Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Using Picture or Image

Writing from Penang, an island of Malaysia in the north west side.

I just saw one comment from a friend of mine about posting picture, specially picture of a prophet (Jesus Christ in previous post). Those who are not familiar with Islamic view, in orthodox islamic teachings, images of any living animal or person is very much discouraged and prohibited (same as Judaism). Influenced by this view, many practicing muslims regard picture as something very much a taboo. People took it so seriously that after the invention of photography many muslims refused to take picture (and some still do).

Now there needs to be some clarifications. And its completely on my personal understanding. I'm NOT an expert on Islam nor a scholar. But everybody has certain realization at some points. So i'm expressing mine here. You may like it, hate it or just ignore it all together.


We have to analyze the context of such idea of despising pictures. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had to fight very had to remove the pagan influence of the original monotheistic religion of Abraham. At that time (fifth century) Arab Peninsula were very much influenced by pagan gods and rituals that heavily used idols and images of imaginary gods. So amidst that kind of influence, Prophet Muhammad had to prohibit images, and it was just because of associating man made deities with One God. It was infact an attempt to re-establish the Ten Commandments given to mankind by God. So Prophet prohibited all images and idols. Also he prohibited to draw picture of living beings. And the whole idea was to prevent people to go back into darkness of pagan idol worship.

At the same time what happened to the follower of Jesus Christ also allarmed the Last Prophet of God. Instead of following the Ten Commandments, some follower of Jesus Christ under the influence of pagan religion of Roman Empire started building statues and images of Jesus Christ, as well as that of Mary to worship them. It was a very fundamental problem that was in contradiction to original Judio-Christian teachings. The ascribing of Divinity to Jesus Christ came through such idolizing process.

Because of such pheonomena, Prophet Muhammad forbade drawing any picture of himself so that people don't start worshiping the Prophet instead of worshiping God. Thus one will never find a picture of Prophet Muhammad drawn although his coming was more than 500 years after Jesus Christ. Also muslims don't hang any picture of any prophets since that is against the teachings of Islam and also against the Ten Commandments.

Remember the Ten commandments where it says,

3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing ...

Now we must understand that the use of image was prohibited to prevent people from blaspheming. And if one use image for the sake of clarity, for beautification; I think that problem doesn't come into play. In that context use of image is fine. It gives strong visual signals and information which is conducive to understanding and knowledge.

We must see the bigger picture and able to realize the true meaning of the teachings. Sometime narrowing down and limiting the real meaning of the teachings make us fall into serious errors and lead to divisions.

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