Mustapha al-Akkad: The Message

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In Memory of Mustapha al-Akkad, director of the movie, The Message

Communication is to make information known. The Arabic word da`wah, often translated as “inviting someone to faith,” is the best form of communication, as its root word implies inviting someone to a meal, an environment in which information is not only shared, but is done so in an open, friendly and pleasant manner. In such a context of communication, al-Akkad was ahead in the race with his movies, delivering the message of Islam to many Muslims and non-Muslims around the world. In fact, his method was not that far from the way the early message of Islam was delivered.

Between the first revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad and the later period in Makkah, where he was commanded by Allah Almighty to proclaim the message, there existed a pause, usually called the fatrah, which, according to Ibn Sa`d, lasted for three years.

After this interval Prophet Muhammad began preaching openly in public, and later even attended the great fairs of Arabia such as that of Ukaz, an annual event lasting for 20 days during which there was much entertainment. The fashion trends established there would then be copied throughout Arabia in the same way that the fashions of London, New York, and Paris are imitated around the world today.

Khamais Ash-Shaqi, a medieval jurist, observed that for every period of time there is an appropriate rule. By extension, the quick spread of Islam as a faith that appeals to the mind and draws upon the emotions of the heart, was by the grace of effective methods for that time. Islam needs to be communicated in the most proficient of manners to the people, through mediums which they can understand in the context of the time in which they live.

Throughout time, Muslims have benefited from the purity of Islam, from the example of the Prophet, and from the revivers of faith. These revivers could be rulers or jurists setting a good example, historians, scientists documenting the latest discoveries, etc. The nature of their preaching enabled the mind to think, the people to develop, and created harmony between faith and every aspect of our God-given nature.

Thus the Syrian born director Mustapha al-Akkad was the epitome of communicators. 1976 saw the release of his movie The Message, with which he for the first time brought to the world the message of Islam through the use of the most advanced of technologies and by utilizing the most popular medium of our generation, television. How ironical then, that such a great communicator lost his life to those who claim to be acting in the name of Islam when they blew themselves up in the midst of a wedding feast.

Mustapha al-Akkad was one of the few people of our generation who have been able to deliver his understanding of Islam to people effectively. He tapped into various historical sources, respected Muslim sensibilities by not physically portraying the Prophet Muhammad, and provided the everyday individual access to Islam.

As a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad reads, a time will come when Islam will be available in every household. Mustapha al-Akkad took a giant leap forward in making Islam available to everyone.

From the Prophet Muhammad, who brought the message, to the scribes who recorded the message, to the scholars who transmitted the message, to the producers who illustrated the message, to the future leaders of communication who will make the message freely available to everyone—in my understanding Mustapha al-Akkad was one of the key links in this chain.

We may have lost a mere link in the chain, yet Mustapha al-Akkad’s message was certainly stronger, clearer, more accurate, and more just than that of those who murdered him. May Allah have mercy on him and may He guide us all. Ameen. To God we belong and unto Him is our return.


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