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Muhammad, Messenger of ALLAH (aka The Message)
Directed by Moustapha Akkad
Produced by Moustapha Akkad
Written by H.A.L. Craig
Starring Anthony Quinn
Irene Papas
Muna Wassef
Michael Ansara
Johnny Sekka
Michael Forest
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Said Baker
Jack Hildyard
Ibrahim Salem
Editing by John Bloom
Hussein Afifi
Distributed by Filmco International Productions Inc.
Release date(s) March 9, 1976
Running time 177 minutes
Language English / Arabic
Budget $10,000,000

Muhammad, Messenger of Allah (retitled The Message for U.S. release) is a 1976 film directed by Moustapha Akkad, chronicling the life and times of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Released in both Arabic and English (in Arabic: الرسالة— , Ar Risalah), Mohammad, Messenger of God serves as an introduction to early Islamic history.

The film follows Muhammad's first years as a prophet starting with Islam's beginnings in Mecca in which the Muslims are persecuted, the exodus to Medina, and ending with the Muslims' triumphant return to Mecca. A number of crucial events, such as the Battle of Badr and Battle of Uhud are depicted, and the majority of the story is told from the point-of-view of peripheral individuals such as Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (Muhammad's uncle), Abu Sufyan (the leader of Mecca) and his wife Hind bint Utbah (enemies of Islam who later become Muslims themselves).

Contents

Production

Director Akkad faced resistance from Hollywood to making a film about the origins of Islam and had to go outside the United States to raise the production money for the film. Lack of financing nearly shut down the film as the initial backers pulled out, financing was finally provided by Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. The film was shot in Libya and Morocco, with production taking four and a half months to build the cities of Mecca and Medina as they looked in Muhammad's time.

Director Akkad saw the film as a way to bridge the gap between the Western and Islamic world, stating in a 1976 interview:

I did the film because it is a personal thing for me. Besides its production values as a film, it has its story, its intrigue, its drama. Beside all this I think there was something personal, being Muslim myself who lived in the west I felt that it was my obligation my duty to tell the truth about Islam. It is a religion that has a 700 million following, yet it's so little known about it which surprised me. I thought I should tell the story that will bring this bridge, this gap to the west.

Akkad also filmed an Arabic version of the film (in which Muna Wassef played Hind) simultaneously with an Arab cast for audiences in the Middle East. He felt that dubbing the English version in Arabic would not be enough as Arabic acting style differed from Hollywood's. The actors would take turns doing the English and Arabic versions in each scene. Both the English and Arabic versions are now sold together in some DVDs.

In a film review, The New York Times reported, "Finally, when the film was scheduled to premier in the U.S., another Muslim extremist group staged a siege against the Washington D.C. chapter of the B'nai B'rith under the mistaken belief that Anthony Quinn played Mohammed in the film, threatening to blow up the building and its inhabitants unless the film's opening was cancelled. The standoff was resolved" after the deaths of a journalist and policeman, but "the film's American box office prospects never recovered from the unfortunate controversy."[1]

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Depiction of Muhammad

In accordance with Muslim beliefs regarding depictions of Muhammad, he could not be depicted on-screen nor his voice be heard. This rule extends to his wives, his daughters, his sons-in-law, and his caliphs (Abu Bakr As-Siddique, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Umar ibn Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Muawiya). This leaves Muhammad's uncle Hamza (Anthony Quinn) and his adopted son Zayd (Damien Thomas) as the central characters. During the battles of Badr and Uhud depicted in the movie, Hamza is in nominal command even though the actual fighting was led by Muhammad.

Whenever Muhammad is present or very close by, his presence is indicated by light organ music. His words, as he speaks them, are repeated by someone else such as Hamza, Zayd and Bilal. When a scene calls for him to be present, the action is filmed from his point of view. Others in the scene nod to the unheard dialogue.

The closest the film comes to a depiction of Muhammad or his immediate family is the view of Ali's sword Zulfiqar during the battle scenes, as well as Muhammad's she-camel and staff in the scenes at the Kaaba or in Medina.

Cast

English version

Arabic version

Response

On March 9, 1977, a group led by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, seized several buildings and took 134 hostages in Washington, D.C.[2] The takeover led to the fatal shootings of a journalist and a police officer, and the non-fatal shooting of Marion Barry, who would become mayor of Washington, D.C. two years later. One of their demands was to prevent the release of the film. One of the hostage-takers specifically said, according to an on-site reporter, that "he wanted a guarantee from the whole world it will never be shown or they would execute some of the hostages".[3]

Awards and nominations

The film was nominated for an Oscar in 1977 for Best Music, Original Score for the music by Maurice Jarre.[4]

Remake

In October 2008, producer Oscar Zoghbi revealed plans to "revamp the 1976 movie and give it a modern twist," according to IMDB and the World Entertainment News Network.[5][6][7][8] He hopes to shoot the remake, tentatively titled The Messenger of Peace, in the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

See also

References

External links


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