Mohammed Image Archive

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"This Is Mohammed"

This page features contemporary images which depict anything other than a middle-aged, bearded Arabian man and yet which nonetheless are identified as being portraits of "Mohammed."

This style of self-referential satirical Mohammed portraiture only came into existence in 2006 during the "cartoon crisis" (the worldwide violent protests over the Jyllands-Posten Cartoons). Prior to that, every depiction of Mohammed ever made was somewhat 'realistic" in that they always depicted a man, with a beard, often with a turban, wearing basic Arab-style clothing, and usually middle-aged. But as thousands of non-professional artists joined the new popular pastime of making their own versions of Mohammed, many resorted to simply retitling existing images or intentionally "misidentifying" pictures of things that the viewer would normally assume were not a 7th-century Arabian.

Ultimately, this style of semantic chicanery dates back to the Dadaist and Surrealist art movements of the early 20th century, and to artists like Marcel Duchamp, who placed a random urinal in an art gallery and titled it "Fountain", and René Magritte, who displayed an image of a pipe with the title "This Is Not a Pipe."

This exercise in paradoxical semiotics is meant to drive home the point that anything can be said to represent anything else, if society agrees on the fiction. But in our context it is more likely that many of these Internet comedians have resorted to this shorthand technique for making a "picture" of "Mohammed" simply because they don't have traditional art skills.

In any case, so many Dadaist self-defining Mohammed visual jokes have appeared online over the years that they merit an entire gallery unto themselves, since they don't really fit anywhere else in the Archive.

Included in this category are "stick-figure Mohammeds," rudimentary humanoid sketches which are only identifiable "as Mohommed" because they are labelled as such, not because they in any way resemble the popular imagination of what Mohammed looked like.

Almost all of the images below in the "This Is Mohammed" gallery have been made since 2006, except where noted.




A wide selection of Mohammed Smileys -- also known as Mocons (Mohammed Icons) -- are available at Hodja's Blog: here's a small sampling of them (with various spellings kept intact):

Muhammad (((:~{>
Muhammad as a pirate (((P~{>
Muhammad on a bad turban day ))):~{>
Muhammad with sand in his eye (((;~{>
Muhammad wearing sunglasses (((B~{>
Mohammad with a lit bomb in his turban *-O)):~{>
The devil mo ]:~{>
Mohammed with a nuclear bomb in his turban. @=(((:~{>
Muhammad being shot by Starship Enterprise =-o * * * (((:~{>
Muhammad sees a Danish cartoonist !((((8~{o>

Mocons are the most efficient way to digitally propagate the maximum amount of Mohammed imagery per byte.

The Mocon that most concisely represents the famous "turban bomb" Danish cartoon Mohammed, *-O(:~{>, was actually used as a slogan on a T-shirt and other promotional items, as seen in the top picture.


This scan from the Feburary 7, 2006 edition of the French humor magazine Charlie Hebdo shows a panel with two surrealist visual jokes: the one on top says, "Can one represent Mohammed...like he is today?" representing Mohammed as a skull and bones; the bottom caption says, "This is not a caricature of the Prophet" (a take-off on the famous Magritte painting).
(Hat tip: Martin.)

Logical Conundrums About the Nature of Representation


This is one frame from an animated gif showing the Arabic characters for Mohammed's name little by little building up a stylized portrait of Mohammed himself. It was designed to be a "test of piety" for Muslims, since the written version of Mohammed's name is supposed to be revered, whereas portraits of him are now considered by many to be blasphemous; so, at which point will the growing image cease being sacred and start to become blasphemous? If the full animated sequence is found, it will be posted here.


The popular Islamic design known as the "Prophet Tree" is how even Muslims themselves manage to paradoxically depict Mohammed while trying to obey a perceived taboo against depicting him. A Prophet Tree is a genealogical chart outlining Mohammed's purported ancestors -- but limited to only those who were themselves earlier prophets (he claimed descent from various Old Testament figures). Sometimes, as in the image on the left, the family tree is drawn as an actual tree, and Mohammed is depicted as a flower growing on the tree -- the culmination of a long line of prophets dating back to Adam himself at the base of the trunk. Hence, the flower (at the upper right corner, emanating rays) is a Dadaist allegorical representation of Mohammed. In other examples, as in the figure on the right, the chart remains more schematized and non-representational, with Mohammed "depicted" as simply his name written calligraphically inside a yellow circle. Although the right-hand example perhaps doesn't quite rise to the level of being a self-defined "depiction" of Mohammed, we present it here for the sake of completeness.

