Mohammed Image Archive

Not Mohammed

The following images do not depict Mohammed. They are included here because they have in the past been mistakenly identified as Mohammed.

This page serves as the permanent archive of all images that have, either accidentally or intentionally, been wrongly labelled "Mohammed."

Where possible, evidence is provided for each image showing that the figure depicted is indeed not Mohammed.

The "Oldest" Mohammed Image

This image circulates on the Internet labelled as not merely a depiction of Mohammed but as the oldest surviving portrait of him in existence.

However, that image is actually a crude Photoshop of an ancient fresco in a Coptic Christian monastery in northern Egypt, as seen here, which originally depicted a Chistian figure. It is not known who perpetrated the hoax, nor what purpose it served. Several Hindu sites make the competing claim that the Photoshopped image (which they also assume is real) represents not Mohammed but Kalki, the tenth incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu, who according to legend rides a white horse and carries a sword, as in the first picture above. It could be that the hoax image was originally intended to depict Kalki (note the crude swastika, a Hindu good luck symbol, in the top figure's left hand), but then was later re-Photoshopped a second time to convert Kalki into Mohammed, by adding a turban and Arabic writing to the earlier changes.
(Thanks to: taeor g.)

The Rebirth of Greece Mohammed

Allegorical depiction of the Rebirth of Greece above a representation of Constantinople; a figure identified as "Mohammed" (lower right), awestruck, drops a Turkish-style sword (known as a "yataghan"). The "Mohammed" figure is wearing 19th-century clothes, an unintentional anachronism on the artist's part, and the figure is almost certainly not the original Mohammed (as some Web sites claim) but some later historical figure also named Mohammed, most likely Mohammed II, a.k.a. "Mehmed the Conqueror," an Ottoman Sultan who captured Constantinople from the Greeks in 1453. The photo is of a 19th century "pelmet" (a window decoration made of wood) from the island of Syros, Greece. Currently housed in the Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece.

Detail of "Mohammed" from the picture above.

The "Young Mohammed" Portrait

In January of 2006, at the height of the worldwide protests against "pictures of Mohammed," a female Iranian artist named Oranous Ghasemi (who lives in Tehran) painted this portrait of Mohammed as a young man, and offered it for sale online. Bloggers who noticed the new portrait at the time could not understand why Muslims did not also also deem this picture taboo and why the Iranian government allowed it to be displayed, when all other online portraits of Mohammed were condemned and banned. An expert in Iranian Shi'ite customs wrote to the Archive explaining that this particular painting is not forbidden in Shi'a Islam because it depicts a young Mohammed before he was visited by the Angel Gabriel and started receiving his visions, which means that at this stage in his life he was not yet the Prophet.

But that turned out to be just the beginning of the story.

Oranous, it was subsequently discovered, based her painting on a well-known Iranian poster of the young Mohammed which had been popular as a wall decoration in homes and shops throughout Iran for decades; the version seen here is from the 1990s.

A version of the poster was even woven into a Persian carpet that is now in the collection of The Carpet Museum of Iran in Tehran, a carpet which the Ayatollah Khomeini praised as "a perfect portrait of the young Mohammed."

The recent Iranian posters were themselves modelled on earlier posters, such as this one, which has the the following inscription in Farsi: "Blessed portrait of the venerated Muhammad, at the age of eighteen during his journey from Mecca to Damascus when accompanying his venerated uncle on a trade expedition. Portrait due to the paintbrush of a Christian priest; the original painting is at present in a Muze-i Rum [western museum]."

But those posters are neither original Iranian creations nor by "a Christian priest" (as the inscription falsely claims), but instead were themselves based on a postcard (seen here) published by Lehnert & Landrock, a company which printed many racy erotic photographs of semi-nude and "alluring" North African adolescents in the early 20th century, including both half-naked "Bedouin girls" as well as homoerotic "anthropology porn" of effeminate young boys, including this one originally titled "Arab youth."

The "Arab youth" postcard was popular and went through many editions, one of which was later titled simply "Mohammed" (seen here) -- a title undoubtedly chosen by the printers to represent a typical Arab boy's first name, and not meant to suggest that the image depicted the 7th century founder of Islam.

It was this "Mohammed" postcard which must have at some point made its way to Iran, where, over time, it was mistaken as a "Christian" portrait of a young "Mohammed" the prophet. The exact mechanism by which this misidentification occurred is lost in the mists of time.

