An Imam’s Review of the Movie “Noah”


https://www.flickr.com/photos/ashclements/2055508301-10 Grading Scale (I will discuss these in detail later in this article)

General Quality of Movie: 6

Islamic Teachings: 3

Morals/Values: 8

Overall Benefit: 7

Imams MUST Connect with the Masses

When I first heard this movie was being released, I asked the laymen of our community – young and old – if they were going to see it. Actually most of them said they would either go out of curiosity or go in thinking it would be a morally based form of entertainment. The praise is God’s that He guided us to make a real connection with the average Muslims who are struggling with spirituality and are actually looking for guidance. This silent majority among us often feels shunned and/or alienated from religion by the chastising judgmental “conservative” Muslims whom I call the HARAM police. Many Imams pander to these peoples’ narrow and often rigid understanding of Islam. Sadly, if a status-quo Imam asked a layman about something, the answer of which could in any way be perceived as immoral, they will lie in fear of blame. This disconnect from the guidance of inclusive understanding of spiritual leadership is hindering the healthy growth of the Muslim community. Surely the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) knew the evils and vices of Makkah, but outside of polytheism and grave immorality he would not deal with the new Muslims with a judgmental attitude which is precisely why many chose to continue to so devoutly follow him even with such grave consequences. The Sunnah is:

“It was an act of God’s mercy that you were gentle and easy going with them. Had you have been rigid or harsh hearted then they wouldn’t have followed you…”(3:159)

It is of the utmost importance for Imams to not only connect with the masses, but to also build an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth. An environment that respects differences of opinion to encourage and empower all facets of the community.

Watching a Movie Depicting a Prophet

I have discussed this issue with some of my teachers and read the fatwas (rulings) of others. The basis of the majority position of prohibition is not that the Qur’an or Sunnah forbade it per say, but rather, they fear the harmful response which could be caused by the ignorance of the Muslim world.

I would say that this particular movie stayed true for the most part to the biblical Noah (peace be upon him) which, as we will see in the review, is quite contrary to the Qur’anic Noah (pbuh). So the point of this movie was by no means to make jest or speak ill of the life or person of Noah. Rather it was an attempt at capturing his greatness according to the Bible with a modern Hollywood touch to get the current generation to appreciate Noah and his story.

I can’t speak for the eastern world because I don’t understand their circumstances and how this ruling would apply to them. For the educated, diverse place I was raised in and live in, I would say that the concerns of the scholars in the East do not apply. For example, I grew up watching the 10 Commandments and Jesus of Nazereth. At no point did I believe that the actor was really the prophet and I have never seen anyone with a picture of those actors in their homes. I have never met or heard of an American who worshipped a picture of anyone. Finally, there are some hardline people here, Muslim and non-Muslim, who didn’t like the movie and disagreed with its depiction. None of those people caused any real harm as a result in terms of rioting and vandalism.

I would only advise a Muslim planning to see it or those who have seen it that if you don’t know the true story of Noah as depicted in the Qur’an then you shouldn’t take it as some sort of learning experience since it is far from the Qur’anic message of Noah (pbuh).

The Need for Muslims to Enter the Real World of Influence

Back in the 1950’s, when cinema and TV started to take root, the vast majority of scholars across the Muslim world addressed the issue of acting and filming as prophets, companions, or the great sages and leaders. They agreed that none of these should be portrayed. In the 1970’s, the scholars of Azhar agreed that there is a benefit to be derived from making some sort of depiction of the Seerah (the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ). So they agreed that neither the Prophet ﷺ nor the major companions who were given glad tidings of heaven could be depicted, but that they will make an exception for Hamza and Bilal radi Allahu `anhum (may God be pleased with them). This didn’t make much sense because indeed these were of the greatest companions, both of whom were also given the glad tidings of paradise, according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. So a few years ago, a group of prominent scholars including Sh. Salman al-Ouda gave their blessing for the content and plan to make a series on Umar’s (ra) life. Sh. Salman has given talks and advised Muslims to use film/television for da`wah (making people aware of Islam). Here is one of those: http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-431-4760.htm

In another article he says, “Fatwas have never stopped the general Muslim public from watching romantic movies and television series, most of which were imported from Turkey, South America, and Korea. The Gulf States were the largest market for such films, with almost no oversight or monitoring. At the same time, gifted Muslims with creative vision and a noble message to convey were being stifled. Investors were hesitant to support their projects because of the questions surrounding Muslim drama, and this potentially huge market was being left untapped.

“If poetry had been the repository of Arab culture in the old days, then film/tv has become the repository of culture of most of the nations of the Earth today. It is in these movies and television series that people’s customs, lifestyles, and approaches to problem solving are depicted. It is where their fears, anxieties, and dreams are given expression.

“It has an enormous potential to express ideas, effect change, and form public opinion. It engages multiple senses, not just hearing or sight in isolation, and it addresses all human interests. It entertains, educates, and persuades all at the same time.”

Detailed Review of “Noah”

As a movie among movies, it was often boring, seemingly long, and drawn out. There was some good action sequences and some awesome special effects. The plot and main character was dark and hard to stomach, but the ending was good.

