When I was in high school and still trying to decide how I would use my writing professionally, I imagined I could be a scriptwriter for movies. I felt that the “big screen” was an excellent means to bridge the gaps of misunderstanding between Muslims and those who knew so little about Islam. I also felt it could help dispel myths about what it really meant to be Muslim, as the field of entertainment offered a relaxed, unobtrusive form of learning and, ultimately, da'wah.

Spike Lee's 1992 movie Malcolm X that starred Denzel Washington and Angela Basset did an excellent job of sparking interest in the hitherto enigmatic world of the Nation of Islam. However, as many Muslim viewers expressed, the movie did very little in educating viewers on the essence of the “orthodox Islam” that, in the end, defined the very life of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz).

Even as a teen, I knew that Malcolm's story deserved more—that the message of Islam deserved more. But I also understood that Spike Lee did the best he could do. I felt that a Muslim director, producer, or scriptwriter could do more. And I imagined that, one day, that person could be me.

But this youthful inspiration fizzled out less than a week after its inception.

Hollywood isn't interested in the message of Islam, no matter how it's packaged. This epiphany extinguished in my heart any remaining spark for using the “big screen” as a writer.

In 2002, just months after If I Should Speak was released, I received a call from a scriptwriter—a Hollywood scriptwriter—interested in turning the novel into a major motion picture. He had an impressive resume, but before he even finished talking, I already knew what my answer would be: No.

I shared with him my laundry list of reasons I couldn't—wouldn't—agree to it: I wanted the Islamic message of the book preserved. Hollywood wouldn't respect that (at least I didn't trust them to). How could I maintain some sort of control of what was being put on screen?…

For every question, he had an answer. But I wasn't convinced. The anti-Islam climate in American society was just too thick to see through. I couldn't imagine why my book, of all things, would inspire a “saintly” exception in Hollywood—a field dominated by licentious sex, senseless violence, and unapologetic Islamophobia (none of which my book offered).

This “no” would be the first in a line of repeated “big screen” refusals. Each time I refused a different scriptwriter, director, or filmmaker, I couldn't help wondering why there was interest in the first place…

How could you agree to a movie, of all things? This is what many Muslims have been asking since I announced the plan to put If I Should Speak on the big screen.

You're a daa'eyah—a caller to Islam. People expect more of you. Muslim youth look up to you. If you do this, it's opening the door to all sorts of evil. And anyway, it's ḥarām…

I can't say that these concerns surprise or even disturb me. These very thoughts kept me saying “no” to the film industry for nearly ten years.

But what made you change your mind? The answer is simply this…

When the founder of SKOZ Films (a Muslim producer) finally got a hold of me (I'd developed a habit of avoiding anyone in the film industry) I decided to do something I hadn't done for any previous inquires: listen.

After I listened—with my heart instead of my ears—I did something else I hadn't done when I first refused that film offer: I prayed on it.

As I pondered the producer's thorough and patient answers to every concern and objection I raised, I realized that there was only one thing holding me back from trusting that this project could be done.

Fear.

Yes, part of this fear emanated from my īmān, my faith in Allāh. I didn't want to do anything that could earn my Lord's displeasure. “But Islam doesn't have to be sacrificed,” the producer told me.

Days later, I sat reflecting on the support I'd received from du'aat and students of knowledge I'd consulted for advice, and I realized something. I was doing what every Muslim hated being victim of: making assumptions…

No, I have no illusions about what making a movie means. I realize that the film industry is a slippery slope for Muslims. But I also realize that—excepting memorizing Qur'an, becoming an Islamic scholar, or living a life of asceticism—almost every field is “slippery” in the modern world, especially for Muslims living in the West.

Journalism, psychology, medicine, and even corporate America put Muslims in uncomfortable predicaments daily. Even seemingly simple matters like buying a home, enrolling in school, or going on a job interview become mind-splitting quandaries for the practicing Muslim.

It's just that the field of filmmaking is thought to be all “fun and games” where these struggles are involved, and certainly for some actors and producers it is. But for the practicing Muslim in the movie industry, fun and games don't even enter into the equation. The experience there is anything but.

Nevertheless, I do understand the Muslim phobia of filmmaking. I'm still struggling with it myself.

