Something I've wondered ever since I first noticed this shot in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the Ultimate Extended Edition, in case it's not in the normal edition). At the beginning of the movie, when Hagrid takes Harry into the pub in which he eventually meets Quirrell, a brief establishing shot shows us our first view of Quirrell, in which he is seen standing very unnaturally:

enter image description here

To anyone raised Muslim this is pretty unmistakeably the standing position of the Islamic prayer, with right arm over left, right hand clasping the left hand, and the head bowed to the eventual position of prostration (proof).

I've always assumed that this was something added by either the actor playing Quirrell or the director, for the purpose of leaning into the "exotic Oriental" vibe that Quirrell already had going with the turban and cloak he was wearing.

Has it ever been mentioned who decided on this particular shot and what exactly their reasoning was for it?

  • 3
    I do think this pose isn't isolated to standing in prayer. FWIW there's plenty of variation amongst different teachings and madhabs on how to stand in prayer. Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 23:46
  • @AncientSwordRage What other contexts have you seen such a specific stance in use? As evidenced by the Google search, all of the characteristics combined make it pretty uncanny. We're getting off-topic for a movies question, but there's not that much variation in real-world usage - I'd estimate ~90% of Muslims follow a position in a maddhab that uses a qiyaam like this, from the position of the arms, to the position of the hands, to looking down at the place of sajda. More relevantly, it's the most recognisable form to Westerners compared to e.g. arms-down practiced by some Malikis.
    – Prometheus
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 1:19
  • 1
    In prayer, myself, one hand grip my upper wrist/lower forearms rather than my other hand. I've seen people bow this way out of respect in, for instance Japanese customs/culture etc. I'm not saying it's not possible there's an islamic influence but it's not a certainty Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 1:21
  • 3
    To add to previous comments, that's not actually a good place to prayer. So definitely he's not praying. My best guess is he's trying to not get noticed.
    – Rahul
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 4:57
  • @Rahul That's terrible logic and a non-sequitur: if my theory is right, he's not meant to be praying, just looking exotic and oriental - the director wouldn't care about whether it's a valid place to pray because they wouldn't need to. There's already evidence for this "exotic and oriental" vibe in the clothes that he's dressed in. Also, standing like that in a place where no-one else is is the worst way to stay unnoticed, so again, it's the most nonsensical, least rational explanation.
    – Prometheus
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


I think you're reading far too much into it. You've found a pose that matches something you know and are now trying to wrap a theory around it to fit a preconception. This is known as confirmation bias.

Quirrel is supposed to be tinged with "the mysterious East", having gone on a 'journey of discovery' of doubtful truthfulness. The character has been costumed in 'designer' school robes with purple to give a vaguely 'foreign' look [British school robes are invariably black] and something a 'bit like a turban' [to cover the face on the back of his head] which he claimed was given to him by a 'African Prince'.
He does the hand thing a lot, even for publicity stills - but he doesn't favour one hand or the other. It's just a 'device' the actor used.

The pose also could be considered as the 'obsequious servant' or 'quiet monk', or even just an 'I'm being a bit mysterious, though no-one yet knows why' pose adopted by a myriad actors over many years. It's not really a pose that defines only one thing.
'Hand wringing' is also a pose known to psychologists as signifying anxiety, which is definitely a character trait Quirrell displays at certain points.

If I were to be a little less kind about the actor, I might think he'd been to see too many pantomime versions of Aladdin - which of course is littered with watered-down and misunderstood imagery from the Middle and Far East. Let's just be thankful he didn't also have big sleeves he could put opposite hands into ;)
There is a long history of British children's books with themes similar to the Potter series, public school kids hunting 'spies' or other 'baddies'. Vague foreign stereotypes abound in this type of book, and Harry Potter did not escape that entirely, because at least in the beginning it relied heavily on this recognisable genre.

The pose in your picture also has hints of any christian school assembly, when the headmaster says "Let us pray", 200 ambivalent schoolkids in various adoptions of a similar pose - but with more looking around and whispering to their mates. I recall most of the teachers in a line on the school stage looking somewhat similar. The occasional one who still actually wore their traditional school robes would have looked a lot like Quirrell, had we known who that was at the time.

These still poses below have the 'hands', either way up, but also have that look of 'I know something you don't know' with a hint of '…and next - the world' megalomaniac pose. All he needs is a cat to stroke, or a little finger crooked at the corner of his mouth.
It's pretty standard fayre.

enter image description here enter image description here

Both hands randomly together plus head down could also just mean "I'm a bit tired and have nothing better to do with my hands, no pockets."

I think your question might be more appropriately worded "Is Quirrell praying the Islamic prayer?"
Answer: No.

Also - The entire Harry Potter franchise is, to my recollection, mainly secular. The school is supposed to be 'multi-faith', but there is little but passing mention of any religion or gods. It doesn't deny the existence of religion in the wider world, it just doesn't really portray it much at all except to acknowledge it exists. It is supposed to be our own universe, after all. To have someone slyly praying in back of shot would appear to be totally out of character for the entire franchise.

  • Not at all confirmation bias, I just recognise what I'm looking at having seen it for the better part of 30 years, and I question the judgement of anyone who can look at that still and the Google pics I linked and not see they're identical. By contrast it bears much less similarity to hand-wringing, Christian prayer (I'm a UK native, neither Anglicans nor Catholics stand like that when praying, during or outside of school assemblies), or the megalomaniac pose shown in the two pics, and I don't see how anyone can believe them to be a match unless their own confirmation bias is playing in.
    – Prometheus
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 16:01
  • 1
    As stated in the opening sentence. I think you're reading too much into it. My opinion has not changed in the year since this was first asked & answered.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 16:22

I understand that you're looking for an out-of-universe explanation, and I tend to agree with the previous comments and answers that it's not certain that Quirrell is performing an Islamic prayer, but if we assume that he is, then there is a plausible in-universe explanation.

I don't think it's mentioned in the film, but in the books it's known that Quirrell was travelling in Albania, a predominantly-Muslim country, when he was possessed by Lord Voldemort. If Quirrell is performing an Islamic prayer - or at the very least, assuming its pose - then he most likely will have picked up that habit during his Albanian travels.

A possible out-of-universe explanation, therefore, is that the filmmakers were aware that Quirrell had spent time in a Muslim country and incorporated the Islamic prayer into his character as a reference to it. Again, though, this assumes that Quirrell is performing the Islamic prayer, which is possible but not confirmed.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .