“This is a place where for an hour and a half, you can be fully immersed into this man. We want people to be inspired, we want them to be intrigued by the knowledge and the life of Imam Ali.”
Europe’s Largest Imam Ali Exhibit is Now Open in London
The largest and one of the most expansive exhibitions on Imam Ali, this massive project is one of the most spectacular events for Muslims across Europe.
Run by The Legacy, and with 95 different stations – across more than 2,600 square meters of space – this exhibit traces the life of Imam Ali in full and will leave visitors with a renewed sense of understanding for who the man was and how important his role was in the history of Islam.
This exhibit, spearheaded by Amir Taki and Hasanain Baraka, took over one year of planning and around six months of construction, with more than 250 workers and volunteers contributing to this incredible project. Located in northwest London, this exhibit is open every Saturday and Sunday for at least the next month.
TMV was kindly invited to the exhibit and was able to sit down with both Amir and Hasanain, who co-founded this project, to discuss what this project means to them personally and what they hope visitors will gain from this immersive exhibit.
TMV: So why did you decide personally to get involved in such a massive project like this?
Hasanain Baraka: Basically the reason why we started this initiative was because we have kids – and there are a lot of kids in the community who don’t know much about the family of the Prophet Muhammed and we know that even if they have heard of the Prophet’s family, they can tend to forget about them. So we thought of a way to do this exhibit to present the stories of the family of the Prophet Muhammed for the kids. To learn, and to see it, and feel it and walk through it – so it would make it harder for them to forget.
Amir Taki: I’ve always been involved in the concept of storytelling – since I was sixteen – just through different manifestations. So I always like doing something new, and try to see what’s not been done, what’s creative, where there’s a gap in the market. And this was a gap. So over the last seven years, we’ve tried to improve this exhibit every year for the wider public and to really draw them into a whole different aspect of storytelling.
What was your specific role in this project?
Hasanain: We read about Imam Ali first – it was very difficult in the sense that to reduce his whole life to just this exhibit was extremely difficult. This exhibit is only 10% of what Imam Ali’s history is about – we didn’t even realize how difficult it would be until two months into the project. I mainly came up with the bigger building ideas, I come from a construction background – so for me to think of making a big Kaaba was easy. Hamdulillah I think it’s a gift, to have these ideas. So my role was mainly putting into construction the different ideas we had on presenting the life of Imam Ali.
Amir: I did a bit of everything – when it comes to the planning stage, we had to conceptualize everything. Almost every evening we sat down and went through everything, and then we went into research. I oversaw all of the research and the writing process – Hasanain would then go and start looking at how to source different products for each station. We also wrote a 25,000-word script and recorded a two-hour-long voiceover – so every station in this exhibit has a voiceover where you can listen and learn at the same time.
Why did you choose Imam Ali for this exhibit?
Hasanain: What we want to show people is that we can do so many different kinds of exhibits, with different themes and styles – what we’re trying to say to people who are supporting us is that we want to do an exhibit for every Imam in our history, for the different verses of the Quran, for the different Prophets, for historic events…to try and show people that this is just the beginning – that’s why we decided to start this journey with Imam Ali.
Amir: The concept grew from just a program to an independent exhibit where people could register. It started to develop and grow, and then we realized we could make so many more exhibits on the Quran, on the Prophets, and even Imam Ali – obviously Imam Ali is such an important figure and one that is very vast and with so many milestones so we choose him to cover for this particular exhibit, in the hopes that this can continuing growing from here on out.
What are you most proud of from this exhibit?
Hasanain: The battle stations are what I’m most proud of. It’s very informative for an adult, and I’ve learned so much myself from a historic point of view. In one station, to make a wow factor – for a child, for an adult, for a professor – that’s very difficult to achieve. But I think we’ve achieved that with the battles.
Amir: I think the Kaaba is so nice – you see it right away when you come in. It’s something we made organically, and we have the sound of the angles as well – that scene is very powerful, to see the narrative that Imam Ali was born in the Kaaba. You can sit there for a few minutes, just contemplating. That for me is one of the most powerful stations and it sets you on the way to go forward throughout the rest of the exhibit.
What kind of feelings and emotions do you want people to have walking away from this exhibit?
Hasanain: I’d like to tell people that I come from a very limited income – but I just went ahead with faith. I reached a brick wall many times, but I just had to go ahead with it. I’ve been supported by my wife and my family and my friends – it is very difficult but it is achievable. Even if you have a limited income, you can still always achieve something, and subhanAllah – we achieved a lot with so little. Anyone can do something like this.
Amir: One thing we tried to create in this exhibit is the feeling of immersing yourself completely into the life of Imam Ali. Normally you would watch videos or read a book – but it’s hard to get that full engagement. But this is a place where for an hour and a half, you can be fully immersed into this man. We want people to be inspired, we want them to be intrigued by the knowledge and the life of Imam Ali.
I’ve always thought of Imam Ali being a great character but after doing this exhibit, you get to really get into the details and you think, “what a life!”… so I want people to walk away with that feeling of what a man he was. We’ve got to share this with everyone. It’s not just about an achievement, it’s also a responsibility. The way I see it, God has given us an opportunity to do this – so it’s our responsibility to make this space the best we can. It’s a duty.
The Legacy’s Imam Ali Exhibit will continue to run on donations and will remain open for the public on a month-to-month basis.
To learn more about the exhibit and to register for free tickets, click here!
To contact the exhibit directly with any inquires, you can email them at [email protected]