Dazed. Overwhelmed. Amazed. These are all words I have read often in books but rarely used in my day-to-day life, and even more rarely in my writings. With time, I have become very sensitive and critical when analyzing experiences with high emotional content that trigger wonderment and fascination, as some of those experiences are solely based on feelings, while carrying very little reasoning and logic. Only once in a while do I find a rare gem, whose radiating shine manages to enlighten both my mind and heart in a compatible manner. Yesterday, after years of digging around in caves of religiously inspired artistic creativity, I found a rare diamond. A masterpiece of its own. A journey of the senses.
I thought reaching Montreal had brought my summer traveling to an end. But I soon realized that Majid Majidi had other plans for me. As soon as the movie started, I found my mind and soul silently leaving me and flying towards the Arabian Peninsula, in order to experience the light of the Prophet.
I could sense the excitement. Everyone was smiling and their hand gestures and body language were all giving away glimpses of their eagerness to meet their beloved Prophet. Prior to the screening, Majid Majidi was invited to give a small speech. Right after his polite salutations, the movie began. I thought reaching Montreal had brought my summer traveling to an end. But I soon realized that Majid Majidi had other plans for me. As soon as the movie started, I found my mind and soul silently leaving me and flying towards the Arabian Peninsula, in order to experience the light of the Prophet.
I am hesitant to reveal too much about the movie itself, as I am sure many readers reading this review are just as eager as I was to discover this epic movie on their own. Keeping in mind the fact that I also wouldn’t have necessarily liked reading a review divulging too much about the content, the twists and the plot of this movie, I will focus on the general impression that I got after watching the movie so that this review does not become a spoiler.The first thing you need to know about this movie is that it’s actually not a ‘typical’ movie. It is a unique sensory experience. Visually, auditorily, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. It is a journey in every sense of the word. This movie takes you in Majidi’s sleep where you end up sharing the colourful dream he is having about what the Prophet’s mercy means to him.
I don’t know whether it is my personality or my love for poetry and arts that have biased and channeled the way I perceived this film, but not once during the entire screening did I feel that I was watching a movie per se. I felt as If I was sitting in a room, and someone was whispering a poem in my ears. It was as if I was walking in the desert and listening to the blowing wind carrying the fragrance of The Messenger’s mercy. I literally felt as if I was standing still over a mountain and appreciating the beauty of a valley symbolizing the Prophet’s beauty with an angel singing his praises whilst all other creations joined and chanted the one name unison: Muhammad! Ya Nabi! Ya Rasul! Ya Muhammad!While reading the very lyrical way in which I am referring to this movie, I am sure you might have understood that it’s very difficult for a follower of the Prophet and his family to be truly impartial about this movie. I am actually conscious of the fact that this review cannot possibly be objective. And how could it be? How can I expect myself to be impartial while hearing the one name that has continuously and constantly been the ultimate source of peace and salvation in my life? The personality, life and existence of the Prophet are so interweaved with my own that it would have been unreasonable for me to experience this movie without engaging and unleashing oceans of love that this man has filled my heart with.
It is a unique sensory experience. Visually, auditorily, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. It is a journey in every sense of the word. This movie takes you in Majidi’s sleep where you end up sharing the colorful dream he is having about what the prophet’s mercy means to him.
Despite this bias, and lack of objectivity, there is one message that I want this article to deliver. This movie is not a ‘regular’ movie. And I am not saying that because it depicts the life of the prophet, which himself was not a regular man. I am saying that because the approach taken by Majid Majidi in his depiction of the life of the Prophet is very different from the one you’d expect from a typical biographical movie giving a historical account of a given personality. I think the best way I can describe this unexpected yet phenomenal and beautifully crafted movie is that it is not, by any means, an attempt to summarize the Prophet’s life and mission. In order words, if this movie was a book, it wouldn’t be a biography, nor would it be a political essay or a historical analysis of the Prophet’s life. Far from it. If this movie was a book, it would have been a collection of ‘ghazal’ (poems). It would have been a combination of a ‘divan’, a lyrical collection of love poems and a ‘masnavi’ a collection of couplets of profound spiritual meaning.
