The US Supreme Court includes a depiction of Muhammad

I’d missed this previously, but one of the 18 lawgivers depicted in a series of artworks at the US Supreme Court is Muhammad.

Perhaps it’s best if Fox News doesn’t notice that… but also it seems to have only triggered relatively rare protests or requests from Muslims for it to be removed. Once reason perhaps is that Islam’s attitude towards depictions of Muhammad is rather more varied than it is often portrayed, as Sameer Rahim has written about for Prospect magazine:

Nothing in the Koran forbids image-making but it does worry about idol-worshipping. A century after the Prophet died in 632, around the time his first biography was being circulated, religious authorities tried to avoid replicating what they saw as the misguided Christian adoration of Jesus and avoided painting him, especially in places of worship…

The anxiety about turning him into a quasi-divine figure is central to the early theological wrangles between Islam and the religions it confronted— not only Christianity, but also Zoroastrianism and Hinduism in the East, which have their own rich religious artistic heritages…

In the 14th and 15th centuries, poems and prayers lauding Muhammad’s noble qualities began to feature pictorial representations of Islam’s founder. You could compare them to Christian images of Mary, of which there are also many Islamic variants…

By the 17th century, unveiled images of the Prophet became more rare as patronage decreased and a cultural conservatism took hold. More often he came to be represented as a flaming circle with his name in the middle. But such images have not completely disappeared. In the Shia suburbs of Damascus, paintings of saints are common and I have even seen the Prophet riding his winged horse on a mural in Iran.

Read Sameer Rahim’s piece, from which I discovered the Supreme Court fact, here.

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