The Paris Review

Is It Ever Okay to Depict Muhammad?

The above image, portraying Muhammad as a boy, circulated widely in Iran throughout the later twentieth century and can read as a hadith in its own way. (Hadiths signify the sayings and actions of Muhammad or things said and done in his presence to which he did not object.) If you assumed that Muslims have opposed the visual representation of living things and would absolutely depict the prophet, and that the opposition to painting Muhammad represents an inescapably foundational Islamic value, this picture offers a lesson: claims made in always/never language rarely hold up to closer scrutiny, and no one within a tradition speaks for everyone else.

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