And, yes, I know that somewhere on this slippery slope, I'll likely make a mistake, bump my head, and perhaps look back and see what could be done differently or what shouldn't be done at all…

But, the truth is, that's the slippery slope of life itself.

So for now, I'm beyond making negative assumptions, thinking, How could you? A movie! And I'm saying, How could you not? It's a movie! Let's see how we can do this right.

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost.  To learn more about the author, visit themuslimauthor.com or join her Facebook page.

36 Responses

  1. Katie Suleiman

    Congratulations and insha’Allah the movie is portrayed how you would like it!i have been inspired by your books and very thankful to you!looking forward to the movie :-)

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  2. Asmeeni

    Mashaallah. I love your book and the way it gives the message of Islam while being entertaining. I think a movie, if portrayed in the same way is an excellent Dawah tool. Its so important finding new ways of Dawah for today’s world.

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  3. Hemasat A. Toghoj

    I agree wholeheartedly. This subject has been a constant idea roaming in my head. I watched people around me, especially muslims, and realized the amazing effect movies have on us- At least, those of us who do watch them, which is a lot of people these days.

    Every time I bought up the idea, I was always put down by the words “haram” and “Fitna” with no specific justification as to why. Most of the time, I gathered it was fear, as you felt.

    It was always a dream of mine to have a good, professional looking, accurate portrayal of muslims in a movie. I’ve seen every movie I could find and I was never satisfied… never.

    You’re books were the first books I felt gave a balanced picture of Islam. If this translates to the screen, I’m really hoping that it will change lives. If the screenplay retains the wholesome, beautiful, and memorable scent of the book, then we will have something to be proud of, not something to condemn.

    I really hope you keep us updated as the process goes on. Thank you for you efforts.

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  4. anatoxin_dust

    Asalamualaikum,
    I wonder how you can Islamically justify putting non-hijabed woman on the screen in the name of potraying the message of Islam ?
    I remember asking about your book covers at least an year ago on your blog but dont remember receiving a response.

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    • MuslimTeen

      There are movies that portray Muslim women in a positive manner. Just because a Muslim woman doesn’t wear hijab, she’s suddenly bad? You’re saying I’m a bad person? Look up the movie “Arranged”. There’s a Muslim woman in it facing a very important time in her life. Very well done, in my opinion.

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      • anatoxin_dust

        I am asking about halal and haram , we can leave emotions out

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      • ghuraaba

        Its emotions that are whipped up and befog reaching out to the truth. We use our circumstances embelished with emotions to determine and justify our modern day practice. And to make it look better, we’ll get some shuyookh or student of knowledge, who are not free of such emotional baggage, to rubber stamp. Strang times

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    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaah.

      Islam requires covering based upon a person’s faith. Muslim women wear hijab. Non-Muslim women must dress modestly but are not required to wear hijab. The women on the screen are not Muslim. :)

      Remember the 70 excuses the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, required us to give each other? If we sit down and give each other just one, the answers to our questions would come quite naturally.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

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      • anatoxin_dust

        I have not heard of such an opinion . Who decides that non-Muslims are “modest enough” anyway .? Are tank tops modest ?

        You mentioned the director/producer is Muslim and him looking it all these uncovered woman .

        Posting this is on a Muslim blog , assuming 50% of the readership is male , it is definitely haram for Muslim men to watch your films according to your own definition ?

        I think i have conveyed my concerns
        Asalamualaikum

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      • Umm Zakiyyah

        I honestly don’t know “who decides” what’s modest enough for non-Muslims. Modest dress is a subject of debate even amongst Muslims, who do not even agree on whether a Muslim woman’s face should be seen.

        As for the director/producer “looking at uncovered women”, I think this is a valid concern (even if we ignore the fact that “uncovered” is a relative term when dealing with non-Muslims). But this concern affects any male working in a field that includes interaction with other humans (who may be female), which is just about every male professional (and student) in the West.

        I don’t give definitions of “haram.” That’s a right that belongs only to Allah.

        In any case, I do understand your concerns. They are my concerns too–for the entire ummah, regardless of whether or not we are directors or producers, or male or female.

        Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh

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      • Atif

        Assalamu’alaykum
        The issue is there is no “Fiqh of making movies” book :) Ideally there should be scholarly responses to “How should a non-muslim woman dress in an Islamic movie”, and other issues.
        We’ll have to wait for something like that to be deliberated on, but before that comes, have you considered making the film animated? That way you can side-step many of these issues. Arguably, there is less fitnah with an animated figure (with the condition they’re drawn right) versus a live-action lady.

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      • Umm Zakiyyah

        Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaah,

        I agree that it is “ideal” to have scholars weigh in on this issue, as I’m sure it would be ideal to have scholars weigh in on an infinite number of topics that Muslims take issue with. However, even in the world of fiqh, there will always be disagreement. In any case, the issue that has been raised is not how a non-Muslim woman should dress in an Islamic movie. The issue raised here is how a non-Muslim woman should dress in general, regardless of whether or not she’s in front of a video camera.

        Personally, I’m not losing sleep over this issue. I write novels and that’s where I focus my energy. I agreed to allow a fellow practicing Muslim make the book into a movie, and I’ll let him decide the best way to handle the “sticky” issues involved—just like I let any Muslim who works in a mixed environment or who attends school worry about how they’ll handle interactions with others. We can share advice, opinions, and input, but we must accept that each of us must handle our own affairs in the best way we know how.

        People have suggested an animated picture, but then that gets into the issue of making images, so still there will be those who believe that’s haraam based on the hadith regarding images.

        In any case, I believe that any man for whom it is a fitnah to see a real woman on screen (even if she’s not dressed inappropriately) shouldn’t watch the movie, or any other movie in fact, or even log on to the Internet.

        I find it quite puzzling that we would need to discuss the issue beyond that. This isn’t a Qur’an class we’re all obliged to enroll in. It’s a movie aimed primarily at doing da’wah to non-Muslims [or to Muslims so far removed from Islam that these sorts of issues would be "non-issues."] So my suggestion to those for whom it will be an issue is simply this: Don’t watch it.

        It’s really not all that complicated.

        And Allah knows best.

        But I do thank you for your input, as it is nice to see others who wish to offer sincere, helpful advice inshaaAllah. This is unfortunately becoming a rarity amongst Muslims.

        May Allah help us.

        Umm Zakiyyah
        themuslimauthor.com

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      • Atif

        Jazak Allahu Khayran for your quick response!
        I understand your frustrations; making and watching “Islamic films” is still a relatively new thing for conservative Muslims.
        Your analogy with muslims working/studying in mixed environments and a film is correct in one sense: there are compromises that have to be made for the greater good. At the same time, we don’t have control of the environments we work/study in, but as Muslims we have control over a creative project like a film.
        That is why you have Muslims emotionally invested in something like this. No one is being forced to watch a film, but there are conservative Muslims who watch films (with uncovered women, music, etc.) and they know they are making a compromise. The hope (as Muslim consumers) is that we can have a film with minimal compromises, especially since this genre (Islamic films) is sorely lacking of good titles.
        I understand the perspective of “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it”. Unfortunately, the recent short and long films by Muslims have been making it into the “better off not watching” pile. We are hoping that the next film will not go into that pile. If “If I Should Speak” falls into that pile and you’re fine with that, so be it.

        P.S. Regarding “haram images”, many scholars (including the “strict” ones) allow digital images, so that wouldn’t be an issue. :) I get your point though.

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      • Umm Zakiyyah

        Waiyyaka. I just happen to be online now :) Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

        I agree with your observations overall. However, I believe this statement isn’t true: “At the same time, we don’t have control of the environments we work/study in, but as Muslims we have control over a creative project like a film.”

        We certainly have control over the environments we work and study in. We can simply work and study where mixing isn’t involved, right? Every workplace and school isn’t mixed. We can simply work and study in those non-mixed environments only.

        “But it’s not that simple” people say. But I say, it is… when it’s *somebody else’s* school or work we’re discussing…

        But even if we’d like to convince ourselves that we don’t control our work environments, realize that what you and others are calling a “creative film project” is the “work environment” for the brother making the film. This is his “job”….and his “control” is about as far reaching as yours or mine is in our respective “mixed work and school environments.”

        In any case, make du’aa that whatever happens, this project can be put into the pile of “better off watching” for Muslims. I think making sincere du’aa for each other is something that can help most in these circumstances.