The image on the left can be found here, while the image on the right is online here.

Both of them are discussed here at the University of Bergen Web site discussing "devotional" depictions of Mohammed, with the following captions.

Left-hand image:
Prophet trees like the one shown in this picture are a popular subject. At the bottom of the trunk stands the name of the father of humanity and the first prophet: Adam. This is followed by the names of Islam's other prophets; Noah, Lot, Salih, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Jesus, to name but a few. The tree is crowned by a large flower at top right. This is Muhammad. Beside his name: "The seal of the prophets and envoys (i.e. the last prophet): he was sent for all of humanity." (Purchased in Jerusalem.)
Right-hand image:
More common than portraits of the Prophet Muhammad are more or less schematic representations of his family or genealogical tree, or so-called "prophet trees", where the Prophet himself may be symbolized by a calligraphic representation of the name "Muhammad", and/or a rose. In this family tree we find the Prophet's name in the middle of the upper part, with near relatives, wives and children and descendants below. The medallion in the right corner contains the sentence Allah jalli jalaluh, "God, Mighty and Glorious is He!" In the left corner medallion: "The magnificent family tree of our lord Muhammad, God's messenger, God bless him and grant him salvation, and the people of his house (his family and descendants)." Original: 50x70 cm. Purchased in Cairo in front of the Sayyidna Husain-mosque January 1988 by Richard J. Natvig.



Another comic strip based on the "At what point does the image become Mohammed?" concept appeared at the Caric caricatures site.
(Hat tip: Alexander Z.)


MSNBC political cartoonist Daryl Cagle made a clever point about the significance of labels; does renaming something transform it into something else? If we call an abstract blob "Muhammad," does it become Muhammad?
(Thanks to: strsbndy.)

Stuart F. Allen, a logician and expert on semantics from Cornell University, created this intentionally paradoxical series of labelled pictures to highlight the absurdity of getting upset over any image identified as being Mohammed -- presented here with the exact html code as in his original version:

Depictions of Mohammed and others as the Letter R.

Mohammed
Jesus
Lyndon Johnson
The Artist's Father


Other Things Re-labeled as "Mohammed"


Several postmodern satirists have highlighted the point that -- since no one really knows what Mohammed looked like -- any object could be said to be a representation of him. This toy figure from the Danish company Lego, probably originally intended to be a "pirate," has been re-identified as being Mohammed, and is a classic example of the genre.
(Hat tip: darmin.)


Archive reader Wade R. created this image of "Chehammed," along with the following explanation:

"Since Mohammed lived over a thousand years before the invention of photography and evidently never sat for a portrait there is really no possible way to know just what he looked like. But what if "The prophet" had a modern day doppelganger? It is possible that there are people walking around with his image emblazoned on their T-shirts inadvertently mocking Islam? In this light I submit the image I like to think best reflects what Mohammed looked like and may Allah have mercy on the souls of left-wing college students everywhere."


The French blogger "HerbeDeProvence" had his original blog deleted after he posted this satirical cartoon of Mohammed in jail. The caption under the picture says, "If the Koran had been written last week...", and Mohammed is saying, ""Let me out! I am Mohammed, the prophet of Islam!" while the jailer replies, "No sir! Under French law you are a child molester, a pillager and an assassin." The picture appears to be a drawing by famed Tintin artist Hergé (or one of his imitators), and probably originally depicted a 20th-century Arab in jail -- which was subsequently given a new caption and new word-balloons by the satirist, who also re-identified the Arab figure as Mohammed.