As far as general compatibility with our morals and values, it was void of profanity or any considerable nudity other than what you might see in public. Strangely it seemed not to endorse the institution of marriage as Noah’s son just made relations with his adopted sister and thus they were considered a couple with no sort of marriage. The violence was intense, but not so graphic. There was a segment where a spiritual experience was induced by some sort of hallucinogenic drink and in the end the lead character got drunk to relieve the pain of his depression.

The biggest concern for a Muslim regarding this movie is the major difference in the depiction of Noah (pbuh) and his message between the Bible and the Qur’an. First and foremost is the source of the conflict. The movie is depicting all of the people as believing in God, The Creator, whereas the Qur’an teaches that Noah’s people had deviated into polytheistic beliefs. Similarly the movie depicts a group of fallen angels whom God punished by turning into rock creatures. The Qur’an teaches that angels, by nature, act in full accordance to God’s will without exception and they are not tested with choice. Thus there is no such thing as a fallen angel in Islam.

The movie’s plot is that God has decreed irreversible damnation for the people’s corruption and iniquity from the get-go. It depicts Noah, not as a messenger of God, but rather as a servant to carry out His will in saving life to start over without humanity. The Qur’an teaches that God sent Noah as a messenger of divine mercy to teach his people pure monotheism and morality in order to save them from destruction and damnation. The movie makes the mission of Noah as an outsider nomad; there with his family simply to build the ark to save the means for future life on Earth without people. The Qur’an teaches that Noah lived integrated among society calling them to monotheism and submission to God. Only after hundreds of years of obstinate rebellion does Noah express his hopelessness in his people and God responds by informing him to build the Ark.

The movie depicts Noah’s people believing in Noah’s warning of a flood and so they devised a plan to survive by taking the ark by storm. The Qur’an teaches that the people mocked and ridiculed Noah while building the ark and even when the rain and floods began they still saw it as coincidence and sought to survive on the mountain. The movie depicts the end of humanity with no followers of Noah whereas the Qur’an teaches that there were many believers who embraced the prophethood and message of Noah and thus joined him on the ark.

The movie is in accordance with the Qur’an in that Noah himself was a very strong and devoutly obedient servant of God. The movie depicts him as a dark, semi-confused man who sees no hope for anyone from the very first time he receives revelation, whereas the Qur’an teaches that he was a merciful man who worked hard calling people to repentance and divine forgiveness. The movie depicts Noah as getting drunk to alleviate the pain of his confusion in understanding God’s will. The Qur’an teaches that all prophets of God are blessed and strive spiritually to moral excellence, and although capable of human error and minor sin; none committed a major sin. They are God’s emissaries on Earth and are the best human examples of piety.

The movie depicts a worldwide flood that destroys everything except what is on the ark. Some Muslim scholars made that common Biblical interpretation as the verses could be interpreted as such, yet they stipulate the condition that Noah’s message had reached all of mankind and they rejected it. Otherwise many Qur’anic commentators cite various points in the linguistics of the story that show the flood to be localized to the vicinity of Noah’s people.

The Overall Benefit

I saw huge benefit in this movie in that it confirmed my faith in the Qur’anic version that fits a comprehensive form of reasonable morality. This movie emphasized why people struggling with faith talk about “the god” of the Bible being illogical and merciless. Obviously we believe that God revealed the original scriptures that now make up the Bible, but it is clear through the miracle of the Quran, historical evidence, and common sense that man has altered its message.

The second lesson is in the huge potential of conveying the message of Islam, if we were to take Sh. Salman’s guidance and if many prominent scholars and donors can get over the scripturally baseless ruling prohibiting people from acting as prophets. It would be hugely advantageous to Islam and the Muslims if we made high-quality, well-funded, scripturally proper, and well-acted depictions of the prophets and our great history.

These are just my personal honest and sincere reflections, and God knows best.

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47 Comments

  1. Ali says:

    Are you against the idea of Prophet Muhammad’s depiction in a movie or drawing? if the answer is yes, then why are you NOT applying the same principle to other prophets?

    All prophets should be respected.

    • Fezz says:

      Excellent point. This is the crux of the matter.

      The majority of TV is all about making money and a lot of it is heavily sexualised, whether we realise it or not.

      Its about respect.

    • Bint_M. says:

      To my knowledge, no religion but Islam and the Baha’i faith, Nation of Islam and such kufr variances believe in Prophet Muhammad (saw) so I don’t think there ever will be a drawing or depiction of him in a movie. Many other prophets however are found in the Old testament so there’s a higher likelihood that movies will be made about them. That being said, I think Muslims who don’t really know their religion should refrain from watching such movies because it does add to confusion. I had a born Muslimah(educated and in her late 30’s) once told me she didn’t know Shaytan wasn’t a fallen angel…amongst so many other examples. I guess we don’t realize how ignorant the Muslim ummah really is and how much Christian “mainstream” concepts are embedded into our psyches. The average born Muslim hasn’t even ever *read* a translation of the Quran from cover to cover. We are taught a few short surahs in our childhood to be able to pray and except for some of us who at some point or another take a real interest in the deen, those surahs will be the only ones we know until we die. So how many actually do know the genuine story of our prophets instead of what is widely spread through “common knowledge”?

