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Scholars Agonised Over Depiction of Prophet Muhammad in Class 7 Textbook
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Scholars Agonised Over Depiction of Prophet Muhammad in Class 7 Textbook

“If strict action is not taken against the publication, we will take this issue to the court.”


SRINAGAR — Religious scholars in Kashmir have expressed anguish over the illustration depicting Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and archangel Jibraeel (AS) in a class 7 textbook. The book has been published by a Delhi-based publication house Jay Cee Publications.

The illustration in its Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) History and Civics book has been captioned ‘A painting of Archangel Gabriel who brought the message to Muhammad’.  The book is sold by Paradise Book Shop, Parraypora, Srinagar.

The Qur’an, Islam’s holiest book, contains no explicit or implicit prohibition on depictions of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad, carved, painted, or drawn. “[Allah is] the originator of the heavens and the earth… [there is] nothing like a likeness of Him,” the Qur’an, however, says in chapter 42, verse 11.

Muslim scholars interpret this to signify that Allah’s beauty and grandeur are too great for human hands to capture in an image. It is considered an insult to Allah to undertake such a thing. The same is believed to apply to Muhammad (SAW).

Kashmir’s Shaykh-ul-Hadith Mufti Nazir Ahmad Qasmi in a video message said the sketch of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Jibraeel (AS) is very sensitive. “It’s forbidden to make any depiction of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his companions, angels or any of the revered personalities”.

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Chapter 21, verses 52-54 of the Qur’an reads: “[Abraham] said to his father and his people: ‘What are these images to whose worship you cleave?’ They said: ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ He said: ‘Certainly you have been, you and your fathers, in manifest error.’”

The Muslim notion that images can lead to idolatry, or that an image, rather than the heavenly entity it represents, might become the focus of adoration and veneration, stems from this.

The President of Islamic fraternity Jammu and Kashmir, Muhammad Amir insisted that authorities should blacklist the publication and look into the matter and see why the book was approved in the first place.

“The teachers should proofread the content in the books and then pass it on to the students. The parents must be vigilant about types of illustration and depictions. If strict action is not taken against the publication, we will take this issue to the court. This kind of sensitive mistake cannot be repeated in the future.”

President of Private Schools Association Jammu and Kashmir, G.N. Var told Mountain Ink that there should not have been any complacency when approving the books. “Every stakeholder should check every word before introducing and teaching the same to students.”

Var said that a committee is being constituted to check the content and standard of the books. “No school will be allowed to prescribe any new book without the approval of the committee.”

Although the Jay Cee Publications has issued a public apology for “hurting the sentiments” the J&K administration has quietly withdrawn the textbook from schools and sought a First Information Report (FIR) against the publisher for drawing the blasphemous sketch.

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Director of Jay Cee Publications, JC Goyal said that it was an ‘unintentional mistake’.  “Most humbly and respectfully due to lack of knowledge about the prohibition of picturization in the Islam, we made an unintentional mistake in our book-History & Civics class 7th, edition 2020, Chapter 02, page number 033, which has hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslim Community. We as a whole team of Jay Cee Publications Pvt. Ltd apologize and highly regret the inconvenience, thus caused to our respected brothers and friends. We also promise and assure to all our brothers and friends that the mistake will not be repeated in future editions,” he said in an apology.

Meanwhile, the distributor of the book, Paradise Book Shop said that it didn’t have knowledge about such content in the book. “We were told by the publication to circulate the samples of the concerned book. We don’t know anything about the objectionable content which is in the book. We have been told to return the books and the content will be destroyed,” the owner of the bookshop, Shahid, said.

In a notification, the Director Academics, Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education Dr Farooq Ahmad Peer said that all the schools of UTs of J&K and Ladakh affiliated either with CBSE, JKBOSE, or any other Board of the country are directed not to use the said textbook of ‘History & Civics’, 2020. “If the textbook is being used in any school, it must be withdrawn immediately, otherwise, strict action as warranted under provisions of law shall be initiated.”

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The notification said the act of publication of certain material has hurt the sentiments of the people. “The publisher is directed to withdraw this textbook immediately, despite the publishing house having regretted the mistake,” it said.

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