Images of the Prophet Muhammad In and Out of Modernity: The Curious Case of a 2008 Mural in Tehran
In 2008, a five-story mural was painted onto the wall of an apartment building in the northern section of Tehran. The mural represents the Prophet Muhammad’s ascension into the heavens, as well as an inhabitant of Paradise offering a flower to a man in the lower right corner. While the composition is based on a 15th-century “Book of Ascension” manuscript, it nevertheless has been altered in two significant ways: first, a man painted in a hyper-realistic mode has been inserted into the composition and, second, the facial features of the Prophet have been removed. Tracing how the original painting has been pictorially augmented and edited for the public sphere, this talk offers some new ideas on how images are received and updated in modern Islamic artistic practices. It will do so by paying special attention to the mural’s symbolic position within Tehran’s martyrial mural program, Iran’s Shi‘i-Islamic political agenda, and oppositional responses to the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy of 2005-2006.