      • Sam says:

        I agree with your post, but would add the caveat that just because a religion/people doesn’t believe in the prophethood of the Prophet (peace be upon him) doesn’t mean that they will not depict him in a film. They most definitely believe that he existed in history.

      • Azura Malaysia says:

        Excellent points!

    • john says:

      Salam dear respected brother Ali,

      Of course I am against DRAWING a picture of any human being or animal as that was prohibited by the Prophet (PBUH). As far as someone acting as any prophet there is nothing in Islam that would prohibit it unless it was to mock or disrespect them. As the end of the review states, I highly support a proper portrayal of prophets and righteous Muslim leaders in history.

      Muslims must stop being so emotional and reactionary. We need to survey the Quran and Sunnah as well as the benefit vs. harm of something and trust in God with what is right and sensible.

      • maria says:

        As-salaamu alaykum,

        Doesn’t it seem illogical to believe that although drawings of prophets may be prohibited impersonations are permissible? Because impersonations have the potential to do the same, if not more harm than drawings can.

        What is the reason behind the prohibition of drawing pictures of the Prophets? And in my humble opinion, it is unwise to cite the lack of explicit prohibition as support for theatrical depictions of prophets. This is because there was no television, or Hollywood during the time of Rasulullah (PBUH) and therefore,no explicit prohibition or permissibility can be found on this matter.

        *My outlook may be flawed and incorrect in which case I request a correction for any honest mistake of mine iA. Allah knows best.

        • John says:

          Salam dear respected sister,

          There is no prohibition of drawing prophets specifically. There is only a prohibition of drawing living beings in general and that is completely different than people acting as people.

          There have been movies depicting Moses and Jesus for some time and I know of no harm they have caused.

          Sister the common folk seem to think that new matters must be interpreted as haram. In fact the Quran and Sunnah teach us that the guidance therein is sufficient. The scholars of. Islamic law tell us that all things are permissible unless proven prohibition in the Quran and Sunnah. There are matters interpreted from the principles of Islamic law derived from scripture. I personally am impressed with the argument by many scholars that there is no justification to prohibit acting out a prophets life in a proper portrayal .

    • Asda Alsafeway says:

      What do you mean by depicting? The Prophet (saw) has been depicted for 500+ years all over the muslim world, as have sahabah and others, in persian miniature paintings. Usually his figure is painted but the face is blank or shown to be burning, and other indirect ways.

      So there are several ways we could depict the Prophet (saw), but indirectly so, in a way similar in spirit to the miniature paintings. There are many creative/artistic film tricks that can be used to do this, in a way even better than the film ‘the message’.

      The only thing most muslims would have trouble with is some hollywood actor in a normal hollywood way, in explicit form, depicting prophets and others.

      However, i think the issue is slightly different in the modern time, as we have christians and others depicting their own prophets according to what they understand to be their law/shariah. And we are in such countries, images/movies are everywhere, depictions of prophets (often very negative and mocking depictions) are rife.

      So given such a context, given that most people learn by movies/images and not by memorising texts, we have to make some changes as to what we should tolerate from non-muslims about their own prophets, especially when such things are relatively beneficial.

      Things were never black and white, shariah was always contextual.

  2. a reader says:

    Overall beautiful post. I must, however, disagree with two points.

    1. Prominent scholars issuing baseless fatwas prohibiting depictions of the great companions (RA)? Have you seen what kind of movies complete allowance of those depictions have led the Christians to film? Please go and see for yourself the Jesus depictions out there.
    Where to draw the line? How do you know the movies would indeed be decent, scripturally-proper movies? Nowadays, most movies contain kissing, nudity and bed scenes. Which believer would want to see a prophet in those types of environment? I think prohibiting movies in this era would be rational and absolutely sensible.

    2. Imams shouldn’t at all issue a specific type of fatwa only to please certain laymen. We should speak the truth and follow the truth even if there aren’t many people following the path of truth. We will not change our religion and allow what we believe to be harmful for our community only to satisfy the whims of certain people.

    I do not judge you nor anyone else for watching the movie. I’m glad you benefited from it and hope others will too. Although I haven’t watched it myself nor do I plan to, I enjoyed reading your analysis and comparison with the Qur’anic narration. I myself will avoid it

    • john says:

      JAK bro,

      1- The condition is clear. If someone wants to make a proper portrayal for dawa of the Prophets or Companions then they have the blessing of many scholars.

      2- I have witnessed Imams making strict prohibiting fatwas to keep their job or promote community or country politics and they know good and well that the other opinion is based in solid fiqh principles yet don’t want to be judged or condemned by their peers.

    • Kendriana says:

      For a more lighthearted take, as opposed to how many Muslims feel about art, I watched this movie solely for entertainment but I was not very entertained.

