Dunya: Living Our Own Avatar


by Aziza Khalil

Warning: this review is a bit of a spoiler if you haven’t watched the movie already.

Last Saturday, I went to see the infamous Avatar movie. I’ve been trying to see that movie ever since it came out in Cairo approximately ten days ago. And every time I did, it was full. So Subhan’Allah, maybe I wasn’t supposed to watch it before Saturday because I wouldn’t have had the same impression I have now. Maybe my state of mind wasn’t ready to assimilate what I was about to see.

Jake Sully is your typical character everyone can identify with: broken, hurt and lost – but also intelligent and determined. He’s escaping something. He’s escaping his handicap and his brother’s loss. When Jake looks at his avatar, he knows he is about to embark into a new world. This made me wonder about the whole avatar concept. Aren’t we, as human souls, living in a body that’s ours and our responsibility? Isn’t a body without a soul lifeless? Yes, you can be fascinated by the movie, but it won’t be from the iMax or 3D Experience. You can have your very own experience.

He was told to “let your mind go blank” as he entered into a machine that looks like a tomb. Imagine yourself in his shoes – we close our eyes and we wake up.

Welcome to Dunya. A place where everything was created by Allah, and perfectly so. Look at your hands and feet. This is your body – take good care of it for it is your responsibility to do so. Look around you. Nature is perfect. Allah put everything in perfect balance and ordered us not to transgress it and not to sow corruption on earth. But Dunya is not your final stop (our mind really went blank!) It is the place where your soul remembers (dhikr) its Lord, the covenant:

وإذ أخذ ربك من بني آدم من ظهورهم ذريتهم وأشهدهم على أنفسهم ألست بربكم قالوا بلى شهدنا أن تقولوا يوم القيامة إنا كنا عن هذا غافلين

“And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (7:172)

We have forgotten where we come from. We have forgotten that this life is much like Avatar. This is only a stop for what’s about to come. Do you know that dunya means “to reach out for grapes?” We have to look at the world, this Dunya, and experience nostalgia and a desire to return home (the Garden, our final abode for us all insha’Allah - God willing!)

Sooner or later we will wake up in a machine, just like Jake Sully did. But this time, it’s our tomb.

Avatar was useful in a way which is to imitate Jake Sully and the Na’vi (call them aliens all you want but as soon as I saw and heard them, all I could think about was colonization, African tribes and Native Americans) in standing up for the truth and not destroying the earth. Allah ordered us to do so.

If you ask me, Avatar wasn’t a science fiction movie, it was real life put in a pretty colorful frame.

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20 Comments

  1. Saifa says:

    Great movie. Beautiful analogy. More beautiful deen.

  2. jamshed says:

    asak sheikh Suhaib
    just read your article on avtar , wondering how do you justify watching hollywood or any movie? i mean what are your aims and is it justified for a muslim to go to the cinema etc and watch, plz explain so that we can learn from you
    waslam
    jamshed, scotland,UK(in the middle of big freeze)

    • ahmad says:

      salam alaikum brother
      imam suhaib didn’t write this article. if you look at the top of the page, you’ll see that its written by sister Aziza Khalil.
      i saw the movie 2 weeks ago and i thought it was really good. it definitely has a political message to tell.

  3. Roomana says:

    Yes that movie has a message. But the question is: how many will wake up to it?

  4. Tim says:

    @jamshed — the article is by Aziza Khalil.

  5. Maryam says:

    Jezaki Allahu Khayran- taqabal Allah! Really appreciated the article Alhamdulilah

  6. nobody says:

    Assalamu Alaykum

    “Avatar was useful in a way which is to imitate Jake Sully and the Na’vi (call them aliens all you want but as soon as I saw and heard them, all I could think about was colonization, African tribes and Native Americans). . .”

    I swear when I saw the “Na’vi” that is exactly what I was thinking.

    AsA
    nobody

  7. sabirah says:

    i watched the movie too, and from the content i think i would not really recommend it to muslims (it has nakedness and sex scenes). I liked the movie though and the message, but to compare it with the message of Islam is a bit far fetched in my opinion. The thought crossed my mind too, but not for long.
    Still, i can totally understand sister Aziza’s enthusiasm for it, it has beautiful pictures and effects (in particular if she watched it in 3d). Thing is in the movie, the character goes from one Dunya into the next. Just another US movie with a “noble saveges” message

    • abu majeed says:

      As-Salamu alaikum Sister Sabirah and Brother jamshed

      Lets tone it down on the Haram police. I can say that generally Muslims should not find themselves at the movies often, but every now and then there’s nothing wrong with some entertainment. If you have a strong spirituality and keep up with your obligations and Optional worship then you would fear Allah and not watch a movie that has messages which can hurt that blessing from Allah. Personally, although I’m 31 I would by shy of watching a movie rated R I stick with PG13 and under and prefer pixar movies with my kids.

