The Praiseworthy One

The Praiseworthy One

The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Texts and Images
Christiane Gruber
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/25/2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-02526-5
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In the wake of controversies over printing or displaying images of the Prophet Muhammad, Christiane Gruber’s aim is to bring back into scholarly and public discussion the ‘lost’ history of imagining the Prophet in Islamic cultures. By studying the various verbal and visual constructions of the Prophet’s character and persona over the course of more than one thousand years, Gruber seeks to correct public misconceptions and restore to Islam its rich artistic heritage, illuminating the critical role Muhammad has played in Muslim constructions of self and community at different times and in various cultural contexts.

The Praiseworthy One is an exploration of the Prophet Muhammad’s significance in Muslim life and thought from the beginning of Islam to today. It pays particular attention to procedures of narration, veneration, and sacralization. Gruber stresses that a fruitful approach to extant textual and visual materials is one that emphasizes the harnessing of Muhammad’s persona as a larger metaphor to explain both past and present historical events, to build and delineate a sense of community, and to help individuals conceive of and communicate with the realm of the sacred. The Praiseworthy One shows that Muhammad has served as a polyvalent symbol rather than a historical figure with fixed significance.

Author Bio

Christiane Gruber is Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her primary field of research is Islamic painting, in particular illustrated books of the Prophet Muhammad's ascension. She is author of The Timurid Book of Ascension (Mi‘rajnama): A Study of Text and Image in a Pan-Asian Context and The Ilkhanid Book of Ascension: A Persian-Sunni Devotional Tale. She is editor (with Frederick Colby) of The Prophet’s Ascension: Cross-Cultural Encounters with the Islamic Mi‘raj Tales and (with Avinoam Shalem) The Image of the Prophet Between Ideal and Ideology: A Scholarly Investigation.


“Christiane Gruber charts a territory that no serious monograph has addressed before. It will be the definitive study of the visual and material devotion to Muhammad.”
 — Omid Safi, author of Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters

The Praiseworthy One is an amazing manuscript that demonstrates Christiane Gruber's mastery of both medieval and modern sources, including those traditionally assigned to art history, Islamic mystical studies, and contemporary political debates on Islamic iconoclasm. She draws on the literature from both the Turkish- and Persian- speaking areas of the Islamic world from the 13th century to the present, concluding with a discussion of an exhibition in London in 2015. Every student of Islamic art history, Islamic history, and even Islamic religious studies needs to read her work.”
 — Jere L. Bacharach, author of Islamic History Through Coins: An Analysis and Catalogue of Tenth-Century Ikhshidid Coinage

“Addressing the full range of the Prophet Muhammad’s textual and visual representations, Gruber’s masterful book examines the cultural imaginary that grew around "the Praiseworthy One" and its adaptations to meet the changing needs, beliefs, values, and concepts of Islamic communities across time and space. The book engages a staggering variety of literary and visual genres, which encompass descriptive, pictorial, diagrammatic and iconic modes, among others. The Praiseworthy One remains throughout judicious in its scholarship and thought provoking in its interpretations and implications. Gruber’s book represents the culmination of years of research on the topic and establishes in its depth and approach a new benchmark for broader studies on Islam and the image.”
 — David J. Roxburgh, author of The Persian Album 1400-1600: From Dispersal to Collection

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Paintings of the Enthroned Prophet-King

Chapter 2: Narrative Images of the Heroic Prophet

Chapter 3: Mystical Visions of the Prophet

Chapter 4: Safavid Paintings and a "Shi‘i" Muhammad

Chapter 5: Ottoman Prophet-Centered Devotions

Chapter 6: The Modern Muhammad