      People who haven’t read any professional reviews have no idea that this movie is actually based off the comic book NOAH and very loosely based off the biblical interpretation of the story. I went to see it with a sister, I wasn’t expecting to learn anything, as a Christian convert to Islam, I’ve known the story of “Noah and the ark” since I was a child. So I was really just going to see this movie because I like Russell Crowe (who is aging terribly btw) as an actor and because nothing of similar quality was showing at the matinee that day.

      What surprised me about this movie was that they mentioned giants and also the Book Of Enoch, anyone with a decent and open minded study of religious theology has at least heard about this ancient text. What did not surprise (and actually kind ticked me off) is that once again all of the religious figures were WHITE with green and blue eyes (which is not only unrealistic but an all around FALSE representation,) they also all seemed to be wearing fashions from the fall season Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters collections and the effects IMO were super cheesy.

      So with the anthropologically false depiction of Noah , his sons and spouse, the bad effects and the fact that Emma Watson is left to repopulate the earth I give it an all-around: “Totally not worth the seven dollars spent, just wait ’til it hits Netflix” rating.

  3. ZAI says:

    Let us be honest, those of us who are “liberally” inclined( for lack of a better word) are never going to convince the haraam police and their scholars to accept projects such as this…and that is fine. The pertinent question, as the article alludes to, is whether societies…specifically Muslim societies, will allow the FREEDOM to for these types of expression to exist in the public space.

    Muslims ultimately have to decide whether they want to live in free societies or in some kind of ideological theocratic society based on particular constructs. This is one of the main struggles I see going on among Muslims today…between Muslims who want a civil state that MAY be informed by religious values/morals vs. Muslims who want a state that enforces top-down theocracy.

    Personally, I think so-called political Islam is an absolutely failed ideology. It simply doesn’t work at maintaining the peace, protecting rights, etc. Taliban= failed. Iran = failed. Sudan= failed. Mali= failed. Brotherhood = ON it’s way to failing before the coup aborted their rule. “Islamic” parties in Pakistan= failed and voted out. Saudi Arabia= world class fail where 60%-70% of people, especially women and youth are depressed and estimated 10% of people have professed atheism.

    It’s one long list of failures. What good has come out of it? If anything these groups are chasing people OUT of Islam. We keep beating this dead horse with a vengeance though. Out of reactionary contrarian spite against the West or some desperate desire to show we can produce an “alternative” to the West, a false pride..I don’t know why. But like Einstein said, the definition of insanity is to keep doing what doesn’t work again and again. To quote Shaykh Hamza, we need to give it up already.

    Look to what WORKS. Ennahda and AKP have been the sole successful parties because they’ve accepted democracy and a high level of tolerance/freedom and concentrate on winning people to their side and compromise…not the top down dictatorial totalitarian theocracies Muslim political parties desire in the rest of the Muslim world.

    …and part of this struggle is tolerating things we as individuals do not like. We either support free speech, etc. or we do not. There isn’t a middle ground here because everyone has DIFFERENT standards, so once one starts with the bans…soon enough everything is banned because someone out there is offended BY everything. There are Muslims for instance, who would ban different expressions of aqeedah if they could. It. Does. Not. Work. It ALWAYS ends in oppression and totalitarianism. So Muslims need to decide what they want. It’s either freedom or censorship…there is no in-between( extremes such as graphic pornography aside of course).

    I am not saying here that Muslims scholars of any persuasion nor their followers have to ACCEPT any thing they do not agree with or like. But they DO have to tolerate it if we want a free society and a faith that isn’t stifled or that doesn’t become synonymous with oppression.

    I always hear the verse, paraphrasing, “they think they are doing good, but they are not” applied to so-called “liberals” or “progressive” Muslims…sorry, but that applies JUST AS MUCH, if not more so, to many of the conservative fanatics. Many of them are behaving in a way that is chasing Muslims out of this religion, upending the peace of societies, handicapping da’wah, and causing this beautiful religion to be associated with dour, rigid fanaticism.

    I am seriously bewildered by their behavior. I was raised in this faith, thought I had some inkling what it was all about and I never thought I’d see arguments strenuously supporting and advancing the idea that being rude and obnoxious to non-Muslims is some kind of virtue…man, was I wrong. THANK GOD for Imam Suhaib, Shaykh Hamza, Imam Zaid and also you Br. John…I’m really happy to see alternative voices, which have always been normative, but underrepresented in comparison to “conservatives” are starting to be heard.

    • Sam says:

      Creating this us vs. them dichotomy, and “liberal” vs. “fanatic” does more to divide the Ummah. Because people disagree with the watching of Noah, they are “fanatics”? lol This is buying into the dichotomy set up by Western imperialists.

      • ZAI says:

        “Because people disagree with the watching of Noah, they are “fanatics”?”

        No. As I said very clearly in the comment it’s the people who want to BAN it that are fanatics.

        As for the liberal/conservative dichotomy, as I said in my comment I was using it for “lack of a better word”. The community is not monolith and aside from the extremes of the “progressives” and some of the fanatic conservative groups there is a very broad normative tradition.

