on a particular issue, and not one of many possible positions. It’s not Islamic pressure it’s Muslim pressure by some Muslims.
I truly don’t understand why with all the serious problems we face in the world, anyone would make an issue about the Wikipedia entry on the Prophet Muhammad. This is especially true since the article is well balanced and may cause many non-Muslims to read more about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and since the pictures are from Muslim texts and the article includes the disclaimer:

“Figurative depictions of Muhammad were a significant part of late medieval Islamic art; however, such depictions were generally limited to secular contexts and to the elite classes who could afford fine art.[19] Depictions of Muhammad were common during the Ottoman Empire, when the taboo on portraying him was less strong, although his face was often left blank.[20] This article includes two images of artworks created by Persian Muslim artists which depict the uncovered face of Muhammad. The images are used respectfully in a historical context to illustrate two episodes from the life of Muhammad.”
Those who are making a mountain out of a mole-hill not only don’t understand Islam, but don’t understand wikipedia. Wikipedia is an online free-content encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is a collaborative effort in which anyone can participate.

Making an issue about something like this is pointless, and just gives the Islamophobes something else to make fun of. Although, it may be hoped that since there are so many sites around the world commenting on this incident and referring to the wikipedia page (28,000 hits when I googled this topic) that in spite of the thoughtlessness of those creating this issue, in the end many more people will have a chance to learn something about the Prophet (pubh).

Come on!

There have been a lot of non-controversies turned into controversies by foolish Muslims. A few that come immediately to mind are the Opus cartoon, the Sudanese teddy bear incident, the Minnesota cab drivers who refused to carry blind passengers with guide dogs, the Malaysian court decision that Christians can’t use the word “Allah”, the Apple store in New York - Apple Mecca incident.

We need to put on the brakes and install circuit breakers in the system to head off foolish and sometimes even violent responses, and turn even difficult situations into opportunities to benefit Islam and Muslims by reacting in positive ways and asking ourselves What Would Prophet Muhammad Do?.

Please write your comments to:
Please write the subject line as: Prophet Muhammad's images

The World Muslim Congress is driven by the Qur’aan, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware." Our Mission is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. No one should have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it. Indeed we aspire to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.