Many pundits, weary of repeating his name so often, have given Mohammed the nickname "Mo" -- which inspired a Dutch satirist to re-identify this photo of Moe Howard (from the Three Stooges) as instead being a portrait of "Mo" -- i.e. Mohammed. The original photograph probably depicts Moe Howard wearing a generic Middle-Eastern-style studio costume during one of the many Three Stooges comedy short films.


Artist Carolyn Main created this classic (and obscene) example of the genre in 2010 by drawing some male genitalia and then identifying them as "Muhammad." This image can interpreted one of two ways: Either we are seeing Mohammed from an unusual angle -- his genitals instead of his face -- or alternately that Mohammed is a penis.


Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell drew this caricature of Mohammed as an angry camel on February 3, 2006 ("got the hump" is a British expression meaning "upset"). Though this is one of the more offensive Mohammed images published in the mainstream media, the cartoon elicited no protests or outrage.
(Hat tip: nord.)



Archive reader "Will B." submitted this image of a Klingon identified as being a futuristic Mohammed. Klingons are a war-like race of aliens in the Star Trek universe whose personalities and worldview are somewhat similar to the ancient Arabs of Mohammed's era who conquered the Middle East.


Someone who goes by the user name "worldenterer" created this version of My Little Pony identified as being Mohammed, and posted it here at funnyjunk.com.
(Thanks to: Dawei.)


Martyn Turner, cartoonist for The Irish Times, turned the name "Muhammad" into a rebus, with "M.U." being the "Manchester United" soccer team, "ham" being a baked ham, and "mad" being a crazed terrorist.
(Thanks to: strsbndy.)

Mohammed as Stick Figure


MSNBC political cartoonist Daryl Cagle also commented on the absurdity of the "Mohammed Cartoon" violent protests by drawing this panel which includes a stick-figure Mohammed.

Blogger and pundit Bill Hobbs drew this stick-figure representation of Mohammed and posted it on a now-defunct blog, along with the comment, "Exercise your right to free expression by drawing pictures of Islam's 'Prophet Mohammed' before the West gives in to Islamist intimidation and fear of Islamist violence and makes it illegal to do so." Incensed, a columnist named John Spragens of the Nashville Scene wrote an attack piece implying that Hobbs had violated some rule of decency. A firestorm of accusations erupted, resulting in Bill Hobbs announcing his resignation from his job at a local university, apparently due to political pressure.
(Hat tip: Dar ul Harb.)



Archive reader "Jim F." submitted this double stick-figure image comparing "Mohamned" to "Satan."



Archive reader "Precision Division" submitted this stick-figure "Mohammed" which is almost representational, but which has so many intentionally inaccurate elements (a Christian-style halo, a Hindu-style bindi [red dot on the forehead], a handlebar mustache) that it is only because of its label that we can identify the image as being "Mohammed."

Mohammed as Pig


In 1997, an Israeli woman named Tatiana Soskin drew this caricature of Mohammed as a pig authoring the Koran and tried to display it in public in the city of Hebron. She was arrested, tried and sentenced to jail.
(Hat tip: helloworld.)


This caricature shows Mohammed as a pig being inspired by the Devil, who says, "Get ready! I'm going to dictate the next sura." It originally appeared in 2006 at the Czech Web site "Mediaoislamu," but the cartoon (along with a second one showing Mohammed as a suicide bomber) seems to have since been taken offline, and is now only preserved here at the Archive.
(Thanks to Peter S. for the translation.)


There is a traditional folk custom in Denmark of giving children small piggy banks with their names printed on them. Either because "Mohammed" was included on a list of popular names, or because someone at the piggy bank company was playing a prank, in 2006 there appeared piggy banks sporting the name "Mohammed," as originally reported by the Danish blog Polimiken and reposted at Gates of Vienna. Because pigs are considered unclean in Islam, and because it appears that the pig is supposed to be Mohammed, some people were concerned that the piggy banks would spark more anti-Denmark riots in the Muslim world.
(Hat tip: Martin and Tom P.)



Mohammed as Teddy Bear

In 2007, British teacher Gillian Gibbons allowed her Sudanese students to name their teddy bear Mohammed, resulting in riots, violence and jail time for Gillian. In response to the furor over the "Teddy Bear Crisis" as it came to be known, various people created "Teddy Bear Mohammeds," such as the examples shown here.


