BBC 2: ‘The life of Muhammad (saw)’ – My Thoughts

Firstly its rare for a pro-Israeli, pro Zionist organisation like that of the BBC to air a programme related to Islam. You have to applaud them for their genuine attempt at trying to present an unbiased view of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). With a Muslim presenter (Rageh omaar) a former BBC correspondent, the BBC seem to have gone out of their usual bigoted ways to bring a ‘neutral’ programme to light. Addressing the issues which is at the minds of many non – Muslims, namely who is Muhammad (saw)? what did he do? etc.

Secondly, although there were some good points of the programme, nonetheless the positive aspects were overwhelmingly overshadowed by the negative points.
To begin with, i was going to do a review on my thoughts of the programme. However i received a facebook message from a good friend of mine from Wales (UK) who had done a more thorough review of the first part of the programme, which was broadcast yesterday, that being the 11.07.11. Now for my part, all i can say or would like to say is the programme did more to explain the terrorists actions and the 1980s protests by UK Muslims of Rushdie’s infamous ‘satanic verses’. Than actually deal with telling the story which is ‘The life of Muhammad (saw)’! I only feel that this was a wasted opportunity which could have been utilised in a better, more effective way than it has been. With groups like that of the EDL and the BNP – Anti Muslim groups rampant throughout UK, will be more confused about Muhammad (saw) than ever. Simply because the programme does more to highlight the controversies of the terror attacks, the protests of the 80s and the links between the radical Islam and moderate Islam. Instead of clearly expounding upon the life of Muhammad (saw).

In terms of camera work, with there being a good amount of money budgeted for the programme it would have been better if they put some spirit into the production work. Although they have travelled the Muslim world extensively to produce the programme. It nevertheless, lacks that special spark which BBC documentaries often have. It appeared in many areas the footage to be raw (Unedited) with slight jerkiness at times. For example, there were many shots done which were lazily panned out, with slight shakiness of the camera when doing so. Where as there were at times just mere shots of Rageh walking about, with no commentary or narrative. I also noticed a few times repeated scenes of him leaving a book shop being used to ‘fill the space’ as it were. All in all, it did not have that uniqueness that usually comes with BBC programmes. The Worlds largest and most powerful broadcasting institution, seems to have half heartedly gone ahead with this programme.

The following is the review which was presented to me to post here:

This note is written in response to the documentary being broadcast by BBC 2 on the life of Prophet Muhammad (saw). It’s largely based on notes I was taking during watching the episode at the moment, so is more in chronological order relating to the episode, rather than addressing each point in turn.

Firstly, I’d like to point out three things. The first of them is that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) is always described as being one of three:

1) A liar,

2) A lunatic (i.e. sincere in his deluded belief of actually being a Prophet)

3) A genuine Prophet of God.

It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that only Muslims believe in aspect (3), because if you did believe he was a genuine Prophet and didn’t accept his message, it leads to pretty worrying questions about your state of mind.

Anyway, my point is that, despite the masses of evidence that shows he was a genuine Prophet of God (some of which was mentioned in the episode because it’s paramount to his story and undisputable), there were a lot of attempts to skew the narrative to point to him being a liar or deluded. Insha’Allah (God Willing), I’ll attempt to highlight these briefly.

The second point that I want to mention is the nature of making comparisons. Everyone will have some kind of similarity to something, and some kind of difference too. When you compare, you neglect the similarities and focus on the differences. However, there’s an exception in the case of Prophet Muhammed (saw) whereas, when they want to paint him to be a liar or a lunatic, they’ll focus on the aspects that were similar, and shy away from aspects that demonstrate that he doesn’t fall into the category of being a liar or lunatic.

Finally, I’d also like to point out that we Muslims are not stupid. We don’t believe in fairy-tales, etc, without solid evidences. In fact, the Qur’an mentions in several places to think, to use the brain that was given to us. We know these stories, and if you oversimply a situation, of course you can attack it. It’s called “straw men”, and oversimplifying the foundation of a belief and dismissing the oversimplification does nothing for the actual belief of Muslims. You do no justice in doing this.

Anyway, I digress… let’s move on.

The first thing that struck me was the narrator mentioning that Islam gave rise of fantastic architecture. Well, yes it did! But Islam also gave rise to much much more than this. Indeed, you could argue that it was the Muslims that were the major catalyst in the advance of science and technology! And even the Greek philosophers that people love to quote so much these days, did you know that if it weren’t for Muslims preserving their works (and making various corrections too), they wouldn’t even exist today. All that material has been translated back from Arabic because Muslims preserved the knowledge during the golden ages, when the Europeans were burning it. When the Christian’s kicked Muslims out of Spain, they tried to claim the knowledge back by converting it back from Arabic. Just check out Wikipedia for Islamic contributions to the west and to the world. You’d be surprised.

