Androcentrism and Iconoclasm


Islamic iconoclasm and the attacks on icons, pictures, and statues predate the Muhammadan era and were first carried out by Ibrahīm of Babylon. The impact iconoclasm has on culture, and religion is profound and can only be perceived if the iconoclasts’ motivation and influence on society are clarified. The Qur’ān never explicitly mandated iconoclasm, but it was carried out by leading figures in Islam, each with their justifications. When speaking of Islam, the general Muslims and the media portrayed it according to a particular image - iconized by the headscarf, the beard, the turban, and to a certain extent, the moon and the star. However, anthropological findings show that Muhammadan Islam was very different than what Islam is now, and iconoclasm is a potential beginning point to untangling the mystery of the culture of Muhammad. Using a dualist lens of a theologian and a cultural anthropologist, I describe the three levels of iconoclasm, their motivations, the evolution of Muslim iconoclasm, the human head as the location of iconoclasm, the motivation of iconoclasm, and the implication of iconoclasm on the female head. I visit the Islamic and Arab cultural discourse around the head and the resulting iconoclasm symbolized by patriarchy and the veil. I use the Qur’ān as a written record and other anthropological, historical, and archeological evidence mentioned by academic researchers. I argue that Iconoclasm, be it within the religious, artistic or gender sphere, is a social mechanism which maintains a balance within the cosmological order.


Uthman Khan
Student, Religion and Anthropology, University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2024 Special Focus—Spaces, Movement, Time: Religions at Rest and in Movement


Iconoclasm, Androcentrism, Cultural Anthropology, Islam, Hijab

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