As a commentary on the crisis, Archive reader "stuck-in-ca" created this image of a Sudanaese Islamic guerilla teddy bear Mohammed.


Here's another Mohammed Teddy Bear, made in response to the Gillian Gibbons incident. It was widely posted on the Internet, though it's not clear who first created the image.


The "There Is No God" blog had this gangsta teddy Mohammed as their illustration for another story about the Sudanese teddy bear crisis.
(Hat tip: CiberTrix.)


The Weekendavisen Satires


On November 4, 2005, the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen published a full-page humorous feature satirizing the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, but in this case composed entirely of Dada-esque "portraits" of Mohammed which actually depict other things. The satire, reproduced above in a scan of the entire page, was titled "I profetens skæg" ("In the prophet's beard") and contained ten individual self-defined joke-portraits of "Mohammed." All ten are reproduced individually below.

The satire is presented as an exhibition of portraits of "The Prophet Muhammad, as our most eminent artists see him," with several of the images being exact or almost-exact reproductions of well-known modern artworks -- but with the artists now wanting to remain anonymous.

The page cannot be found at the Weekendavisen Web site, but a low-resolution black-and-white scan of the newsprint page is preserved at "Fat Steve's Archives." The versions shown here at the Mohammed Image Archive were taken from a high-resolution full-color scan of the Weekendavisen page included in the "Akkari-Laban dossier" which can be downloaded as a pdf file (12.4mb) here.

The infamous Akkari-Laban dossier was a 43-page pamphlet produced in 2005 by a group of Danish imams who traveled to the Middle East in the wake of the Jyllands-Posten cartoon publication in order to stir up anger and resentment toward Denmark and the West in general. The pamphlet produced by the imams not only showed the actual original 12 Jyllands-Posten cartoons, but also three faked insulting images of Mohammed as well as (oddly) these ten postmodern satires of Mohammed in Weekendavisen -- the context for which must have been completely lost on the confused Middle Eastern audiences who saw them in the dossier.

(For the full story of the Akkari-Laban dossier, including all its other images, visit the Mohammed Image Archive's "Jyllands-Posten Cartoons" section.)

Here are the ten individual Weekendavisen Mohammed portraits:


The first one, a satire of the Pre-Raphaelite painting Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, shows Mohammed as a bearded women, and is captioned in Danish, "Can you possibly prove that the prophet was not a woman?" Among the ten Weekendavisen images, it was this depiction of Mohammed in particular that most outraged Muslims, as reported at the time, with the spokesman the Danish Islamic Society declaring it "blasphemous."


The second satire was simply a direct reproduction of Wassily Kandinsky's famous abstract painting Composition VIII, but renamed with the nonsense title "Roaring Prophet Forest Lake" ("Brølende profet ved skovsø" in Danish.)


This cubist cityscape is captioned in Danish "The Prophet as he sees himself."


A childish doodle titled "Mother of the Prophet."


"The Prophet's foot, as he ascended to Heaven."


The sixth image was a caricature of one of the newspaper's editors, with a caption saying that his resemblance to the Prophet "is simply too striking to ignore."


This reproduction of a Renaissance-era anatomy chart has been re-titled "Interior, 632 A.D." (referring to the year Mohammd died,) with the added caption, "'The prophet's stomach contents fascinate me,' says the artist."


This rudimentary Chistmas decoration is transformed into a portrait of Mohammed simply by renaming it "Santa Muhammed, 2005."


"This is the Prophet" begins the caption, in a direct surrealist reference to Magritte's "This Is Not a Pipe."


"For a thousand years, a hitherto obscure secret society has known that this painting depicted the Prophet," says the Weekendavisen's caption for this reproduction of Marcel Duchamp's Dadaist classic "L.H.O.O.Q.", which is nothing but a postcard of the Mona Lisa onto which Duchamp doodled a faint mustache and beard. The satire doubles-down on the "readymades" concept of renaming mundane items by, in this instance, renaming a readymade itself.




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