Perhaps because Muhammad, is like Santa Claus, a real association, misinterpreted with good intentions and then exploited and warped by a greedy and worldy ambition — which dissonances are now deeply felt among Muslims and deeply shaming in ways that — because unlike Santa Claus in which apostasy results on only in mild winter shunning in the vicinity of impressionable children — apostasy or conversion from Islam is ruled out, on pain of death. The problem cannot be articulated or dealt with — except though expressing an ever-expanding and inchoate rage.
BUT all the same … Happy Draw Muhammad Day!
So much fun — you get two for the price of one !
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch politician with a Muslim bounty on her head, has written of the deep damage that is done by the fearful reaction to the “informal fatwas” of Muslim kooks and extremists — under the principle of substituting in place of the rule of law, Islam’s “commanding right and prohibiting wrong” and encouraging the imposition of death on those who are seen as wrong.
Lacking the basic Christian attitude of humility in personally accepting a fundamentally sinful human nature, this self-aggrandizing tendency within Islam allows the zealous believer to enlarge and satisfy his own ego — supposing himself to be the willing instrument of a vengeful god. It is enticing to the worst aspects of human depravity, and lacking any possibility of self-restraint, as it claims divine warrant. To this danger, Islam — as a system of thought– is utterly blind.
This blindness is the only way to understand things like a man trying to actively champion a view of a “moderate and peaceful” Islam in New York — then grotesquely evaporating his own arguments — by beheading his wife. Theo Van Gogh, by American standards a fairly limp lefty, was stabbed to death in the most liberal nation in Europe — with a note impaled into his chest with the knife identifying him as a enemy of Islam, for whom death was the punishment. Hirsi Ali — and Salman Rushdie, both had to go into hiding with permanent security details to avoid a similar fate. And now, a cartoon satire whose invective knows no limits, and has lampooned the foolishness of every religion on the planet — barring only those they happen not to have heard about — yet submits to censor under the deadly demands of Islam.
Hirsi Ali’s proposal is to draw and publish Muhammad’s image everywhere and as much as possible so to diminish the risk to any one target — and thus rebate the force of the Muslims fringe’s attacks through the sheer mass of the image’s presence. It is an intriguing and worthy suggestion. But image — though never real — yet speaks to a finite reality. This begs the question what does the negation of an image speak to? The negation of that existence, perhaps?
My more subversive attack is to ask the simple question “BUT WHY?” WHY should there be no images of Muhammad? Why does one not ask this question? Why the prohibition ?
The Q’uran states in Sura 42:11 that nothing is like God — seemingly contrary to the statement of Genesis that man is made in God’s image. An image of a man cannot be idolatry — unless one identifies that man with God — which would be blasphemy. Christianity turns that on its head; God takes Man as an image of Himself, rather than men making images of God. But, since Islam is so adamant that Muhammad was merely a man, then why the prohibition on images of him and why the outrage?
If the man now called Muhammad actually existed — there should have been images of him somewhere — heck, everywhere — even imagined ones. There are countless images of Jesus of Nazareth attesting to his human reality and existence as Man — and as the quintessential Image of God on earth, it is entirely appropriate from a Christian perspective that there should be. Confucius has many images. So does Gautama Buddha. These men are seemingly historically attested and we have images of them.
Images of Muhammad are prohibited (where this prohibition is given is not clear, the Q’uran does not contain it). There are stories — but no images. Since the prohibition on idolatry reaches only to God — this tends to identify Muhammad with attribute or privilege appropriate to God alone — that graven images of God not be made. A graven image of a man is not theologically suspect — but the prohibition on making the image of one man, even a supposed prophet among men, is very curious and highly problematic.
Theologically speaking, imagining is man’s link to God. Genesis tells us that Man is not a god — and fell in wanting be like one by his own effort — but Man is created in the Imago Dei — in the image of God. As God imagines so does He create. He imagined us out of nothing and we are. We imagine ourselves from what we are to what we may become — all manner of human beings doing all manner of things – because we imagine them and make them real. Thus, we are made in God’s image — as co-makers or co-creators — of ourselves and of the world. We are sub-creators, as Tolkien would say.
