(Un)making Idolatry From Mecca to Bamiyan

I ask the Afghans and the Muslims of the world: Would you rather be the smashers of idols or the sellers of idols? – Mullah Umar, supreme leader of the Taliban

It is not those who forget, but those who “remember” the past that are condemned to repeat it. -Sheldon Pollock, “Ramayana and Political Imagination in India” Continue reading

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The Koran does not Forbid Images of the Mohammad

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The Charlie Hebdo killers were operating under a misapprehension. TOPKAPI PALACE LIBRARY

In the wake of the massacre that took place in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, I have been called upon as a scholar specializing in Islamic paintings of the Prophet to explain whether images of Muhammad are banned in Islam.

The short and simple answer is no. The Koran does not prohibit figural imagery. Rather, it castigates the worship of idols, which are understood as concrete embodiments of the polytheistic beliefs that Islam supplanted when it emerged as a purely monotheistic faith in the Arabian Peninsula during the seventh century.

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