        We need to understand that Allah is in charge, and if we do fall into error (as humans will repeatedly do), He is Al-Ghafoor Al-Raheem, two attributes we need to keep close to our hearts and minds as we strive to do what’s right.

        Umm Zakiyyah
        themuslimauthor.com

        p.s. As for digital images, it will still be an issue to those who believe even digital is haraam (and there are those out there). It’s not an ijmaa’ issue. So we’re back to square one

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      • Atif

        May Allah reward you for your quick response!
        I understand your frustrations; making and watching “Islamic films” is
        still a relatively new thing for conservative Muslims.

        Your analogy with muslims working/studying in mixed environments and a
        film is correct in one sense: there are compromises that have to be made
        for the greater good. At the same time, we don’t have control of the
        environments we work/study in, but as Muslims we have control over a
        creative project like a film.

        That is why you have Muslims emotionally invested in something like
        this. No one is being forced to watch a film, but there are
        conservative Muslims who watch films (with uncovered women, music, etc.)
        and they know they are making a compromise. The hope (as Muslim
        consumers) is that we can have a film with minimal compromises,
        especially since this genre (Islamic films) is sorely lacking of good
        titles.

        I understand the perspective of “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it”.
        Unfortunately, the recent short and long films by Muslims have been
        making it into the “better off not watching” pile. We are hoping that
        the next film will not go into that pile. If “If I Should Speak” falls
        into that pile and you’re fine with that, so be it.

        P.S. Regarding “haram images”, many scholars (including the “strict”
        ones) allow digital images, so that wouldn’t be an issue. :) I get your
        point though.

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      • Atif

        Jazak Allahu Khayran for your quick response!
        I understand your frustrations; making/watching “Islamic films” is still relatively new for conservative Muslims.

        I understand the “slippery slope” analogy: we have Muslims working/studying in mixed environments and there is a compromise being made for the greater good. However, we can’t control the environment we work/study in, but Muslims do have control over a creative project like a film.

        That is why Muslims are emotionally invested in something like this. There are conservative Muslims who watch films (with uncovered women, music, etc.), but they know they are making a compromise. The hope (as Muslim consumers) is that we can have a film with minimal compromises, especially since this genre (Islamic films) is so sorely lacking of good titles.

        I understand the perspective that “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it”. Unfortunately, recent films have been making it into the “better off not watching” pile. We were hoping that something with great potential (like your novel) wouldn’t make it into the “don’t watch” pile. If it does and you’re fine with that, so be it.

        P.S. Regarding haram images, many scholars (including the “strict” ones) allow digital images. :) I got your point, though.

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  5. saima

    Asalamualaikum, i m agree with u its the fear of Allah that holds us back for every step we take but His guidance , blessings keeps us safe if our intentions r safe ..and as long we r doing daawah in between the limits ,we can use any technological way provided ,the closest the fastest…i wd like to giv my example i loved music and i knew its haram but wen i listened SamiYusuf’s music.. full of inspiration,full of Allah’s praising…i felt something breaking inside me and i started cleaning my heart from diseases and now i only think of wat pleases my Allah and ask for His forgivness and i know now music is totally haram with instruments so i ileft listening it at all..main point is i still can’t believe the reason of my change But i know it was His blessings.

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    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaah. Thanks, Saima, for your insightful comments. Please make du’aa Allah blesses this film to stay within limits that are pleasing to Him. BarakAllaahufeek.

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  6. Nayma

    Movies in this century affect our lives and the lives of our children in ways other media do not… We need good Islamic ones. May Allah help you and guide you in providing this outlet.. Looking forward to it Umm Zakiyyah!

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  7. MuslimTeen

    I have soaked in your books like a sponge. I love them, and I can relate to the situations in the book! I’m so excited for this movie, iA :) I know you’ll find a way to make it work!!!

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  8. anonnomouys

    Assalamualykum,
    I can’t help but wonder, that if the first hollywood director had been accepted, the movie would have reached more non-Muslims, meaning more of an opportunity for dawah. Going with a no name, doesn’t exactly mean the movie will be viewed by many. Meaning no disrespect, but the Muslim community as a whole needs to learn to be less afraid and prejudice against others. One can be cautious without losing the chance to spread Islam.

