How the Ottomans handled depictions of the Prophet Muhammad

Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are deemed illegal and offensive by Muslims, but depictions of him are not a new phenomenon.

How the Ottomans handled depictions of the Prophet Muhammad

World Bulletin / News Desk

According to Islamic lawyers and jurists, in general terms it is not permissible to reflect the body and the face reflect in any depiction unless it is within certain restricted boundaries. The reasoning behind this restriction is to prevent the idolization and worship of portraits, figures and statues.

For this reason, although there were of course some exceptions, traditionally in Islamic states miniature art was usually at the forefront of artistic culture. Miniature depictions were especially found in manuscripts all over the Muslim world. These miniatures would usually feature the sultan and depict the history and biographic texts of that era, in addition to functioning as a symbolization literature and the sciences.

These manuscripts include books on stories from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Particularly in books that glorify the Prophet's ascension to heaven, calligraphic handwriting has been used to form images for hundreds of years. Ilhanli (1256-1353), Timurlu (1370-1506) and Safevi (1501-1722) are some of the earliest depicters of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) using this style. Normally these artists would hide the Prophet's face with a veil or with light beaming from it.


















The sensitivity regarding the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been preserved until today. In 2005, an insulting caricature of the Prophet in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper caused uproar across the Muslim world. This sensitivity was also kept in mind during the Ottoman era.

Due to this sensitivity, according to a document found in the Ottoman Archives dated on January 14, 1895, when a collection of depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as well as the other prophets (peace be upon them all) was seized, extra care was taken to prevent the images from being published.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Ocak 2014, 09:42