        The true dichotomy, which does exist, is that between Muslims who believe in the right to different interpretations and tolerance of them…and the “fanatics” who think there is only one way. That dichotomy is all too real.

  4. Sam says:

    I understand understanding the cultural milieu that young American Muslims find themselves in and being able to communicate and speak in their cultural language, but to encourage Muslims to watch any Hollywood garbage, and especially this?? Why do people need to watch films to reaffirm their faith in the Qur’an and the message of Allah? I am not going to argue against Muslims watching this. I am no one to say whether it is sin or not, but it is the height of irresponsibility for our religious leaders to actually encourage people to watch this. It is enough for me to know about the very anti-Muslim and anti-spiritual basis of where people like Darren Aronofsky and others are coming from to avoid their creations. For me, this film is like any other piece of Hollywood propaganda. Hollywood is very good at appropriating the stories of others, whether people of color, religions, etc., to twist them and make them into something “feel good” or conveyers of what they want you to believe. I don’t even know whether all of the ‘intentions’ which have been attributed to the film (ie, its makers/writers) in this article are correct or not. Why don’t you post an interview with Aronofsky to confirm it?

    • john says:

      Peace Sam (and I mean it from the bottom of my heart),

      I didn’t endorse watching it, I realize that people will see it regardless of what I say and I see no scriptural basis to prohibit them. If I wasn’t an Imam trying to help give Islamic perspective, I probably wouldn’t have watched it. I still haven’t seen passion of the christ nor do I plan to. I felt the need to give Islamic perspective on it and hundreds of people have appreciated it. Please respect that.

      Not everything in Hollywood is garbage just like all Muslims are not terrorists! There is tons of benefit that happens in so much happening all around you all the time. You are acting like the doom and gloom negativity meter that is leading many people away from Islam bro. I know this for a fact! The Prophet said “The best of matters is a positive outlook best expressed in good words.” Please adjust your outlook and attitude accordingly and pick your battles bro!

      • maria says:

        I read that there isn’t explicit nudity but there is suggestive content in the film. I think that there is scriptural bases on this account to prohibit the watching of this film. *Lowering the gaze and guarding our modesty is an emphasized practice. Unfortunately, I am not learned in the Deen and my perspectives can be narrow at times so please do correct any honest mistake of mine iA. Allah knows best.

        • John says:

          Salam dear sister,

          The one or possibly two moments in this film which would lead a pious person to look away for a couple seconds does not prohibit the film from being watched. If it did watching the news or going out to the park would be a problem too.

        • Ed says:

          Inna lilah wa innah ilah raajun

  5. Gene says:

    I would disagree that “this particular movie stayed true for the most part to the biblical Noah” any more than it did to Qur’anic Noah(pbuh). If the movie had been about “George”, instead of Noah, I would give it three stars and even probably point to a few themes in it that tell a redemptive story for which there are parallels in the Bible. But one can hardly say that the text of any scripture was followed in the making of this movie. For the text I think they actually were following, I commend the following review http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil.

    • Kendriana says:

      It wasn’t really based on the biblical story it was based on NOAH the comic book, that’s why it’s pretty inaccurate.

      • John says:

        Yes there were many off details and of course the biblical unlike the Qurans story is insufficient so there are additions, but go back read the bible (I did afterwards) and you will see the gist and plot for the most part are the same. It seems many Christians don’t want to come to terms with that.

  6. Salman says:

    Brother Yahya, you forgot to review this:

    SEX/NUDITY – 3 (source: http://www.kids-in-mind.com/n/noah.htm)

    ► An elderly man touches his granddaughter’s abdomen, her vision blurs and a high wind blows through trees around them; previously infertile, she runs to find her boyfriend in the woods where she grabs him and kisses him passionately, ripping off his tunic to reveal his bare shoulders as the scene ends (sex is implied); in a few weeks, the young woman wakes up feeling sick and we learn that she is pregnant.

    ► A young man and a young woman run through a forest and fall to the ground, kissing for a short time; he lifts her tunic to reveal her navel and kisses her abdomen and a faded scar (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details) whereupon she tells him to stop and he complies. A husband and his wife kiss briefly in one scene and embrace for a short time in two other scenes.

    ► In a long shot, a man’s three sons find him naked on a beach and we see his bare back, chest, arms and shoulders; they cover him with a long robe. A woman bends forward toward the camera, revealing a little cleavage inside her loose blouse.

    ► A young woman’s water breaks, pouring onto the floor as contraction pains begin and she screams several times, while two babies are delivered below the frame (we see baby heads covered in wet dark hair after they have been wrapped in cloth).

    ► A young man becomes angry when he learns that all the young women on Earth are dead, including one he particularly liked. A biblical figure states that the human species must die and if female babies are born, they must be killed in order not to bear children.

    ► A man says that his oldest son is blinded by his desire to have children and that a teenage brother wants a wife and children only because he is covetous. A young couple tells a young man’s parents that a young woman is with child and in a later scene we see her with a swollen belly.

