Representative arts

Other Names:
Pictorial arts
Depiction of human figures
Graven images
It is through the fine arts that man portrays in material and concrete shapes his total personality. For the lovers of pictorial arts, pictures are no less meaningful than divine texts. The artist interprets the physical into the spiritual, aspiring to catch beauty and put soul into mute lines, elevating himself to contemplation of his creative efforts and enabling others to share with him the pleasing, restful feeling. The inherent danger of this very hypnotic and obsessive quality of artistic beauty is that it may not always be healthy either for the artist himself or for humanity in general. It may be fractional, partial or even perverted, as instanced by the classic focus on the naked human body. While Islam uses representative arts for utilitarian purposes (identity photographs, surgical diagrams), the sense of beauty and artistry is entirely channelled into prayer, especially congregational worship, rather than risking its dissipation in distracting imagery and the further risk of perpetuating its failures and inadequacies in material record. Human portraits in the form of sculpture, painting or photography demean the dignity of the human personality by isolating its carnal features, separated from the human faith and beliefs that are its true meaning. It is thus a prostitution of human thoughts, emotions and activities to waste them for any other function than honest, sincere and actual achievement of the serious purposes of life.
Of all the living religions, only Islam bans the representative arts. However certain puritanical Christian sects have strong reservations about the use of what amount to graven images.
1. The rejection of absolute spiritual and aesthetic values and the adoption of the concept that everything must continually change with the changing times, so that there is really nothing of enduring worth, is responsible for the vulgarity of modern art. The highest "art" is ceaseless and unrelenting striving for the perfection of human character in real life in preparation for the life hereafter. Any pursuit must be condemned which distracts people's attention from that end. Modern attempts to distinguish worship from appreciation are pointless, because worship itself is nothing but ritualized admiration and appreciation.

2. The prohibition of making pictures stems in the eye of Islamic Law, from the use of pictures which may corrupt belief, as for example the use of statues for the worship of other than God. As for their utilization in the context of other matters, such as teaching and learning something, then pictures are permitted and there is no sin in them. As for pictures that have no shadow, such as engravings on the wall or on metal, pictures which are found on clothes, curtains and photographic prints, these are all permitted.

Counter Claim:
Beauty offers an ideal for human feeling. Art is one of the higher ends of life, if not the highest. It is sufficient if art offers pleasant gratification and is perfect in its own taste.
Narrower Problems:
Unnatural performing arts
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
24.01.1998 – 00:00 CET