Another statement mentioned was that “revelation is said to have been received from God”. Well, the position of Muslims is that it isn’t just “said”, it’s provable! Indeed, this is the basis of the challenge of Islam in verses 2:23-24, to produce a single chapter like the Qur’an (and we’re only talking three lines of Arabic). Given this challenge was made to those best placed to answer it, and they couldn’t, and that it’s the only example of human expression that has never been replicated, it clearly shows that it’s outside the productive capacity of man, and thus must be from a higher source (i.e. the Creator of the heavens and the earth, as the Qur’an itself says). For more information, please visit http://www.theinimitablequran.com/

There were also a lot of subtle references to violence, and negative stereo-typical images associated to Islam. For example, Prophet Muhammad’s use of “war and peace” (war was mentioned first to subliminally make that word stronger and appear to be the primary focus of his mission). Again, with regards to talking about not showing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), images of Shia were shown during one of their rituals where they repeatedly beat themselves and draw blood. This has absolutely nothing to do with main-stream Islam, and in fact contradicts it (harming yourself is forbidden!), and had nothing to do with the narrative at the time the imagery was shown. The only purpose of it was to heighten sensationalism and to drive home a message of “look at the crazy mozlamics!”

“Unlike Jesus, Mohammed is not the son of God” – errm, the Islamic position (as well as the position of some Christian denominations, as well as Jesus himself) is that Jesus isn’t the son of God either. But more to the point, I don’t understand why this was even mentioned. I get that they were explaining how Muhammad (saw) is just a man and we don’t worship him (which was good), but why make a link where there isn’t one? And at the same time, why not clarify that Muslims also believe in Jesus, but as a messenger of God in a manner consistent with all the other prophets/messengers? It seems important useful bits of information were excluded, only to mention support for a non-Islamic worldview.

It was mentioned there were no signs at the birth of the Prophet (saw), unlike the stars and three kings, etc for Jesus (I can’t remember his words exactly, but I understood that to be the gist). OK, sure, I’ll give it that, but there was a miracle witnessed by his mother at the time, as well as other events that took place too. A little more subtle perhaps, but hardly “nothing”. For those that want to know, in brief his mother saw a light that showed her far away lands (which would soon come under the banner of Islam), 14 balconies of the Palace of Rome collapsed, and the fire of the Zoroastrians went out… signs of the coming of a new Messenger.

With regards to non-Muslim historians writing about the Prophet (saw) so soon after his passing, this is one evidence of his sublime character, and the promise that Allah (swt) made to him. Going back to the challenge of the Qur’an for a second, the smallest chapter (which is only 3 lines and 10 words long) makes a promise to Muhammad (saw) that he’d be given an abundance (implied to be “of good”). This is in several manners, one of which is that in the eyes of those who research him properly, they hold him with high praise. Even at the beginning of the programme the person mentioned Muhammad (saw) to be in the top 3 (although I wonder who the other two would be and what positions). For more information, see this link: http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/quote1.html

With reference to the miracle of the Qur’an, it just goes to show that it’s coming true!

With regards to the justice of pre-Islamic Arabia, one specific example was being killed for stealing a loaf of bread. Not sure where this came from, but there are a dozen other examples that could have been used without subliminally referring to the common caricature of Islamic cutting off the hands of a thief for stealing bread. Yes, the hudood punishments are real, but they don’t work like that… there’s a lot of steps in between! And I realise this was in reference to pre-Islamic Arabia, but subliminally it plants the seed in your mind to show where it came from in Islam (and perhaps people would assume that it continued).

One of the people interviewed sounded like she said the pagan Arabs had “Allah, the High God” as an Idol. I think she means Al-Lat, not Allah. The pagans never believed Allah/God to be an idol, just the idols were his daughters.

The Muslim believe in Ibrahim (as) as builder of the Kaaba was toned right down from it’s focal point in Islamic history and one of the main stories in the Qur’an. There was also a specific mention of there being no tie outside of Islam linking Abraham to Islam. Hmm… there’s plenty of evidences in the bible that link the monothesitic religion together.

It was also mentioned that Mecca was off the trading route and there was no evidence that supported the Muslim version of events. Well, even logically this can’t be true. At the end of the day, Prophet Muhammed (saw) had his followers, who even included those who tried to kill him beforehand. Point being, all these people had to come from somewhere, and they all had mouths… yet the version of history relating to Mecca is consistent. Is it being suggested that it’s a huge coverup now? That’s quite an accusation to make without evidence to back it up. It just doesn’t make sense.

I’m gonna leave this note here ‘cos it’s late and I’m tired, but I’ll continue adding more later, insha’Allah.

In short… as someone who knows the history of the Prophet (saw) at a basic level, I was disappointed by the Beeb’s portrayal. Much of the beauty and subtly was completely overlooked and ignored.

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