    —————-

    Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “That which is lawful is clear, and that which is unlawful is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful [or ambiguous] matters about which not many people are knowledgeable. Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters certainly clears himself in regard to his religion and honor. But he who falls into the doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like a shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily every king has a sanctuary and Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. In the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all of the body is sound and which, if it be diseased, all of the body is diseased. This part of the body is the heart.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

    • John says:

      Peace Salman’s,

      You are looking so hard for something to be haram so you can pass judgement. I have and use the kids in mind app. The ruling of 3 they gave is on a scale of 1-10. 1-3 on any category is for a PG rating and they put it in the color green. 4-7 can be for pg 13 and they put that in yellow to orange. 8-10 is rated R in red. I watched the movie and nothing I saw was haram although when the man on ONE occasion passionately kissed the girl fully clothed I turned away in shyness and maybe it would have been makrooh to watch. I am a trained Imam and a morally conscious Muslim. Shame on you for assuming bad about and judging your Muslim brother. The prophet strongly forbade seeking out the faults of Muslims and said that whoever does it then God will judge them harshly.

      • Ed says:

        Asalam aleikum brother, I apologize if I offended you in any form or shape. However, I think you need not to be too offensive on this issue. By Allah some muslim will find the move offensive and they will talk about it.

    • Asda Alsafeway says:

      All those things are nothing, i can quote you quranic verses that are much more explicit (including commentaries that go into detail) about the birds and the bees, about war etc. Do you want to ban your kids from quran as well?

      There are plenty hadith about intimate things, very graphic descriptions of things – they are much more explicit than not only the above film, but many other more graphic films, and these were taught to children from ancient times till now – in madrassas and other places – as people tended to get married young (<16). They weren't taught to encourage dodgy sexual behaviour, but to show the types of things humans do. The film does that too, and where it doesn't explicitly mention marriage or other rites that should be a precursor to these things, that is where has to explain stuff to kids.

      What is suitable for a child depends on the context and the time.

  7. Teexee says:

    Imam Suhaib’s comment that there isn’t much more nudity and indecency than is prevalent sounds like grounds for condoning something he would agree is haram for something that is at best permissible (the benefit he points to toward the end). Public immodesty is outside one’s influence. Viewing haraam voluntarily cannot be an act of virtue. Or am I being crooked in my reasoning- Imam Suhaib?

  8. N Rahman says:

    Great analysis of the movie from Islamic perspective and I enjoyed reading the comparison of the story of Noah (peach be upon him) from both Biblical and Quranic perspectives.

    How can the Muslims create a professional feature film of stories from the Quran when majority of us are going into the medical field (no offense)?

    There’s that movie that came out, Jinn. So I guess it’s a start.

    The Ummah is seriously lacking in creativity. In the east, there may exist Muslim owned design firms but how many of them try to promote Islam via creative means?

    Look in the app market for smart phones and tablets. There are only a handful of apps that promote Islam. And most of them look really bad.

    Let us make duah that the future of Islam is full of active creative people who want to make dawah creative.

  9. noor fathima says:

    I love the fact that suhaib webb gives us a platform to share our perspectives.alhumdulillah.we might agree and disagree but that just helps make it a richer experience:)

    What I got of out of this article is that Muslims need to get creative with dawah and since movies are a great source of communication..we must use it to our advantage but yes there is the serious question of how do we know no one is going to cross the line?

    Brother yahya I personally liked the article.everybody has an opinion and you were brave enough to voice yours,giving us food for thought and lending some support to those genuine people who want to make sincere effort at dawah through film making.

    May Allah swt guide us to a better understanding. Ameen

  10. waleed ahmed says:

    asalamalykum,

    You mention that “as far as someone acting as any prophet there is nothing in Islam that would prohibit it unless it was to mock or disrespect them”. Would this apply to the Prophet Muhammad as well?

    • John says:

      Yes, we make no distinction among prophets. We hold them all sacred. One way to do that is have a professional actor properly portray them so the modern reading challenged generation can appreciate their message.

  11. Umar says:

    Instead of watching movies, why don’t you read? Indeed the first ayah revealed was “read”.For many generations muslims have passed down the knowledge, stories and history through writing. When it comes to stories about great prophets, messengers and sahaba, there is always sufficient detail in books to give us a good imagination without us actually drawing on paper or hiring an actor for a potrayal. This is very important especially for the young children. It is enough that the young ones watch all kinds of things when they lack (a lot) in reading especially in these times. When it comes to learning the deen, please refrain from cartoons, films and movies and stick to reading and listening to lectures. Keep the sunnah alive!

  12. John says:

    Peace,

    I pray all the keyboard critics among Muslims are blessed with a deep understanding of Islam, Sincerity, Humility, Gentleness, Wisdom, Optimism and a Respect for people of specialized knowledge.

  13. Muaad says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Great article and fascinating discussion.

    It seems to me that the central questions are the following:

    Should we convey the sacred in the performing arts? Why? Why not? If we should, how do we do so in the way in which the sacred maintains its sanctity whilst establishing an authentic, deep emotional bond with its audience and beautifully elucidating and inspiring with its virtuous message?

