I recently finished watching the 30-part television series on the second Caliph of Islam, Amir-ul-Mumineen, Umar ibn al-Khattab. I was hesitant in watching it as I was scared of their portrayal and representation of the sahaba. After watching the entire series I am overwhelmed with joy, happiness, excitement and sadness all at the same time. It was joyous seeing what I read in the seerah come to life. It was happiness seeing hadith play right in front of me. It was excitement to see the spread of Islam throughout Arabia and beyond. It was sadness to see the deaths of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and the Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them all).
Shaykh Yusuf al Qaradawi and Shaykh Salman al Oudah are two scholars who approved of the series by MBC. There were also other scholars like Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Shaikh (currently the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia) and Shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid (founder of islamqa.com website) who did not like the series and did not approve it. It is a very touchy subject when it comes to the portrayal of the Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them all), but in the MBC series they were represented exactly like how I visualized them after reading the seerah.
We need more shows like this. Not just about the early generations but of the later ones too. Imagine movies or series on the lives of the four great imams or the lives of the great generals of Islam. Stories of how Islam spread through Africa or through Asia or through Europe. Shows on the great achievements of Islam during the golden age. They can compliment seerah studies in schools just like when American students in school study American History. I remember enjoying movie time in American History class watching the thirteen colonies rebel against the British and watching the union army battle the confederate army at Gettysburg. We read about it, study it, take exams on it, but when we see it in a well done epic movie it only ingrains it into our memory.
Reading is important and should be the main source of knowledge and education. Reading books of seerah is the best thing to do, but complimenting that with movies and TV series like the Omar one by MBC only helps us retain the knowledge. In an age of visualization of learning everywhere from our mobile devices to online e-learning, Muslim producers and media executives should consider producing more material about Islam’s history.
There are so many parts of our history and so many individuals that there could be years worth of material to produce. I pray and hope that in the future more Muslim media producers and executives consider bringing history to the screen in the best of ways pleasing to Allah.