Films on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by Iran and Qatar

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A new Iranian film on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is scheduled for premier this spring, and another mega film on the prophet with a $1 Billion budget is announced by Qatar.  Courtesy of Newsweek and the Guardian .

We thank the producer for not depicting Prophet Muhammad in the movie.  As a moderate progressive Muslim, I am reluctant to give an image to the Prophet or God and fight the human need for symbolic representation. As the prophet advised, as any one messenger would advise the same;  that is to to stay focused on his message and not resort to worshiping him or what he looked like. It is the message that is lasting and not the physical aspect of humans. 

This is one of the greatest attributes of the prophet that he did not want his picture or bust be made. He lived his life as an example of humility, the humility that builds bridges and brings people together for peace and harmony. Unfortunately a handful of Muslims have attempted to do the opposite of it and fortunately, God willing, we are dealing with that issue in our upcoming film – Sacred.  How many of us would not want our picture and be recognized for whatever we have done from our face to recognition of our achievements. 

The Medium of film is nothing more than a good narrator telling a powerful story and letting people imagine their own characters and in the descriptive scenarios. No matter how much we fight, conjuring up our own personal images of the people in the stories we hear is human and natural, that is our way of learning and relating with things.

There are about 250 films on Jesus, 120 on Moses, and 60 on other prophets, but only three on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made by Mustafa Akkad, MIchael Wolfe and BBC. There will be more films made on the prophet, and one of these days someone will portray and play his role. What are we going to do about it? Nothing! I am not in favor though for the reasons given above. 

It is like the Quran translations – 2 out of 25 were evil translations. One of them is partially corrected, the other one was written in 1142 AD and nothing can be done about it. 

Following the example of Prophet – we have to be the Amins first before we are Muslims, we can alleviate many a conflicts in the society. We have to learn to deal with them. There is no compulsion, and it goes both ways. If we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. 

I hope to see the film – if not I am heading to Iran in March, and will see it there and if the sets are still there, I will visit them as well. 

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Two pieces from News week and the guardian.

Courtesy News Week

Biopic of Prophet Muhammad Divides Sunni and Shia Muslims

Amid global controversy over depictions of Muhammad, a multimillion-dollar biopic of the Prophet’s life is causing further controversy in the Muslim world. The Iranian film, premiering on Sunday, will be the most expensive production to be made in the country. Mohammad, Messenger of God will be…


Biopic of Prophet Muhammad Divides Sunni and Shia Muslims


A Shi’ite cleric stands at the shrine of Hazrat-e Massoumeh, granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad, while attending a ritual mourning for Imam Hussein as he marks Arbain in Qom, about 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran, February 16, 2009.

Amid global controversy over depictions of Muhammad, a multimillion-dollar biopic of the Prophet’s life is causing further controversy in the Muslim world. The Iranian film, premiering on Sunday, will be the most expensive production to be made in the country.
Mohammad, Messenger of God will be shown at the opening ceremony of the Tehran’s Fajr international film festival in Iran, an event that coincides with the 36th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
Director Majid Majidi spent five years on the $30m (£20m) state-sponsored film, which is the first of a planned trilogy and will depict Muhammad from birth to the age of 12.
Western depictions of the Prophet have been at the centre of controversy in recent weeks after 12 people died when Islamist gunmen attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, citing their publication of cartoons of Muhammad. The magazine published another cartoon of the Prophet on its cover in response the following week, sparking protests across the Muslim world.
However, the film will avoid causing offence by not including shots of the Prophet’s face, with Majidi hiring Oscar-winning Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro for visual techniques that were deemed religiously respectful.
Although the Koran does not explicitly ban depictions of the Prophet, Islamic tradition prohibits the use of his image. However, the way in which Sunni and Shia Muslims choose to depict the Prophet differs slightly, meaning that Majidi’s film, produced in Shia Iran, is likely to become a bone of contention in the Middle East and beyond.
Although Majidi consulted both Sunni and Shia scholars before making the film, he has not managed to appease everyone. Egypt’s al-Azhar University, regarded as the foremost institution for studying Sunni theology, has been vocal about the film since its announcement in 2012. “We demand that Iran refrain from releasing the movie, so that an undistorted image of the Prophet can be preserved in the minds of Muslims. We call upon all film-makers to respect religions and prophets,” scholars from the Islamic Research Academy said in a statement. They have since requested the film not be shown in Iran.
Although Sunni and Shia Muslims both view Muhammad as the final prophet, Shia Iranians are seen as being more relaxed on religious depictions than Sunnis.
However, the question of who depicts whom best has led to a possible second Muhammad film being made in Qatar, an area largely occupied by Sunni Muslims, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The rival film by production company Alnoor Holdings boasts a $1bn (£660m) budget and has the Lord of the Rings producer Barrie Osborne reportedly advising the project.
According to Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour, resident scholar at Islamic Centre of England, there’s no need for two films. “The depiction of Muhammad’s life in Sunni and Shia Islam is generally the same,” he says.
While Sunnis are very strict on the ban on religious images, Shia tradition is more relaxed, according to Bahmanpour. “Depicting Muhammad’s face is not allowed in either Sunni or Shia tradition, but images of any face is seen as wrong in Sunni Islam,” Bahmanpour said in reference to aniconism, the banning of imagery surrounding religious figures or living things.
For Shia tradition, not depicting Muhammad’s face in film may have more to do with how he appears on screen, according to Bahmanpour, who said that “depictions of Muhammad’s face are regarded as a disrespect if the movie doesn’t come out well”.