    The world is nuanced. These issues are nuanced. In the absence of scholarly consensus, the scholars of our time – and even us laymen and women – should invest great efforts in understanding these nuances. Its far easier to simply blanket statement things in condemnation or full endorsement. Far more difficult to think, question, understand, discuss, and arrive at an opinion.

    Principles are few. Interpretations are many. As long we honor our principles and have sound methodologies, I believe we will always be on the right side of the sacred law.

    But the insecurity to take on this endeavor, to my mind, is indicative of the immaturity of our community to trust in God, and to trust in the capacity of reason He endowed us with to arrive at our own judgment. The simple fact that there are no explicit scriptural edicts in these matters is exact proof that God wants us to invest ourselves in discovering the answers.

    For a beautiful example of this, please take a moment to read this article from one of our dear sisters, Reima Yousef (a young scholar in her own right), sharing her own thoughts on the topic. I believe we need more well educated and spoken Muslims like Imam John and this sister to engage these discussions.

    http://almadinainstitute.org/blog/noah…and-the-art-of-getting-offended/

  14. Fezz says:

    If you think its ok for Muslims to make movies of the Prophet (saw) then what are you going to say when non-muslims do the same? And – no surprise – they probably aint going to be that good!

    • John says:

      That means we have to get our leadership, money and expertise together to start throwing down in the modern arena for the battle of ideas !

      • Fezz says:

        But do you think we are near ready for that though? There is a bit of “Pandoras Box” here. But I can see where you are coming from….

  15. Let's Get Creative! says:

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I think many of these issues have to do with the following unfortunate fact that we Muslims no longer lead the way in terms of creativity (or much of anything else – whether its morals, education, science, arts, etc).

    We have left those in power over us define for us what is entertainment. Of course, non-Muslims do not have the same moral principles we do, so of course their entertainment does not always fit with out standards.

    But the alternative is not to eschew entertainment altogether. Rather, its to create new ways of entertaining, that fits with our moral principles.

    Thus, we shouldn’t settle for the following dichotomy:

    Muslim kids (or their parents) shouldn’t have to choose between reading dry texts of the Prophets versus watching Western movie portrayals of Prophets which are not accurate according to our tradition, which portray actors as Prophets (most of these actors have questionable backgrounds, and I do not feel comfortable with them portraying our noble Prophets) – and which may contain immorality according to our standards.

    Rather, we can and should use our creativity to come up with our own entertainment. Here are a few ideas:

    1. Colorful picture books telling the stories of the Prophets in a child friendly way. The books of the Prophets I read as a kid were black and white texts that were both boring to read and boring visually. We can just present Prophets as generic figures (man with tunic and turban) with their faces not showing (ie, they are facing away from the reader). Or, with some creativity, Prophets don’t have to be included.

    2. Audio dramas: if anyone has listened to audio dramas of the era before TV, one knows they can draw you in quickly and be very, very entertaining. Mehded Sinclair has already produced some works, including audio cds of Prophet Yusuf and Prophet Musa.

    3. Animated features: Again, Prophets can be generic drawings (not too many details – just a human form wearing a white tunic and turban, for example) facing away from us. Or, Prophets can not be included (will take some creativity).

    4. Theme Park: Themed rides can be based on the lives of the Prophets, which would allow us to experience some of what they went through. (ie, a Disney style ride with sound effects, about Prophet Nuh’s flood). A side exhibition could present, ala Epcot Center, Muslims from across the world, their clothing, their food, their (halal) Music, their art, and other aspects of their culture.

    Anyway, we need to step out of our rut, and get our creative juices flowing!

  16. Hafsa Garcia says:

    To ‘Lets Get Creative’

    I totally agree with what you say about having to chose between watching an exciting movie or reading a black and white text. Especially for children but also for adults, it’s not fair to say ‘the Qur’an is enough’ as we need to face facts – many muslims don’t even read or understand the Qur’an except for a few short surahs in their daily prayers or on Eid. Maybe this is because they have no inspiration to do so, as I said, especially for children.

    Seeing this movie however has actually inspired me to pick up the Qur’an to find the story of Noah (as) and I think anything that does that can’t be all bad.

    However, it would be good to have other better sources of inspiration. I really like your theme park idea. And the audiobooks too (surely voices can be acceptable to portray prophets?).

    I would also love to see ‘high-quality, well-funded, scripturally proper, and well-acted depictions of the prophets and our great history’ although I fear anyone who dared to do this would be hunted down by the haram police and they’d have to be prepared to face a lot of criticism. But then, you could say the same for people like Sami Yusuf or Yusuf Islam who engage in ‘haram’ music yet they’re pretty successful.

    Still, I hope it happens one day as there are so many amazing stories in the history of Islam starting with the prophet Adam (pbuh). Surely as long as there is a clear disclaimer that this is only a ‘representation/interpretation’ of a story it could be acceptable?

    Finally, I am wondering is is generally considered acceptable to portray stories of other people in the Qur’an, such as the people of the cave in surat al kahf?