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    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

      I think of this too sometimes (i.e. what would happen if I’d gone with the Hollywood scriptwriter), but I honestly feel more comfortable with an independent company like SKOZ films even though it will take extra energy and time to reach more people. I just didn’t want the risk of the entire story being lost, and to me that’s most important.

      I think it’s “fear” that we’ll fall into haraam that’s stopping us from using film more often, not prejudice against others. And this is a good thing. But I think you’re right about “one can be cautious without losing the chance to spread Islam.” I wish I could find the balance myself.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

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  9. Alia

    Concgratulations on considering the idea that it is possible to have a movie without it being haram! I am very much impressed that you were able to actually listen rather than simply say no when the idea was brought to your attention.
    I got your autograph about ten years ago when your book came out. I look forward to seeing the movie

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  10. Arif Kabir

    Your books are the best I’ve seen in Muslim English literature thus far, masha‘Allah tabarakAllah. Keep it up.

    I only humbly ask that you consider this thoughtful position by Baba Ali, which I sincerely hope you can take on as well:

    Is it true that all women in your movies will be wearing Hijab, even the non-Muslim actresses?Yes. We want to provide a positive role model for women. Today, the role models for women are your typical “Barbie-like” image and many women think that they have to look like that to fit in. Islam gave women honor and we are tired of seeing Muslim women on TV shown in an inferrior way. Anytime you turn on the TV and you see a sister in Hijab she is either crying, being oppressed, etc. We want to change this image Insha’ Allah.

    Every man and woman is a creation of Allah, regardless of how they choose to dress. I hope, for the sake of promoting Islam and for the sake of helping all to purify their gaze, that ‘If I Should Speak’ and all subsequent movies have modestly dressed men and women. As our beloved Prophet taught us, “Allah is pure and only accepts that which is pure.”

    May Allah continue to bless and guide your pen! Ameen.

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    • Umm Zakiyyah

      BarakAllaahufeek. May Allah bless you for your kind words.

      Thanks for sharing the great advice from Baba Ali, maashaAllah. I agree with him. For the If I Should Speak movie, we plan to have the women covered properly. If they are not Muslim (in real life), they will be covered modestly inshaaAllah, and if they are Muslim (in real life), they will be wearing hijab inshaaAllah. This the plan. And we certainly plan to portray Islam properly bi’idhnillaah.

      Ameen! I truly appreciate the du’aa. Please keep making it for me and other Muslim writers.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

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  11. RCHOUDH

    I think you made the right choice in not going with the Hollywood scriptwriter. You would inevitably lose complete creative control over your work because Hollywood only cares about making money, and they’ll do anything to make your story as “attention-grabbing” as possible, no matter how much it spoils the underlying message you want to portray through it about Islam. And Hollywood is usually reluctant to present postive potrayals of characters that are usually presented as stereotypes in “mainstream” movies. I remember reading once how much trouble Roseanne Barr had to go through just to make sure her show was made her way (it was and still is unconventional according to Hollywood standards to see a show, made by a woman, about an average-looking working class American family).
    With that said I also pray that you avoid falling into any slippery slopes while making this movie. And you’re right about the various choices we have to make to avoid slippery slopes while working here in the West. As a freelance writer I’m constanly having inner debates over what to include/not include in my articles. It can be challenging at times; may Allah help us all. BTW after receiving rave reviews about your book I am all set to read it soon Insha’Allah and I just want to say that it’s refreshing to find a Muslim author out there who is trying to help others understand Islam through her work. Unfortunately it’s all too rare to find books like that; whatever novels about Muslims are out there are either written by nonMuslims, with stereotypes galore, or by Muslims who don’t use the opportunity to really introduce Islam to their readers.

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  12. Safwat AlMulk

    Assalaamu alaikum

    I have followed your work for at least a decaded and admired it along the way, maa sha Allaah. I must express to you that I was and am shocked to hear and see you moving forward with this idea. Sort of washing your hands of it, because you’re leaving it up to a “Muslim” film maker, who has to deal with his own Islamic issues in his line of work. If you really feel that way, what about surah Asr? Please ponder over what you understand what Allaah is conveying to us. I’ve known you to respond to your critics from an Islamic perspective backed by reseach from those whom you respect as scholars. This is why your steps toward allowing this film to made comes as a great surprise.

