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The Rise of Islamic Entertainment: An Exclusive Interview with Abrar Hussain

“One thing is for sure, this industry will grow, there are too many Muslims in this world, who are craving halal entertainment, for it not to.”

“One thing is for sure, this industry will grow, there are too many Muslims in this world, who are craving halal entertainment, for it not to.”

The documentary film The Balance is the untold story of the Islamic entertainment industry. It charts the rise of this fledgling industry from very difficult and humble beginnings, to the global multi-billion-dollar phenomenon that it is today.

The story is told through the eyes of some of the most inspirational Muslim entertainers in the world. People who have achieved excellence in their respective fields, and who have helped shape this industry and laid the foundations for what was to come.

The audience is taken on a journey of historic key moments in the development of the halal entertainment industry, from comedy to film, from music to social media, and through it, all the filmmakers assess the impact of these developments on the Muslim faith.

The film also tackles the challenges of modern-day Western Muslims dealing with the trappings of success, money, fame, and the adulation that comes with being a public figure. This film discusses important questions for Muslims and non-Muslims of all ages and illustrates how they can apply this balance to their own lives and in everyday situations.

Full of quotable soundbites, and gems of inspirational knowledge, The Balance is a visual experience unlike anything previously witnessed in the Islamic space.

Contributors like scholars Omar Sulaiman and Yasir Qadi, comedians like Tez Ilays and Moses the Comic, and nasheed reciters and singers like Zain Bhika and Jay Dean, provide great insight into the world of the Muslim celebrities and entertainment industry.

This film would look well on any of the major streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO, and is very informative and very entertaining. There is a huge number of English-speaking contributors, that help document an important and growing part of the Muslim community residing in the West.

The film also touches on topics like the discussion around the permissibility of music and singing, the massive impact of the 9/11 terror attacks on shaping the Muslim community in the West, the importance of Muslim stories through movies and animation, and the highly topical issue of the influence of social media in modern Muslim life.

Keep updated with Red Face Films for screening and where to watch “The Balance”.

I was lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with the director of the documentary Abrar Hussain (AH).

Reza John Vedadi: What inspired you to make the documentary film “The Balance”?

Abrar Hussain: I was inspired to show a different side to the religion of Islam, to lift the lid off an industry, that is heavily motivated and inspired by the religion, but at the same time is relatively unknown to anyone outside of the religion. This made it interesting for me.

As it says in the film, I feel that entertainment is the most viable bridge to help explain the true and beautiful nature of Islam to the outside world. As such, it is the most important form of dawah in this modern age. Also, the most effective way to help combat a rising tide of Islamophobia. Therefore, this film had to be made.

Also, you have to remember that this is the industry that has nurtured me and my creativity for the last 15 years. I’m incredibly proud of this industry and how far it has come, despite numerous obstacles. So I wanted to give something back to this industry, and shine a spotlight on it for the world to see. Also for my fellow artists and creatives, we have an incredible array of talent in the Islamic creative space, and we need to support them and nurture them.

So this film was a way to pay homage to those Islamic artists who have broken barriers and paved the way for future generations.

RJV: Any interesting stories from the making of this documentary film?

AH: I think one of the interesting facts about the film is that I started making this film over 12 years ago. I was really inspired to make a film about the Islamic entertainment industry, but when I started shooting it in 2008, there was literally nothing there. The industry was not developed enough to warrant a film.

There were literally a few big artists and a few Islamic rappers, but asides from that, nothing. No influencers, no comedy scene, no film scene to speak off. Now, 12 years later, we have everything, and so it seemed the right time to bring this project back.

The other interesting thing about the shooting of the film was the sense of togetherness with the contributors. Everyone believed in the project and believed in the positivity of the message of the film. It was this that allowed us to get such truthful and insightful interviews, and I’m very grateful for that.

In essence, this film is a beautiful example of what true Islamic collaboration looks like, it can be very powerful, because collectively we are always stronger, and I love the sense of unity this film represents.

RJV: You tackle several important topics but leave the audience wanting more. Will you produce documentary series on the topics of Muslim singers, Muslim filmmakers, and Muslim social media influencers?

AH: Yes, for sure inshaAllah, the Islamic entertainment industry is a very large topic, there are many different facets of it that deserve highlighting. In fact, we cut several scenes from The Balance, which I thought were really important scenes, literally to keep the running time of the film down. There is so much more that needs highlighting and is worthy of discussion.

Since the launch of this film, there has already been a lot of discussion regarding a follow-up film. So if our Muslim audience is wanting more, and there is a demand, then we will be honoured to produce more films like this inshaAllah.

RJV: Where do you see the halal entertainment industry going in the next 10 years? Will it remain close to Islamic teachings, or will it become commercialised and move far away from Islamic teachings?

AH: One thing is for sure, this industry will grow, there are too many Muslims in this world, who are craving halal entertainment, for it not to. It will be interesting to see which Muslim entertainers maintain a sense of integrity going forward, and which of them succumb to the pressures of money and fame.

For me, I believe the true Islamic entertainment industry will always remain close to the teachings of Islam. We have always had Muslims who are in the mainstream, putting out a product that has been commercialised, but that then becomes “mainstream entertainment”. It actually has little to do with the Islamic entertainment industry.

Real Islamic entertainment is defined by the boundaries that have been set for us by our Lord. So real Islamic entertainers will always live by, be accountable to, and be creative within, those Islamic parameters.

RJV: What do you have lined up for your next film?

AH: Alhamdolillah it’s just a beautiful moment to be involved in the Islamic film industry, we have a number of fully funded projects on our slate. Some of which I can speak about and some of which I can’t, but watch this space for sure, because we are making some ground-breaking films and we will release news on these soon.

I can tell you that, by the blessings of Allah Almighty, our very next project will be the film on Madina. It’s already been shot and is currently in post. It’s been the honour of my life to have been blessed to make a trilogy of films on Islam’s most holy sites. First on the Haram in Makkah, then on Al Aqsa, and now finally on the Prophets Mosque in the holy city of Madina. This will be released in September 2022 inshaAllah.

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