Given the very poetic way in which Majidi depicted the Prophet’s life, and conscious of the fact that it must have had a significant impact on my liking of this ‘chef-d’oeuvre’, I tried to stick around after the movie in order to get first hand impressions of friends and other members of the community. Everyone agreed unanimously that it was artistically a masterpiece. The lighting, the shadows, the sound, the music, the costumes, the scenery, everything was just overwhelming. From a philosophical and metaphysical point of view, it seems almost like a non-sense to describe a non-godly created entity as being perfect. Yet, the feeling I had and that apparently was shared by others was that this movie seemed perfect to our senses. A more precise way of explaining that feeling would be to say that the level of emotions triggered by this movie were so high that even if a perfect depiction of the Prophet’s mercy wouldhave existed cinematographically, it would have still been perceived the same way by our senses.Interestingly, I wasn’t the only one who thought this movie invited the observer to enter a greater realm of artistic expression. This movie felt like a poem to me, but a friend came up to me and told me how he felt the movie was a beautiful painting in which every scene was a perfectly executed brush stroke filling the canvas of our imagination with colours of sincerity, spirituality and love.
Like any other movie, I am sure not everyone would have enjoyed it as much as I did, especially those expecting the movie to have been shot along the lines of ‘The Message’, which is a great movie for Muslims and non-Muslims alike who want to grasp the political and historical aspects of the Prophet’s life. I am sure some of the more pragmatic people seated in the cinema would have argued that, had they been given 40 million dollars to invest on a movie to be screened worldwide, they would have made sure to have a more informative movie at the expense of its artistic quotient. They would have preferred a movie showing events that have shaped the Prophet’s life and triggered the rise of Islam. In other words, a movie that would have generated more awareness than admiration in peoples mind, especially amongst non-Muslims viewers.
If this movie was a book, it would have been a collection of ‘ghazals’. It would have been a combination of a ‘divan’, a lyrical collection of love poems and a ‘masnavi’ a collection of couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning.
Although I understand this reasoning, I don’t hold that position, mainly because I don’t think it was the goal Majid Majidi had set for himself. I don’t think the idea behind this movie was to remake ‘The Message’ using better technology and marketing it for a greater audience. The philosophy behind Majidi’s ‘Muhammad’ was to take the observer’s hand and make him travel into the very core of the Prophet’s spirituality and realize what a beacon of light he had become for the people who had encountered him. And even though, this depiction is not the best way to properly inform a naïve and non-Muslim observer about the position of the Prophet in his time and the legacy he left behind, this movie will clearly succeed in making any viewer understand the god given, spiritual and mystical personality of the Prophet, which literally attracted people towards him. The taste that the movie leaves in everyone’s mind is that this personality was truly a blessing for the entire humanity.
This movie will certainly come as source of peace and tranquility for the Muslim Ummah and it will hopefully ‘soften’ the image depicted by the Western media about the Prophet being an aggressive and sometimes unkind person. Walking back home, a befitting couplet from one of my favorite ‘Manqabat’ by Agha Sarosh came to my mind. A couplet which depicts perfectly the source of mercy The Prophet has always been in my life:
Ek din jalti dhoop me jab cherdi naat e Rasool
Under a scorching sun, when I whispered praises of the Prophet
Rahmatoun ki har taraf aissi ghata chayi ke bas!
Winds of blessings started blowing, in a way that I had not seen before!
My last thoughts are directed towards Majid Majidi and his team who dedicated 7 years of their life for this herculean task, and have blessed us with this beautiful masterpiece. I sincerely encourage every one reading this review to watch the movie if they get the opportunity to. If you want to experience what it feels like to travel while remaining still, to fly while keeping your hands tied, or to dream having your eyes wide open, this movie is for you.