Why Muslims reject the depiction of Prophet Muhammad

The attack on Charlie Hebdo has reawakened the controversial issue of depicting Prophet Muhammad which has often angered Muslims across the world.

Why Muslims reject the depiction of Prophet Muhammad

"Why do Muslims reject the depiction of Prophet Muhammad?" – the Western world has been asking that question since the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten first published Prophet Muhammad caricatures in 2005, sparking the anger of Muslims.

Last week's deadly attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has reawakened the controversial issue of depicting Prophet Muhammad, a practice which has often displeased Muslims across the world.

Although there is no verse in the Quran forbidding people to record the Prophet's image, Islam and Prophet Muhammad objected to portraying an animated being to prevent any idolatry.

"There were pagans in Prophet Muhammad's times who also worshipped trees and stones, but Prophet Muhammad opposed only images of animated beings – humans and animals –, as reported by the hadith," says Recep Senturk, Professor of Sociology of Religion at Fatih Sultan Mehmet University in Istanbul in an interview with The Anadolu Agency.

The hadith – prophetic traditions and sayings – is considered a second source and guide after the Quran in terms of textual authority.

According to Islamic sources, as a basic doctrine, Prophet Muhammad is not God but just a man and depicting him can cause people to idolize a human being in lieu of Allah.

Hayrettin Karaman, a retired professor of Islamic law, says Muslims take the issue emotionally: "For Muslims, to depict the Prophet Muhammad is a kind of forgery or deceit. Because no portrait can represent the real one."

"They know that whoever they draw or whomever they cast a role, he cannot replace the Prophet."

Senturk cites a hadith saying: "To show the superiority of the monotheist faith, Prophet Muhammad smashed the idols at the Kaaba in Makkah. He also removed paintings that were blasphemous to Islam, while protecting images representing Mary and Jesus, inside the building."

"The hadith emphasizes that aniconism depends not only on what, but also on how things are depicted," Senturk says, stating that today's reactions are not only for depicting Prophet Muhammad but violating sacred persons, places and objects which should be treated with respect and dignity. 

"The Western world is now facing a dilemma: right to religion versus right to freedom of expression. A political cleavage is being created around this line in Europe and the U.S. as well as the rest of the world but to a lesser degree," he says.

"However, at the center of the intensifying debate is the Muslim minority in Europe who are asked to accept sacrilege and blasphemy of Islam and Prophet Muhammad in the media as part of freedom of expression."

Indicating that if people respect the right of a community to hold something sacred, they also need to respect their right to decide what is sacrilege against it, Senturk says, adding: "Whether making the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad is a sacrilege must be decided by Muslims, not by non-Muslims."

"And Muslims from around the world have been repeatedly voicing their view that making cartoons of Prophet Muhammad offends them because it is a sacrilege in their faith."

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked a global controversy when it first published caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in 2005.

The Jyllands-Posten printed 12 editorial cartoons depicting the Islamic Prophet in an article entitled “The face of Muhammad.” More than 100 people were killed in Pakistan alone during riots sparked by the cartoons' publication.

The newspaper claimed the publication was an attempt to contribute to the debate about criticism of Islam and self-censorship.

But Muslim groups in Denmark complained, and the issue led to worldwide protests and violence as well as riots in some Muslim countries.

Founded in 1969 and published every Wednesday, Charlie Hebdo also triggered controversy in February 2006 when it ran a front page with the headline: "Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists." It pictured a tearful Prophet Muhammad saying: "It's hard being loved by jerks."

Its offices suffered an arson attack in 2011 and its website was hacked a day after it renamed a special edition "Charia Hebdo" and listed the Prophet Muhammad as its editor-in-chief.



Last Mod: 15 Ocak 2015, 10:19
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