I have been asked to give a review of a recent movie on Muhammad's life.
Movies about Muhammad are very important for a number of reasons.
1. They are one of the ways that Islam is promoted.
2. The are much easier and faster than reading a biography of his life and therefore have a bigger audience.
3. They have the potential to tell the truth or to hide it to a large audience.
4. The Qur'an revolves and evolves around Muhammad's life. When teaching people about Islam it is handy to have a good movie to show them so that they can get a basic idea of the events. This allows them to understand the basic context of the Qur'an and Hadith.
5. If the movie is made by Muslims then it shows you how they like to think of Muhammad.
Muslims have made a movie about Muhammad called "The Message" (1976). It is very popular and I have been given copies. However, I think for many of us we find this movie unsatisfactory because of the way it only shows the "nice" side of Muhammad and does not include the many other aspects of his life included in the Sira and Hadiths. This new movie, "The Life of Muhammad", seeks to correct this one sided presentation.
The movie has been made on a very small budget. It is basically an eclectic collection of still pictures with actors reading a script. The script is based on Martin Lings book, "Muhammad", supplemented by references to Ibn Ishaq and the main Hadith. While the production is very basic the script is not; it includes all aspects of Muhammad's life, not just the "acceptable" side.
I enjoyed watching the movie and found it touching at various points. It helped me to see some familar events in a new context. For instance, when the Christians of Najran came to Muhammad and he invited the Christians and Muslims to curse each other to see who had the truth about Jesus (Qur'an 3:59-61). The Christians refused to curse but the very next event that is recorded in the sira is that Muhammad's son Ibrahim dies. I do not know if there is meant to be a connection here but I felt there was a connection between these two events when watching the movie.
The movie shows Muhammad's face. This is a contentious matter for Muslims. I would have preferred that the movie did not show his face because I want Muslims to watch the movie and I fear they will not because of this. This movie is however very respectful and I actually think Muslims will like it. Artistically I think it is a much better step forward then the derogatory cartoons.
For those of us involved in ministry to Muslims I think this is a good tool to introduce people to Muhammad's life. I would get people to watch this movie and the "The Message" and get them to compare and contrast.
Part 1: Muhammad in Mecca
Part 2: Muhammad in Medina