Statues are forbidden in religious Islamic architecture like mosques.
Statues are forbidden in religious Islamic architecture like mosques.

Statues and sculptural representations of people, God, prophets and even animals are specifically prohibited in Islam. Allah is Islam's one and only god, and statues are considered false idols and blasphemous competition for worship. However, as Islam spread throughout history and came into contact with different cultures, restrictions eased on secular statues, which can now be found throughout the modern Islamic world.

Statues and the Quran

The Quran is Islam's holy text, and its pages prohibit "makers of figures" from creating statues because of the belief that only Allah can create new beings. Quranic teaching holds that any home with statues inside would never be visited by the angels, and that promotion of idol worship is punishable on the Day of Judgment.

Physical and Spiritual Qualities

The religious restriction on statues in Islam at first appears to severely hamper creativity, but rich and varied traditions of Islamic art have emerged because of this prohibition. Complex geometric patterns and detailed natural motifs are hallmarks of Islamic art--the nonfigural patterns allow artists to create freely and celebrate the spiritual magnificence of the world Allah made, rather than its material qualities.

Secular Statues

Prior to the modern era, very few statues appeared in the Islamic artistic record, with animal figurines being a notable exception. But while restrictions still hold in religious spheres, statues can now be found throughout the secular Islamic world as restrictions have eased with cultural intermixing. In Tehran's city center, for example,17 statues are on display of important secular Islamic figures, such as 16th century poet Sheikh Bahai and Farabi, a respected musician and Islamic philosopher of the ninth century.

Clashing Cultures

Even with relaxed restrictions on secular sculpture in the modern Islamic world, there is still controversy between the ideals of different cultures. In Egypt in 2006, for example, a religious ruling was handed down by a senior Islamic leader condemning all statues throughout the country as promoting idol worship. Tension eventually dissipated, but many Egyptians were angry and concerned because of Egypt's rich sculptural history in the statues of pharaohs, gods and more.