The permissibility of depictions of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, has long been a concern in Islam's history. Oral and written descriptions are readily accepted by all traditions of Islam, but there is disagreement about visual depictions.
The Qur'an does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental teachings) which have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating the visual depictions of figures. Most Sunni Muslims believe that visual depictions of all the prophets of Islam should be prohibited, and they are particularly averse to visual representations of Muhammad. The key concern is that the use of images can encourage idolatry. In recent times, some Muslims have taken a more relaxed view. Most Shia scholars nowadays accept respectful depictions and use illustrations of Muhammad in books, though historically they were against such depictions. Still, many Muslims who take a stricter view of the supplemental traditions, will sometimes challenge any depiction of Muhammad, including those created and published by non-Muslims.
In Islamic art, depictions were never devotional images, but appear in illustrated books that are normally works of history or poetry; the Qu'ran is never illustrated: "context and intent are essential to understanding Islamic pictorial art. The Muslim artists creating images of Muhammad, and the public who beheld them, understood that the images were not objects of worship. Nor were the objects so decorated used as part of religious worship". Most visual depictions only show Muhammad with his face veiled, or symbolically represent him as a flame; other images, notably from before about 1500, show him fully. However, depictions of Muhammad were rare, never numerous in any community or era throughout Islamic history, appearing almost entirely in the private medium of the Persian miniature book illustration, and those of other Islamic cultures