A day after music director A R Rahman’s clarification that he composed for Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s ‘Muhammad: Messenger of God’ in “good faith”, the Iranian government, through its Embassy in New Delhi, defended the film, asserting that it does not insult Islamic values.
A section of Islamic scholars too opposed the Sunni Muslim group, Raza Academy’s fatwa, which not only pronounced Muslims associated with the film, including Majidi and Rahman, “infidels”, but also asked Muslims everywhere to protest against the film. Part of a trilogy on the life of Prophet Muhammad, the film depicts the Prophet’s early life.
“The film of Majid Majidi is an artistic work and any opinion about it should be expressed only after seeing it… launching hot discussions before seeing the film may be wrong, illogical and incorrect,” said the embassy’s release.
Spelling out Iran’s stand, which has sponsored this film, the embassy further stated, “No insult has been committed to Islamic values in the film… The system of the Islamic Republic of Iran, from the very beginning, has always been the standard bearer in the defence of Islam.”
Raza Academy’s general secretary Saeed Noori told TOI on Tuesday that neither he nor Mufti Mahmood Akhatrul Qadri, who issued the fatwa, had seen the film, which doesn’t show the face of the child actor who plays the Prophet’s role.
“It’s gross injustice to the film and people associated with it that they are being slammed by the people who have not seen it. Majidi is a very sensible filmmaker and he would not depict something which would insult Islam,” said Islamic scholar Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali.
Ali said that at a time Islamophobia is rising due to brutalities of a handful of self-declared jihadists, an intelligent film on the Prophet will help remove misconceptions. “In the battle of minds, this film can be a strong weapon against extremists everywhere,” she said.
Delhi-based leading Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan said, “You can argue with enlightened people but not with those who don’t believe in reason and argument. It’s very easy to be judgmental and reject something if it doesn’t suit one’s likes.” He added that dawah or invitation to understand Islam was the duty of every Muslim, and a film can play a crucial role in dawah.
Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi, secretary, All India Shia Muslim Personal Law Board, said clerics should be cautious before issuing fatwas.
“Fatwas should not be trivialized. I have not seen the film but this is not the first film on the Prophet. ‘The Message’, by Moustapha Akkad in 1976-77, immediately comes to mind. A film is a powerful medium to not just tell a story but reaching out to a large audience with a message. It was needed that someone like Majidi made such a film. Rahman associating with this film only gives credence to the belief that it is not blasphemous and avoids raising contentious issues,” said Maulana Rizvi.