In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
[Shamim A Siddiqi, New York]
Though the documentary film about the life of Muhammad (S) – the legacy of a Prophet as presented by PBS on December 18, 2002 from 9 to 11 PM was not so successful in manifesting the life-pattern of the Prophet Muhammad (S) in an effective form but we congratulate the organizers for their courage and honesty with which it was aired. It has benefited the cross section of the people a lot. It has acquainted them with the legacies of Prophet Muhammad to a very appreciable extent. However, it would be in the fitness of the matter to pinpoint some of the shortcomings for its future undertakings.
The entire background was a haphazard canopy of different shots here and there of the dessert of Arabia and the glittering culture of 21st century of America. A continuous change of scenario from old Arabia to modern America and vice versa is a constant disturbing element and as such the viewer never feels in communion with the story and the impression that he/she gathers remains distorted to the effect that it is neither sublime in nature nor sophisticated in educating the audience about the life pattern of the Prophet.
The tone and expression all through was apologetic, lacking in spirit and conviction with what the moderators were presenting. The only exception was that of Karen Armstrong who was playing her part with a depth of understanding and devotion that the occasion demands. The role of Imam Hamza Yusuf was very poor. As a learned scholar of Islam, he should have presented the life pattern of the Prophet Muhammad (S) correctly. The Imam did not present the dialogue that the Prophet had with his uncle Abu Talib in its true perspective. The Prophet (S) categorically declared, “I will carry out the mission entrusted to me till either I succeed in getting the Deen of Allah dominant or I give up my life in that pursuit.” Imam’s translation was only that “the message is conveyed.” This translation bears no emphasis what the Prophet (S) was communicating to his uncle and to his people and as such the Imam could not present a very important legacy of the Prophet (S).
The case of the Jewish Tribe, Banu Quraiza of Madinah was not presented in its true historical perspective. The Imam should have presented the terms and condition of the Covenant of Madinah that Jews had violated when the war of Trenches took place. The Jews committed the breach of trust and of their commitment to the Treaty of Madinah. As such, they were punished in terms of the provisions of Torah. Imam Hamza failed to do his job at this point too. This created unnecessarily misgivings in the minds of many, especially amongst the Jewish community of the USA and gave chance to persons like Daniel Pipes to create hue and cry about this episode.
The documentary could not present the life of Prophet Muhammad (S) correctly even in brief or in glimpses. It also could not demonstrate his (S) legacies in a befitting manner in the life pattern of Muslim society. Whatever presented, it is in the cultural background of Arabs, the Muslim community of Dearborn, MI. It cannot be placed as a model community of Islamic life-pattern as demonstrated by the Prophet of Allah. It represents the cultural life of Arabs mixed with the modern needs of the American life.
Even in this imperfect and most unpolished form, the documentary has “inspired” Daniel Pipes to come lashing upon PBS for its presentation. In New York Post of December 17, 2002, he has charged PBS to squandering away with the public money on such “extravaganzas” and has asked someone to file a legal suit against Channel 13. I would just like to ask Pipes that how many times every year the PBS and other TV Channels display the stories of Prophet Moses, Prophet Jesus [Peace be upon them] and the episode of “holocaust” and how many times he had the courage to protest against their display on the public/private Channels? If he had kept silence, what right he has now to create a clumsy situation against the documentary of Muhammad (S) which is itself full of shortcomings and human fallacies just depicted a few of them above. This is the display of his prejudiced mind against Islam, Muslims and the Prophets of God. I have gone through much of his writings. It has convinced me that he is perhaps the most “ignorant” person about Islam and the life pattern of the Prophets of Islam. I once advised him in a brotherly fashion to study Islam afresh from original and direct sources or cease to poison the minds of his ignorant and innocent readers. He is spoiling the case of his own Jewish community by these rough shots and creating the gulf between the three Abrahamic faiths wider and wider.
In fact, Islam has its own system of life, a life pattern that establishes a well-balanced life of peace and harmony to live in the midst of multicultural societies like America. The life of Prophet Muhammad (S) is the model to follow in every walk of like. He (S) struggled for the whole of his life for justice and fair play to the oppressed classes of the society, especially for the rights of women, poor, needy, slaves, minorities and have-nots and established a model society in Arabian Peninsula in his lifetime. That pattern could not be produced so far even by the most advanced country of modern age. The world has yet to attain that perfection. That will be possible only when the life-pattern of Prophet Muhammad (S) is emulated truthfully. Persons like Daniel Pipes will save this world and their hereafter too, if they struggle for this cause honestly and help the Muslims of America to practice and demonstrate the legacies of Prophet Muhammad (S) in every walk of life.
Shamim A Siddiqi
December 21, 2002