16 August, 2012

'Omar' the TV series on Ibn Al Khattab

Many Muslims: clerics, academics, leaders, politicians and ordinary people have condemned it. Many have campaigned vigorously for it not to be aired. Many feel that it is very wrong and blasphemous that the lives of some of the most notable and most revered Sahabas (رضي الله عنهم), are to be depicted and portrayed in such a way on TV. But the series 'Omar' about the life of Omar Al Khattab (Al Farouk), has, since the beginning of Ramadhan, been aired, every night, on two Arabic channels. For the last twenty-seven or so nights, I have been watching it.

The strong opposition to the episodes, reminds me very much of the stiff resistance that the makers of the film: 'The Message' (الرسالة), about the life of The Messenger of God (صلى الله عليه وسلم), faced - before, during and after its production. Thirty six years ago, Hollywood was against the film because they didn't want to be associated with a film about the origins of Islam; and many Muslims were against it, because they felt it blasphemous for a film to depict the beginning of Islam in such a way. Then, during its filming in Morocco, the initial financiers of the film backed out due to the strong resistance to it; and it was only after the late Libyan maverick, eccentric autocrat, Muammar Qaddafi, stepped in with financial support, that the film was completed; in Libya. With time, people have come to accept 'The Message'; even governments that were very strongly opposed to its making years ago, now have their TV stations airing the movie on Islamic occasions.

In the Middle East, Syrians - artistically - make the best TV dramas; and it is they who were given the very difficult task of making 'Omar'. Funded by MBC TV and Qatar TV - directed by the renowned Syrian director, Hatem Ali, and having most of its leading stars from Syria, 'Omar', the 30-episode series (with the last 30th episode longer and twice the length of the previous episodes) was mainly filmed in Morocco and Syria. No other Arabic TV series, or even film, has been as well made, as elaborate, as costly and with such extraordinary, stunning visual effects as this. In production for about three years at an estimated cost of fifty millions Dollars; with replicas of the old cities of Makkah and Medina, created from historical records - the series had hundreds of technicians from several countries building the set that included cities and surrounding areas. And with hundreds of actors and thousands of extras - the episodes, artistically and technically, achieve what no other series or film in Arabic has ever done; it is at par with some of the best made films from Hollywood or Mumbai. It shows that Arabs, especially Syrians, given the financing and the facilities, can make truly excellent movies.

Agreed: that that the characters and the personalities of the Great Sahabas (رضي الله عنهم) can never, ever be justly and fairly replicated, reproduced or depicted on film; that is impossible. True: that, such depiction can mislead and can wrongly make certain people be misinformed or be misconceived about the Companions of The Messenger of God (صلى الله عليه وسلم). And there is a danger of people associating the Sahabas (رضي الله عنهم) to the actors who depict them in such dramas. But, then: if Islam is to stand up, be strong and move forward, in this digital age of TVs and computers, against its many enemies and detractors, it needs all the best available tools of today. Today, what other tool is as powerful as the TV? Of all medias, it is the TV that reaches the most people and the most homes.

We Muslims have a choice: either let those against Islam distort and misinform about us using such medias; or do the informing and the spreading of our religion, ourselves. I did rather have us, Muslims, take such a very difficult - and controversial - task and produce 'Omar', rather than have those who hate us use such tools to distort and misinform about Islam. And: it is better to have Muslims glued to their TVs watching religious episodes like 'Omar', especially during Ramadhan, rather than having us watch the usual soap operas with half naked women; or the many 'win prices' shows aired during the Holly month.

Agreed, too, that we have to be most careful about what is halal and what is haram; but, then, look around us and observe at how we Muslims have become; and indulged ourselves in so many other forms of haram. Look at how excessive and wasteful we have become; even during this Holly month. A month that we have turned in to a time for shopping and festivities. How many of us pray honestly and with piety; and not just routinely and mechanically? How many of us go for the Hajj and change for the better? How many of us are good, caring neighbors? How many of us are truly caring of our parents and relatives? How many of us are responsible, caring husbands (or wives), people in authority and leaders? Any one who knows well, of the life and times of Omar Al Khattab (عمر ابن الخطاب), would know of  how: equality, justice, tolerance, wisdom, compassion, humility, good governance and leadership means. That is what Al Farouk epitomized; and that is what the episodes remind us of. That is what we, especially those: with responsibilities, those in authority and our leaders, should learn from and should emulate. From Omar Al Khattab.

 + Omar Ibn Al Khattab Bigography
+ 'Omar' online: YouTube, MBC Arabic and MBC with English Subtitles, More on 'Omar' the Series, The Making of 'Omar', Behind the scenes of the biggest Arabic TV series 
+ Meaning of Sahaba?
+ The Hadiths from Sahabas