Iranian film on prophet Muhammad set for premiere

Majid Majidi’s Tehran-backed production telling the story of Muhammad’s early years to be shown at Iran’s Fajr international film festival

Majid Majidi's Muhammad biopic
A still from Majid Majidi’s Muhammad, Messenger of God. The film is the most ambitious and expensive cinematic project in Iranian history. Photograph: PR


As controversy swirls on how the prophet Muhammad is depicted, a multimillion-dollar biopic about his youth – Iran’s most expensive and lavish film to date – is set to premiere on Sunday.
Tehran’s Fajr international film festival, which coincides with the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, is scheduled to show the country’s own version of how Islam’s most revered figure lived. To protect the prophet’s dignity, the film will be shown out of competition.


Qatar and Iran on rival missions to make films about prophet Muhammad

Duelling biopics of Muhammad reflect differing traditions of Sunni and Shia Islam over depiction of the Muslim prophet

Iranian film director Majid Majidi
 Courting controversy … Iranian film director Majid Majidi’s $30m film will not show Muhammad’s face. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images  

Film-makers in Iran and Qatar are planning rival biopics about the life of Muslim prophet Muhammad, according to the Hollywood Reporter, despite the risk of offending religious sensibilities that such plans inevitably throw up.
Oil-rich Qatar recently announced a series of epics designed for a worldwide audience about the seventh-century prophet of Islam. Production company Alnoor Holdings has hired Lord of the Rings producer Barrie Osborne and Sunni Islam scholar and al-Jazeera broadcaster Yusuf al-Qaradawi to provide advice on what could be a $1bn project. “They certainly have the money to do it,” Osborne told the Hollywood Reporter, adding: “They are being understandably very cautious.”
Meanwhile, Iranian director Majid Majidi (The Song of Sparrows, Children of Heaven) began shooting a rival $30m Muhammad film in October. In keeping with Shiite-dominated Iran’s more liberal attitude to depictions of the prophet, he plans to show Muhammad on screen, though not his face. Qatar is largely Sunni, which sees all renderings of the prophet as blasphemous, so Muhammad would be unlikely to appear in the Alnoor Holdings film.
Perhaps the best-known film about the life of Muhammad is The Message, a 1977 film by Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad; described as the story of Islam, it was ultimately financed by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi after Hollywood refused to fund it. Starring Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas, the film avoided any depiction of Muhammad on screen. Scenes were occasionally shown from the prophet’s perspective but he was not seen and his voice was not heard. Even so, the film drew anger from Muslims who had heard a rumour that Quinn was playing Muhammad. In March 1977, the film was named as a grievance (among others) by an armed group who took 149 hostages and killed a radio journalist and a police officer during a standoff in Washington DC.
The issue is a sensitive one. Protests erupted across the Muslim world in September after clips from a US-made film depicting Muhammad appeared on YouTube. Innocence of Muslims caused anger for its depiction of the prophet as a womaniser and paedophile, but also upset worshippers who believe that it is blasphemous to depict him on screen. The LA Times reported last year that two further US-based film-makers were planning anti-Muslim projects, though neither has yet emerged.


Sacred – a great American movie in the making

What is Sacred, Flag, Holy Books, Mother, Freedom of Speech?

Sacred Film is about a successful real life event set in Mulberry, Florida coupled with a compelling romantic story built around the Quran burning incident. It is filled with human aspirations, fears, suspense and actions of a typical Hollywood Film.

The film skillfully manages conflicting issues of freedom of speech v what is sacred; safety of Americans v violent reactions; and radicalism v. pluralism. It is an embodiment of conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturance based on teachings of Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad. It is a model for building cohesive societies.  Indeed, the concept is encouraged by major institutions.

Through “Sacred”, the world will witness positive changes taking shape; it encourages what Muslims ought to be – the Amins, and how they will be perceived by the society at large. What is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world and vice-versa to restore sustainable harmony.

Sacred is an exemplary story of ordinary Muslim Americans working with fellow Americans of different faiths in forging a new paradigm; a cohesive America where no American has to live in tension, apprehension or fear of the other.

Shooting will begin in March for a September 11 release.  I will be happy to give a presentation to your group.

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