There is a subversive (for Islam) thesis in linguistic circles that the Koran was the result of an Arabic effort to translate a Syriac Christian lectionary, with many additions and glosses. The Koran is therefore, under this reading, not a primary revelation of God but a derivative work of a Christian liturgical aid — corrupted by misunderstanding, historical ignorance, and a later worldly ambition put in written form almost two hundred years later founded on the secular uses of religious fervor — ultimately forming the basis for a conquering cult of personality in the name of one “Muhammad” — the faceless prophet.
The question is begged — without any image of him, with the earliest biography of him more than a hundred and fifty years after his era, of which no copies survive, with all the variant editions of the Koran rounded up and burned at the two hundred year mark — are we confident that Mohammad even existed ? No images ? None ? Not even covert ones ? Is it imaginable that humans being would so studiously refrain from imagining the image of such an important person, whose name is part of the formual of salvation according to their belief ? Why penalize it so — after all he was just a man, right ? Unless of course he was nothing at all but a name on the page, or perhaps not even a name … perhaps just a word — M*H*M*D the Arabic ( or Syriac) passive participle “be praised.” If identifying a man — it is not a name — but a title or epithet.
My subversive thesis: The name “Muhammad” is not actually a name. The word appears only four times in the Q’uran. In Classical Arabic, it has no diacritical marks at all — which leaves the word ambiguous as written. As read it is the passive participle of H*M*D “praised” which can be an adjective or an adjectival noun, ” the praised one.” If not a title or epithet it may simply be a formula of the Syriac Christian lectionary — the passive participle “praised” or “be praised” as in ” … praised be he.” The passive participle in Classical Arabic is used without a fixed syntactic role. It is not inflected for person — so there is no way to internally determine to what or whom the word refers in context. The manner or operation of the modifier is not definite — other than it relates to the subject of the sentence. Thus, the minimal diagrammatic of the term M*H*M*D is “praised be [the subject of this utterance]” OR [the subject of the utterance] be praised”
The word M*H*M*D appears only four times in the Koran (Tr. — Abdullah Yusuf Ali) :
3:144 Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many Were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then Turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.
“(If )no more than a messenger [be praised], many were the messengers that passed away before him — died or were slain. Will ye then Turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.
33:44 Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.
[Praised be] not the father of any of your men, but the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.
47:2 But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to Muhammad – for it is the Truth from their Lord,- He will remove from them their ills and improve their condition.
But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to [be praised] – for it is the Truth from their Lord,- He will remove from them their ills and improve their condition.
48:29 Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Torah and their similitude in the Gospel is: like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight. As a result, it fills the Unbelievers with rage at them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness, and a great Reward.
[Praised be] the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Torah; and their similitude in the Gospel is: like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight. As a result, it fills the Unbelievers with rage at them. Allah has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness, and a great Reward.
Read in this manner the word M*H*M*D no longer is a name of a mere man but a word referring to the “subject of the utterance” — which in many respects now seems to echo the identity of , well, not to put too fine a point on it,
— Jesus —
In each of these is a specific Christian reference. “The Angel of the Lord” (“the Messenger of Allah”) is often read in the Old Testament from a very early date in Christian thought to refer to the pre-Incarnate Logos appearing to guide Israel . In Christian teaching, Jesus is the Prophet who was slain — but who has has NOT passed away, as distinguished in the text. The ‘Seal of the Prophets’ echoes the declaration of the two Great Commandments, in which are contained all of “the Law and the Prophets”, as does the reference to the text being in after the likeness of both the Torah and the Gospels — with the mustard seed parable tagged on, to boot. The combination of believing and doing good works echoes James 2:17, 26. The “Revelation sent down to be praised — as the Truth from the Lord” is the pure orthodox doctrine of the Logos. Muslims themselves point the use of the root H*M*D or “Ahmad” “the praised one” which in Greek is periklutos, which they try to read as Paraclete — as referring to the Holy Spirit, which in the passage in which Jesus supposedly announces the future mission of “Ahmad” — under their own premise — simply renders it a restatement of The Gospel of John and the mission of the Holy Spirit.
“Muhammad” seems in this reading simply a title, the title of the nameless and faceless prophet of the Koran — unless it refers to Jesus. “Muhammad” is not a prophet of God; “Muhammad” the illiterate prophet whose ‘book’ millions revere is not even a dead false prophet of God.
“Muhammad” may simply be a mistake in reading — an honest, too zealous, illiterate’s mistake — taken way, way, way, too far…