There are quite many documentaries that depict the origins of one of the world religions, the Islam. The number of feature films on the same matter is much smaller. The most famous film about the early Muslim history is “The Message” by Moustapha Akkad. There are two versions of the film: the first one – in Arabic language with Arabian actors – came out in 1976, the second one – in English language with British cast – was released a year later, even though they were being shot simultaneously. The Arabian version is 20 minutes longer (198 minutes overall). The production was run by Great Britain and several Arabic countries like Lebanon, Morocco and Livia. By the way, diseased Livia leader Muammar Gaddafi helped with sponsorship for the movie and the shooting took place mainly in Livia.
The movie follows the Muslim canons that forbid picturing the prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). Nevertheless, Muhammad is viewlessly present in the most of the movie’s scenes, as long as his name is associated with Islam’s origins and establishment. The events in the movie take place in the 7th century in the lands of modern Saudi Arabia and seizes more than a 20-year-long time span, starting from the prophet’s first sermons in Mecca in the beginning of the 7th century up until his death in 632.
“The Message” represents most of the Muslim early history, including the beginning of the prophetic mission in Mecca, when the ruling pagans persecuted Muhammad and his followers; the following hegira (relocation) to Medina, the Badra and Uhud sanguinary battles, Muhammad’s triumphal return to Mecca and the spread of the Islam across the Arab Peninsula.
One of the famous actors, starring in “The Message”, who is worth mentioning, is Anthony Quinn, who also appeared in “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Lion of the Desert”. In “The Message” Quinn portrays Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib, the prophet’s uncle and his close associate. While filming “The Message” the director tried to do both: tell the true story of the Islam and make a movie that represents the Muslim religion in a clear way. Unfortunately, Akkad’s fate was rather tragic. Being a person who spent his entire life defending the Islam and trying to depict this religion as a peaceful one in his films, he died in Amman, the capital of Jordan, due to lethal wound he got in a terroristic act in a hotel he was staying at. It is known, that the explosion was set by the followers of the idea of Muslim fundamentalism, and Moustapha Akkad’s injure was just a causality.
“The Message” is highly recommended to those interested in Arabic language and culture, the Islam and Religion Studies.