Saturday, December 21, 2019

Depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Art

By Sameer Rahim
‘The Prophet Muhammad encounters the angel of half-fire and half-snow’, miniature from a copy of al-Sarai’s Nahj al-Faradis (c. 1465), Herat. Courtesy David Collection, Copenhagen
Warrior, king, celestial adventurer and Sufi – these are just four popular Muhammads. Nowadays you are most likely to see abstract representations such as an imprint of his sandal or a rose. These depictions, we should note, are no less meaningful for being non-figural. One curator of Islamic art at a private collection in London, who wants to remain anonymous, tells me that the framing of Gruber’s project to ‘restore to Islam its rich artistic heritage’, as the blurb to The Praiseworthy One has it, is problematic. ‘Everyone knows how crucial Muhammad is to Muslims […] and Islam doesn’t need its culture restored to it.’ Gruber acknowledges the objections. ‘It’s about restoring the proper discourse around images in a way that is free from other kinds of agendas.’ [More]