By Hussein Rashid
“What does Islam say about images?” It is a question that seeks to understand religion through unitary and static prescriptions.
At its core, the question is about what is “Islamic.” Such a question is problematic because a community of believers decides what the religion means. Because human beings are involved, there will be differences. While there are boundaries for who a Muslim is, such as belief in monotheism, the prophethood of Muhammad, and observance of certain ritual and legal obligations, there is a lot more that Muslims believe that is not universally agreed upon, thus generating difference.
The confusion starts because Muhammad played two roles within his community—religious and spiritual authority and polity leader. Like earlier Abrahamic prophets, the combination of the two roles was expected and accepted.
Folio from the Majma’ al-tawarikh (Compendium of history) by Hafiz Abru (d.1430); recto: The Birth of Muhammad; verso:…
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