The Prophet Muhammad, depicted as an inscribed and radiant disk, during his celestial ascension, Nizami, Makhzan al-Asrar (Treasury of Secrets), text transcribed in western India in 1441 and painting inserted subsequently, Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul.

Blasphemy, iconoclasm, Islamophobia?
Islamic art – understanding the richness of the Muslim world

How is one to convey the history of Islamic images of Muhammad freed from today’s polarised politics? What are the challenges and pinch points of this particular academic endeavour?

On 21 January 2023, a lawsuit filed by Erika Lopez Prater against Hamline University, which dismissed her from teaching because she showed her class historical Islamic paintings of the Prophet Muhammad, became publicly available. That same day, I was attending an international workshop on Islamic piety in Turkey. As news of the lawsuit made the rounds, I listened to several of my colleagues present talks on the use of imagery in global Muslim devotional practices.

Among them, a scholar discussed a new book in German titled "Was der Koran uns Sagt: Für Kinder in einfacher Sprache" ("What the Quran Tells Us: For Kids, in Simple Language"), produced by a Muslim scholar for German-speaking Muslim children. This child-friendly Koran is illustrated with many images, including the very same Ottoman painting of Muhammad receiving Quranic revelations that Lopez Prater included in her class discussion and that Hamline administrators excoriated as disrespectful and Islamophobic.

© New Lines Magazine 2023


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