This review was originally published on Facebook.
I’m not a film critic or a commentator, so I’ll avoid any comment on the cinematic quality of the film.
In a nutshell, I felt the film is not designed to educate the viewers with an alternative possible narrative of early internal struggles of the Muslims, as I was able to follow the storyline only because I am already learned in these events. The focus it seems was given more on the Sunni/Shi’ee division, and to deliver the maximum offense to the Sunnis as possible, whilst celebrating the fairytale-like version of events by the Shias.
Since this film is largely based on the Shi’ee version of events, I will make a general comment on the reality of this forever venerated division between Sunni and Shia amongst traditional Muslims, as the film is only the symptom of a bigger problem that we are not engaging with; the toxic sectarianism that is part and parcel of this division.
The naive view that everyone of those who were around Muhammad were believers and had the best interest in their hearts for the prophet and his mission is immature, emotional and most importantly un-Qur’anic. According to the Qur’an a huge number of these ‘followers’ were hypocrites, crooks, miscreants and far from being a believer; even when some of them fought battles alongside the Muslims against the enemies of Islam. This is the basic Qur’anic and logical truth.
However, to successfully attempt to filter the good from the bad will never fully materialise, and instead, we will end up siding with different personalities, as has happened, and therefore ultimately divide Islam into what we have today known as Sunni and Shia sects.
The early internal conflicts has to be viewed in the light of the fact that the region went back to the imperial mould of prior empires shortly after the Prophet’s passing, as the former powers did not give up and plotted secretly, and therefore Islam had to have become its first victim in order to subjugate the people of its lands, as the people are now largely following the religion of Islam. And as the prophet’s progeny represented a direct link to Islam and many had political powers, it is highly probable that they would have been victims of conspiracy to murder by powerful agencies of these empires.
However, there is so much mishmash in the details of these events, and to successfully rummage through the plethora of materials to see who is who is neither achievable nor required by the Qur’an. Nevertheless, someone who is well versed in the teachings of the Qur’an and gives them its due authority will easily recognise that these stories found in Hadith literatures of both Shia and Sunni collections as utter fabrications and interpolations; it is only the excessively emotional or those with vested interest who will take these details as certainty.
My thoughts and conclusions on these stories and the Shia/Sunni discrepancies and their forever toxic sectarianism, is that the reality of these stories should be left in unknown past, as the perpetrators of evil will one day be accountable. There is no need to probe into these events in order to validate the teachings of Islam.