Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., recently laid off. erica lopez prater, an adjunct faculty member, won an award for exhibiting two historic Islamic paintings of the Prophet Muhammad in the World Survey of Art History. Following complaints from some Muslim students, university administrators said such images were disrespectful and Islamophobic.
Although many Muslims today believe it is inappropriate to depict Muhammad, this was not always the case in the past. moreover, discussion The issue continues to be debated within the Muslim community. In academia, this material is taught in a neutral and analytical manner that helps students, including those of the Islamic faith, evaluate and understand historical evidence.
as an expert in Representation of Prophet Muhammad in IslamI refer to the recent labeling of such paintings as “hate speech” and “blasphemy” is not only inaccurate, but also inflammatory. Such accusations can pose a threat to individuals and works of art.
Prophet Muhammad is represented Islamic painting since the 13th century. Islamic art historians like my colleagues and I regularly study and teach these images to both Muslims and non-Muslims. These form part of a standard survey of Islamic art, including calligraphy, ornamentation, and architecture.
Compare images of prophecies
of From the 14th and 16th century The image chosen by López Prater depicts Muhammad receiving the beginnings of the revelation of the Quran from God through the angel Gabriel. In Islamic thought, it was at that moment that Muhammad became a prophet appointed by God.
This 14th century painting is part of the royal manuscript Compendium of Chronicles written by Rashid al-Din.it is one of the earliest illustrated history Of the world. The manuscript contains a number of paintings, including a series of images depicting several important moments in the life of the Prophet Muhammad.
Those discussed in López Prater’s class appear in the section on the revelation of the Qur’an and the beginning of Muhammad’s apostolate. This painting depicts the facial features of the prophet as the angel Gabriel approaches him to deliver the divine word of God. The event is shown to take place outdoors in a rocky environment, matching the description in the accompanying text.
The second image was made in Ottoman territory in 1595-1596 and is part of a six-volume book. biography of the prophets. More than 800 of his paintings included in this manuscript depict major moments of Muhammad’s life from his birth to his death.
The painting depicts Muhammad standing on the Mount of Light, known as Jabal al-Nur, near Mecca, with his hands raised in prayer. His facial features are no longer visible. Instead, they are hidden behind a veil on his face.
Ottoman artists chose to use white fabric to depict the purity of the Prophet and his entire being touching the divine light through the large fiery halo surrounding his body. Jabal Al Noor, as its name suggests, appears as a radial elevation. Above and beyond the clouds, a train of angels floats in praise.
important research questions
These two paintings demonstrate that the representation of Muhammad in Islam is neither static nor monolithic. Rather, they evolved over centuries. In the 14th century, artists painted the prophet’s facial features, but later artists covered his face with a veil.
Islamic art historians ask students to compare these two paintings, while also encouraging them to slow down, observe carefully, and train their eyes to spot the elements in the picture and infer meaning. We also ask students to consider the textual content and historical context that accompanies the paintings.
The key questions that students are encouraged to think about through the juxtaposition of these two Islamic paintings are: Why did the facial veil and the halo of flames develop as two important prophetic motifs in Islamic depictions of Muhammad from 1400 to 1600 AD?
The images can help teachers lead a collective conversation that explores how the prophets were conceptualized in a more metaphorical way. veiled beauty and as shining light – Especially over the last two centuries.
This invites a broader exploration of the diversity of religious expressions in Islam. Sufis, or what is spiritualized in nature. These paintings therefore capture the richly textured mosaic of the Islamic world over time.
This historically sensitive juxtaposition of paintings is known as comparative analysis or “.comparandum” This is an important analytical technique in art history, and one that López Prater used in his classroom. At a time of intense debate over what is and is not Islamic, such rigorous study of Islamic painting is proving more necessary than ever, and indeed essential. .
This article is republished from conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Christian Gruber, University of Michigan. The Conversation is trusted news from experts and independent nonprofit organizations. Try our free newsletter.
Christian Gruber does not work for, consult, own stock in, or receive funding from any company or organization that might benefit from this article, and does not have any affiliations other than his academic appointment. He has not disclosed his affiliation.