      Sister sabirah, Comon there is no sex scene. There is a scene with a kiss and some holding and affection between two aliens. The Muslim should have haya here and look away, but that was a minute from 2 hours and 40 minutes so it shouldn’t hurt. The best part of this movie that nobody is talking about is its clear message for the respect of spirituality and the blame and reproachment of materialism.

      And Allah knows best

  8. Holly Garza says:

    SubhaanAllah great Analogy

  9. Hanaa Hamad says:

    Mash Allah these articles are fantastic. I’m a senior in Creative Writing at UC Riverside, is there any way I can contribute? These types of articles are my specialty. If so contact me through facebook, or the email I have given.

    Jazak Allah

  10. sabirah says:

    @ abu majeed, lol – true. and i also wondered why hollywood assumes that aliens would copulate like humans (or so at least it seems)

  11. R. says:

    I watched the movie and yes i thought of Native Indians in America but also couldn’t help myself but also think of Palestine and Israel. A big part of me wanted the movie to end in a different way where the humans (occupiers) win because I just wanted the audience to feel the disappointment and be upset because this is how i feel about the current situation in our world, yet another part of me saw other things in the movie. I saw many of the things Islam teach us… I saw what unity can achieve when differences are put aside… i saw how in terms of spirtuality what prayers and true belief can do… yes it maybe a science fiction movie where somehow ppl pray to entities and beings, but in my mind i was thinking as a Muslim I believe in Allah and I believe that if the umma comes together holding one flag, that every person gives it his best and truly believe that God will not leave them as long as they hold on to their faith and the teachings of Islam things will be totally different.
    I may have read too much in the movie but i know this is what was going inside my head at the time.

  12. sabirah says:

    ok… i personally think this movie is fiction, and should be treated as that. It’s nice, and full of glitter, but that is what sells it, and brings the hard bucks in (for someone with an unheathly lifestyle I suppose, lol).
    On the other side, what’s happening in Palestine , is very real (in this dunya). Just the more incomprehensible that most of the world just looks on while they are going to a movie like that and identify with aliens and cry or are happy in the end. Kinda double faced. But – I’m not sure if I wanna go down the political road here

  13. sabirah says:

    astaghfeerullah for my ignorance, but who chose the picture for the article? is that symbolic? I HAD to laugh out lout when i saw it

  14. jamshed says:

    thanks everybody for your kind comments, i prefer to stick to U certificate pixar/disney movies with my toddler daughter, the best way to entertain us in this “big freeze” and tons of snow! jazakallah khair

  15. brina says:

    v interesting analogy. and well if we’re going to watch them, we may aswell draw out useful meanings to us… at the same time i think we can also appreciate the immense technology and thought that went into this film – i was really just thinking subhanAllah.

  16. sam2meast says:

    Salaam,
    (May contain some spoiler)
    I think most of the people did not the get the real message or the analogy that was intended by James Cameron in this movie. When I first watched the movie the thing that struck me immediately was that these Na’vis were none other than – Muslims of today. And humans were Americans in Middle east who are there for the sake of precious rock “oil”.
    Most of the Americans have compared Na’vis to the Native americans or the Africans just based on how they look and dress. But you have to look past the looks and their dresses.
    The Na’vis are spiritual people like Muslims who try to live in accordance with nature. For example, whenever they hunt an animal for eating they do it with honor and thank “their Lord”. Muslims do the same thing – Halal way of slaughtering animals.
    Also the Na’vis referred to each other as brothers.
    The Americans in the movie accuse the Na’vis of living and behaving like animals and are not “civilized” like them. In real life the West does the same thing to Muslims and consider them as downtrodden with medieval beliefs.
    Also the Americans in the movie boast of their military power and assume that they can never lose a war to these backward people (Navis) who just use bows and arrows. This is the exact pride that US is suffering from right now.
    The movie also hints that if the different Navis tribes unite and fight then they can defeat the invaders with the help from “their God” Aiwa.

    Overall, I think it was a fantastic movie! Also I liked the analogy that sister Aziza did with soul and Navi. It was quite interesting.

    JazakAllah Khayr

  17. O. Tawil says:

    Great article Masha’allah, I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s not hard to guess what happens/what it’s about.
    However, one small correction if I may; the root meaning of ‘Dunya’ doesn’t mean to reach out for grapes, rather, it means to reach out for grapes (or fruits) that you will NEVER grasp.
    It’s closer to the reality of what the Dunya is, unreachable. It will always leave you wanting more, so it’s best to not get ‘caught up’ in it.

  18. ya3ni says:

    good analogy masha Allah.

    I agree with R. I wanted it to end more realistically. In history and in current day the “aliens” rarely win.

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