How to Draw Muhammad

It has become apparent, following the deadly attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, that many Melvin Durai's Humorpeople are unsure of the rules governing the depiction of Prophet Muhammad. The magazine, for example, published cartoons that portrayed Muhammad in a variety of unbecoming poses, including one in which he’s not wearing clothes and another in which he’s passionately kissing a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, the two men in a lip lock with drool running down their chins. You do not have to be a Muslim to look at such cartoons and say, “Oh no! That’s terrible! Is kissing even allowed in Islam?”

To bring a little clarity to this issue, I decided to interview Imam Ali Khatami of Iran.

Me: “Thank you for agreeing to shed some light on this important topic. Let me begin by asking you whether world-cup-soccer-cartoon-color-390x220 copykissing is permitted in Islam.”

Imam: “Yes, of course it is permitted.”

Me: “So I may kiss you?”

Imam: “You are a man, I am a man. No, we cannot kiss.”

Me: “May I kiss you on the cheek?”

Imam: “I would prefer that you do not.”

Me: “But you just told me that kissing is permitted.”

Imam: “Yes, it is permitted. But you must first get a permit.”

Me: “How do I get a kissing permit?”

Imam: “You must apply for one. The religious leaders will do a background check and determine whether you are responsible enough to kiss.”

Me: “So it is like a gun permit?”

Imam: “Yes, but you have to be more careful whom you kiss than whom you shoot.”

Me: “If I get a permit, can I kiss you?”

Imam: “I would prefer that you do not.”

Me: “Why not? It would just be a friendly kiss. Man to man, brother to brother.”

Imam: “This type of kissing is generally not permitted. If you must kiss, you must do it only after marriage.”

Me: “So we must get married first?”

Imam: “Yes. … I mean, no. Of course not.”

Me: “Would it be permissible for me to draw a picture of Muhammad kissing?”

Imam: “The Prophet Muhammad?”

Me: “Yes, can I draw a picture of him kissing?”

Imam: “No, it is forbidden to draw pictures of the Prophet. You will be severely punished. ”

Me: “Any picture?”

Imam: “Yes, any picture. Drawings and paintings of the Prophet are forbidden.”

Me: “What if I draw a picture of Muhammad playing soccer and scoring a goal for Iran in the World Cup? How would you feel about that?”

Imam: “Prophet Muhammad playing soccer for Iran? One hundred lashes.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Imam: “You would get 100 lashes on your backside with a whip. And you should consider yourself lucky. If you had drawn him playing for Israel, it would be 1,000 lashes.”

Me: “What about a drawing of Muhammad kissing the Quran?”

Imam: “The Quran? If he is kissing the Quran, then maybe only 10 lashes. But if he is kissing the Bible or the Torah, 10,000 lashes!”

Me: “What about a drawing of Muhammad kissing a man with saliva coming out of their mouths?”

Imam: “A drawing of Prophet Muhammad kissing … kissing … I cannot even say such a thing.”

Me: “What would happen to me if I draw it?”

Imam (stern-faced): “Well, it would be the last thing you draw.”

Me: “You mean … you would take all my pencils away from me?”

Imam: “Not just your pencils. Your hands too.”

Me (shuddering): “My hands?”

Imam: “Yes, we would take them off.”

Me: “But it’s just a drawing. A harmless drawing.”

Imam: “A drawing of Prophet Muhammad kissing … I cannot even say it … is not harmless. It hurts the eyes of every Muslim.”

Me: “The world has almost seven billion people. How can you keep all those people from drawing Muhammad and exercising their freedom of speech?”

Imam: “It would be very hard. That is why we agree with western countries on one thing: the best policy, when it comes to people exercising their freedom of speech, is a hands-off policy.”

Me: “Are there any tips you would give me if I want to draw Muhammad without any clothes?”

Imam (stern-faced): “Without any clothes? … Yes, I have two tips. The first tip is to get a permit.’”

Me: “A drawing permit?”

Imam: “No, a kissing permit.”

Me: “Why do I need a kissing permit?”

Imam: “So you can follow the second tip: kiss your family and friends goodbye.”

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Lee Densmore says:

    I am confused about the kissing rules in Islam society. For decades, on network television news, I have seen the very important and very wealthy men of muslim heritage greet each other with limp wrist handskakes and double kisses on each cheek. Why is it okay for these leaders of their communities to display such wanton passion in public display! Huh?

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