The final Prophet of Islam, as appearing or referenced in literature or the arts.
Having had a huge impact on the history and cultural development of the world, Muhammad is one of the most interesting Historical Domain Characters to use in works. However, portraying Muhammad is often considered controversial, and thus portrayals of him tend to be about these controversies rather than about Muhammad himself. There are four such portrayal problems:
- Religious Taboos: Islam is very divided on portrayals in general and the prophet in particular. Some consider it haraam to portray (in text or image) any person at all, while others are okay with portraying any person, and yet others make an exception for Muhammad in one direction or the other.
- Freedom of Speech Issues: Most of the Western world have enshrined laws that say anyone can be joked about, and anyone can be criticized, and the concept of "blasphemy" as a criminal charge no longer applies. In parts of the Muslim world, blasphemy is very real, and very punishable.
- Cultural Bullying Issues: Members of one group joking about something important to another group (in this case Muhammad to Muslims) can be perceived as offensive, even when the jokes are intended to be harmless.
- Hate-Speech Issues: The long, two-way history of hate-speech and violence by non-Muslims against Muslims, and by Muslims against non-Muslims, can make such portrayals very touchy for either side.
For more on these four issues, see the analysis tab.
The main sources on the life of Muhammad are the sira (prophetic biographies) and the hadith (sayings of Muhammad). The Quran, in contrast, contains little information on Muhammad and his life.
Tropes found in works that deal with the Prophet Muhammad:
- Blood Brothers: Muslims are considered brothers (or sisters) in Islam.
- The Chosen One: Islam considers Muhammad the final prophet.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The battle of Badr was one-sided.
- Famous Ancestor: In contrast to most other Abrahamic prophets, Muhammad's bloodline can be traced quite unproblematically. His sons died during their infancy, but he had a daughter named Fatima who married his first cousin Ali. There are still a lot of descendants of the two of them around to the present day.
- The Faceless: Due to hadiths prohibiting depictions of him, his face is covered with a veil in Muslim art, or he's symbolically represented with a flame. Some art from before around 1500 does show his face though, as seen in the page image.
- A God I Am Not: Muhammad stated that he was a mortal human and that he never wanted to be worshipped as a God or a Demigod. This is why he and other prophets are not visually depicted in mainstream Islam. He also stated that he wasn't the best of all when a Muslim said that he was superior to everyone.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Muhammad regarded Jesus as a prophet of God, a wise teacher of morality, the Messiah and a holy man. He dismissed the idea that Jesus was God or son of God as Unwanted False Faith that didn't pop up until after Jesus died. Today, Islam still regard Jesus as second in holiness only to Muhammad himself.
- Last of His Kind: Muhammad made it clear that he was the last of the Prophets, and that Allah would send no more prophets after him.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Due to different transliterations from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet, his name occurs as Muhammad, Mohammad, Muhammed, Mohamed, Mohammed, Mohamad, Muhamed, Muhammet or Muhamet. Historically, the somewhat garbled Mahomet(us) was also used in the Christian world and is still pretty common in French.
- True Companions: The Sahabah or Companions of the Prophet.
Works that feature the Prophet Muhammad:
- The Cartoon History of the Universe features him in the chapters about Islam and the Middle East, but author Larry Gonick never shows him, explaining why before the chapter and lampshading it during ("Where is brother Muhammad?" "In this comic, permanently off-panel!")
- Chick Tracts, being the Activist Fundamentalist Antics kind of work that it is, goes straight into the Type 4 tradition. It portrays him as a brigand, thug, devil-worshiping liar, pedophile and so on... Just like it does with all other non-Christian character... except for those up for Easy Evangelism, of course.
- In one Carpe Diem strip, a psychologist lies stoned in his office. Stoned by rocks, not drugs. With faltering voice, he explain to a startled client that he was doing a Rorschach-test on his last client — who saw Muhammad, and thus felt obliged to stone him for showing the test.
- Mohammad, Messenger of God, 1976 film about the origins of Islam. Out of respect for Muslim prohibition on actually depicting Mohammed, his presence is indicated by light organ music, and his actual interaction in the story only through point-of-view shots of the action, from his point of view, with no dialogue. Words attributed to him are repeated by others in the story, such as his uncle and his adopted son. This consideration didn't stop a Muslim extremist group from staging a hostage-taking/siege in Washington D.C. in 1977 under the mistaken belief that Anthony Quinn actually played Mohammed in the film — they threatened to blow up a D.C. building and its inhabitants unless (among other things) the film's opening was cancelled.
- The 1971 version of Jesus Christ Superstar ends with Judas asking Jesus about his life up there in heaven maybe together with Muhammed and Buddha.
- Jami' al-Tawarikh (literally Compendium of Chronicles but often referred to as The Universal History or History of the World), by Rashid al-Din, published in Tabriz, Persia, 1307 CE: One of the many islamic works that contain drawings of Muhammad. See page illustration above for one of them.
- In The Jewel of Medina, he's portrayed as a wise leader and also as a model husband to his wives in general and the protagonist Aisha in particular.
- The Divine Comedy stays within the tradition that was mandatory in Christian Europe back when it was written, portraying Muhammed as being tortured in Hell for preaching heresies and sowing discord (his son-in-law Ali is there for the same reason). Note that Saladin, the Muslim leader during the first Crusades, is only in the first circle as a virtuous pagan alongside Homer and Plato.
- The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie has several dream sequences. One of them feature Muhammad as the protagonist, but in this version he's originally a prophet of polytheism before he changes his mind and becomes a prophet of monotheism instead. This portrayal is what led to the infamous fatwa by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 saying it was the duty of Muslims to kill him for blasphemy.
- Max Frei's standalone novel My Ragnarök features his Author Avatar as the reincarnation of Ali ibn Abi Talib who assists the Back from the Dead Mohammed in facilitating the Last Judgment (in the name of Allah, of course). Along the way, the novel incorporates several other eschatological myths into it (hence the title).
- Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten managed to mix all four portrayal problems into one big mess, by having a "draw the prophet" contest and publishing some quite racist contributions where Muhammad looked evil as well as grotesquely non-aryan◊. The issue was made much worse by two Danish imams (Islamic religious leaders) who started touring the Middle East showing not only the very worst of the drawings published in Jyllands-Posten but also fraudulently adding some even worse drawings and pretend that those had also been published in Jyllands-Posten. Violent worldwide Activist Fundamentalist Antics ensued, including attacks on Danish embassies.
- Appears as a character in the controversial browser game Faith Fighter, with a meteor as a special move. The game has a "censured version", where the only difference is that Muhammed's face is censored.
- In South Park, he's a member of a team of superheroes, with the power of pyrokenesis. Jesus and Buddha are on the same team. Portrayal Problem #1 is redefined into a superpower. In one episode, Tom Cruise is trying to steal this superpower, so that he can be immune from getting depicted by the tabloids. Later, people forgot about this earlier portrayal by South Park and much controversy arose when they announced they were going to portray him again. Islamic extremist death threats and Comedy Central censoring their episode followed. Ironically the "portrayal" turned out not to show Muhammed at all (he was inside a bear suit).
- In Once Upon a Time... Man (Il était une fois... l'Homme, first series of the Il était une fois... edutainment franchise), during the segment about the rise of Islam, Muhammad is only ever represented from the back, his face never being seen.