Eventually, researchers discovered other photographs of the same boy taken sometime between 1904 and 1906 by the Czech photographer Rudolf Franz Lehnert in Tunisia, part of a photo session which also produced the picture used for the postcard. The original photographic print is seen here.

So it turns out that a "portrait" of Mohammed well-known through Iran is actually just a photograph of a Tunisian teenager from the early 20th century.

(Thanks to: baldy, Raafat and Webb.)

The Age of Empires "Mohammed"

On one of the pages for its game Age of Empires II, Microsoft featured (as part of its description of "the Saracens") this drawing which seemed to be a portrait of Mohammed, since it accompanied a recounting of Mohammed's life story. However, readers who have played the game say that the image actually is meant to depict Saladin, the Muslim general who fought against the Crusaders, and this drawing was likely only placed as an illustration here next to a textual description of Mohammed by accident or just because Microsoft had no better illustration to use. Microsoft originally featured this layout (the left-hand image) on their Web page for the game, but later took it down, possibly because of threats or complaints about depicting Mohammed -- even though the image never was Mohammed in the first place. The standalone image is shown on the right.
(Thanks to: Martin and Cletus.)

The Aladdin Casino "Mohammed"

The former Aladdin casino in Las Vegas, Nevada had a Middle-Eastern design theme; among its many Islamic decorations was this ceiling painting of a large figure which some employees claimed represented Mohammed. However, upon closer inspection it can been seen (as in the second image above) that the large figure is emerging from the smoke of Aladdin's magic lamp, and thus the painting instead more likely depicts a djinni (genie). The Aladdin casino was converted into a Planet Hollywood casino in 2007, and all the original Middle-Eastern decorations, including this painting, were removed or destroyed. The second picture shows the painting's original location, on the ceiling above the slot machines near the casino's main Las Vegas Boulevard entrance.

The Veiled Mosque Mural "Mohammed"

This image was submitted to the Archive erroneously identified as being a 17th-century mural on the "Iman Zahdah Chah Zaid Mosque" in Isfahan, Iran depicting the veiled spirit of Mohammed holding up his wounded cousin Ali at either the Battle of the Camel in 656 A.D. or at Ali's assassination in 661 A.D. However, the picture almost certainly instead depicts a scene from the Battle of Karbala in 680 A.D. in which the veiled spirit of Ali (behind) holds up the martyred Hussein (also sometimes spelled "Husayn") who has a wound on his forehead. Similar scenes can be found in other paintings called "The Martyrdom of Husayn."

A version of this mural can be found in the Bridgeman Archive captioned "Ali Ibn 'Abi Talib (4th caliph)." Presumably the "Ali" in the title refers to the figure behind, not the one in front.

Detail of figure from the picture above, originally identified as Mohammed but more likely to be Ali. The exact location of the original mural is not known; if there ever was an "Iman Zahdah Chah Zaid Mosque" in Isfahan, its name may have been changed, or the name may be a bad transliteration, since there appears to be no mosque with that name in the city now.

The Twelve Imams "Mohammed"

This 2006 news photo from the Iraq War by Andrew Stern and originally captioned "Iraqi children with a picture of The Fourth Caliph Ali at the Al-Huda squatters' camp, Baghdad" shows Iraqi refugee children behind a religious poster which depicts several Islamic figures, one or more of whom were assumed by readers in the West to be representations of Mohammed. However, the poster instead shows the Twelve Imams of Shi'ite Islam, starting with Ali and Hasan (who are likely the figures depicted in the larger portraits) and culminating with the hidden "12th Imam"(a.k.a. "the Mahdi") who is the final figure at the lower left shown with a blank face (because he has not yet appeared).

The original version of the full poster, seen above, can be viewed here, and is discussed and referenced at this page, which notes that the Twelve Imams are all (according to Shi'a Islam) Mohammed's successors, not Mohammed himself; because in Shi'a popular folk iconography all early Islamic holy figures are represented wearing green turbans/robes along with mustaches and beards of similar length and style, non-Muslims often have difficulty recognizing the subtle pictorial indicators which distinguish Mohammed from Ali from all the other prophets, saints, heroes and holy men in the Shi'a belief system. The full poster reveals that the three big portraits are in fact just enlarged versions of the three first Imams in the row below -- Ali (center) and his sons Hasan (left) and Husayn (right). None of them are portraits of Mohammed, as some Westerners mistakenly thought. (See the final images at the bottom of the Archive's "Islamic Depictions of Mohammed in Full" page for similar-looking Shi'ite religious icons which do depict Mohammed.)
(Thanks to: Rune.)

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