  17. Amy says:

    I can’t help but feel torn in this “debate”. I see (and understand from personal experience) that in order to grow, all Muslims need someone to relate to at their level (and higher) in reflection, friendly discourse, education, and community. I’m so grateful for the Muslim friends I used to hang out with (at clubs, movies, dancing/singing dinner parties, etc). They were never imams or religious leaders, just “regular” folks Allah placed in my path to ease me along. They were a way for me to step up into the smallest bit of awareness about Islam. As time passed and I accepted Islam, it was always the people just ahead of me that helped me feel welcomed, comfortable and eager to grow in my deen. I have been Muslim now for about 13-15 years alhamdulillah and have grown a lot since those party days, with however long of life I have ahead of me to continue growing.

    I have always admired Imam Suhaib Webb for his ability to connect with the youth and others that either admire, connect with, identify with or live “mainstream” American lifestyles and hug them into the ummah. What may be beyond the limit of comfort and acceptance for one of our most esteemed leaders is being seen here, evidently. The outing was planned and executed with a level of careful consideration and knowledge beyond what I will likely ever attain to, so I should trust.

    Even so, I am having a difficult time swallowing that one of my favorite shaykhs has organized an event that brought people together to financially benefit this movie, to purposely endorse (by way of attendance and paying money to do so) the rampant oversexualization and objectification plaguing our society (however benign or subtle they may seem compared to other movies or public scenes). I can’t help but feel let down, however wrong I may be in having those feelings. I have no doubt that Imam Suhaib Webb has had the utmost pure intentions despite my misgivings and disappointment And this is why I’m torn.

    I can definitely see the need for Muslims to gain cultural authority in a very distinguished way and I admire the new #ArtMondays…brilliant!! And how can Muslims gain authority in an industry without knowing it well? This is a challenging trial. It’s like trying to turn strip clubs into poetry clubs at the local library. I wonder if it’s possible, worth it, and just too compromising.

    Please forgive my openness. I pray that Allah helps us all understand what to do about our growing chaos and degeneration that we all must face.

  18. Samsudin says:

    My opinion, I just don’t think we’re in not a place to rule anything if we are not in a “fatwa council” in a country. I think they have more broaden knowledge about what not. But if you asking me, personally I would watch it but because of curiousty isha allah.

  19. John says:

    There was no fatwa given here dear brother. JAK

  20. Asda Alsafeway says:

    A point about depicting the Prophet on stage/film:

    When scholars of hadith explain through shamail/seerah works how the Prophet (saw) went about things, they act out things like how he walked, how he smiled, how he wore his turban etc. If someone videos that then you basically have the Prophet depicted on film !

    If that is not haram why can we not have someone else do the same thing, and judge that based on what our sources say about the Prophet (saw)?

    Okay the next issue is the actor, if the actor is not muslim or religious, then perhaps we fear that this is disrespectful. Well is it more disrespectful than the thousands of muslims called Muhammed who are non-practicing muslims doing all sorts of bad things? Or the many corrupt people who outwardly represent islam but are doing bad stuff behind the scenes?

    What i am getting at is that, should we not have a little confidence in our iman, or is it that weak that depiction of the Prophet (saw) is going to negatively affect our iman? If it boosts the iman of 10000 and negatively affects 100, then is it not worth doing?

  21. Fountain says:

    Though a wee…bit too late on this article, just needed to share my thoughts first time around.

    In this incredibly delicate and tough subject,truly I too can’t help myself being stretched both sides. I wouldnt be telling the truth or else delude myself to say it shud be either or.

    For my love and respect for the Prophet(saw), I would think we need a Global Islamic Council- a Majlis of Shura to convene and congregate on this and its greater value to Islam by that virtue itself.

    In simplicity it is a noble effort and modern outreach to(in the context of Imam John’s other article that Islamic scholarship is to teach and disseminate the proper message of Islam,etc)touch the masses, both muslims and non-muslims brethrens to share, educate and propagate the beauty and truth of Islam as done by our beloved Prophet(saw).

    This reminds me of a(similar context) some years back at my office when I wrote a poem on the Prophet(saw)and wanted to give it a title, but had a pretty tough time. I was advised by a senior not to add the word Muhammad as it could or may cause some issues. A little disappointed, but I guess it was for the better. And so I titled my innocent poem- “If The Prophet Came To Visit”. No issues…though I will never know otherwise. But it was a satifying and humbling experience.

    However, what is being discussed here is far and beyond mere text and we must thread lightly. Great minds,scientific creativity and intelligence were the epitome of Islamic civilization and culture and progress. Much of which lost added to the giant canvas where fanatism has continuously painted their scary dark colours. It is a constant struggle to remove them, but I do see the arts, culture and creativity as our hope in presenting the past glory to life. How we do that is the part most crucial!!!

    May ALLAH help all in their sincere efforts and forgive them and us for any wrong in our mind, words or action. Great thanks to Imam Suhaib Webb for this wonderful cyberjemaah and its blessed writers and contributors!.

    Salaams..

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