By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
The ban on images is not a universal one and views on this vary a great deal due to context and interpretation. Islam shuns idolatry of any kind whether external or even more importantly, internal (e.g. pride, vanity).
The ban on images derives from a line of reasoning that forbids anything that could possibly lead to something bad. The trouble with that line of reasoning, is that we’d have to ban paper, as paper can be used to print pornographic magazines! Okay, so what then do we write/print copies of the Qur’an on? Hence, this line of reasoning isn’t something unanimously agreed upon and there are even some scholars who reject it outright. As for those who believe in such reasoning, even they can’t follow it properly, for reasons such as the aforementioned. Which means they follow it in a hypocritical fashion, and if anyone reads what the Holy Qur’an states on the subject of hypocrisy, they’d have to question these people’s legitimacy as scholars and representatives of Islam!
The evidence used for the banning of images outright, is found in the hadith literature, not in the Holy Qur’an. The hadith have long been recognised, even by professors of Islam, as being subject to many defects and even outright fraud. For this reason, each hadith narration is categorised according to it’s reliability, from very sound to most likely fraudulent. Indeed, a whole science of Islamic studies developed around the subject! The Holy Qur’an is the only truly sacred scripture of Islam, thus anything else which contradicts it’s teachings can be safely disregarded, including dodgy hadiths. Which leaves nothing left to support a ban on images!
The Ottomans and Persians especially, often drew or painted pictures and there exist illuminated manuscripts which even depict Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The most fierce opposition to images at the present time, originates from the Saudi sponsored Wahhabi sect, which has been responsible for so much destruction of our Islamic heritage and even the present defamation of Islam, through their ever persistent fanaticism.