    Where is the scholarly advise? People look up to you. Look at the comments and responses. You have, whether it’s your intention or not, an influence on your fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Your decisions, in this case, does affect others and you know this. I’m sad today to be one of your critics, as I don’t and haven’t seen (while following this event) where you’ve put forth your concern as this endeavor being something you’d want Allaah to be pleased with. Yes, you mentioned “fear,” but not in your usual way.

    What da’waah message are you trying to get across? You speak about how Muslim are protrayed in the “West.” Haven’t Muslim been protrayed in a negative light for over 1400 years? Haven’t believers (messenggers, prophets, etc.). for that matter, been protrayed negatively? They called to Tawheed with wisdom. There was no doubt(s) in their method, because it was approved of.

    I assume that you’ve prayed istikhara. Is it being made easy? Do you feel very at ease with going forward with your name attached to this project? If so, then may Allaah bless you in it and it be a benefit to the ummaah, ameen.

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    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Safwat

      BarakAllaahufeek. I truly appreciate you taking time to read and comment. I also appreciate what I see as a sincere desire for me (and others) to do what is most pleasing to Allah. And Allah knows best the hearts of His slaves.

      I completely understand your concerns, which are the concerns of many people (and was my own concern before agreeing to this). The presence of these concerns is why I wrote this blog.

      Here are my responses to some of your questions and concerns (which I’m sure mirror many people’s):

      1. “Where’s the scholarly advice?”

      Though I (or any other Muslim public figure) may not reveal to the public the extent of Islamic research, seeking scholarly advice, and speaking to students of knowledge that goes on behind the scenes, bear in mind that was done repeatedly by me and others on my behalf for more than five years. And what you see as my “final decision” is my following of that scholarly and Islamic advice.

      In a nutshell, their advice can summarized as this:

      “In general, Muslims should stay away from film-making. However, in this case, due to the Islamic nature of your books and due to you having the opportunity to reach a wide audience while maintaining some influence over the actual film, then you should definitely go forward with this project, especially if the audience will be primarily Westerners who are already deeply involved in watching movies.”

      They said further:

      “Naturally, during this process, you will encounter some things that are not preferable for Muslims to be involved in (such as women acting/performing), but if this is handled carefully and resorted to only insomuch as necessary for the success of the film itself (and capturing the essence of the book’s message), especially where non-Muslim actors are involved, then we believe that the greater good can be achieved through this doing this project as opposed to not doing it.”

      This is a summary of the advice I received.

      My advisors were many (as could be expected when I’ve been asking advice on this for more than five years), and they essentially all said the same thing, even though amongst them were those who are very “strict” amongst those who follow the Sunnah and the way of the Salaf-Al-Saalih, even some who have the general opinion that acting itself should be shunned. And even the latter category felt that I should go ahead with this as they viewed my agreeing to this an exception to what should normally be the case for a daa’eyah.

      And may Allah reward them for their honesty. If they are right, may Allah grant them double reward; and if they are mistaken, may Allah grant them one reward. Either way, I pray Allah blesses them and gives them Jannah for this wise, balanced advice.

      2. “What da’wah message are you trying to get across?”

      The same one that the books offered, except this one is specifically for those who are avid movie-goers vs. readers (especially amongst non-Muslims and struggling Muslims for whom “movie watching” is already the norm).

      3. “Did you pray Istikhaarah? Is it being made easy?”

      I certainly prayed Istikhaarah, repeatedly (and still do until today). So far it has been made easy. Yet Allah is the only One who knows the future. So at this point, I can only assume that it was best for me to “get this far” in the process; otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten this far, in my view. And Allah knows best.

      4. “Do you feel very at ease with going forward with your name attached to this project?”

      I’ll answer this question like this: When I make Istikhaarah, I place my trust in Allah. Whenever I’m embarking on any project (whether a speech, a book, a blog), I make Istikhaarah and continuously make du’aa, while always looking for signs of what is right or wrong. As a general rule, I almost never feel “very at ease” doing anything that is not a definite act of worship. This is how I believe all believers should approach life, always on guard against sin. I pray that I *never* feel “very at ease” in anything in life that has the potential to go wrong b/c when we feel too at ease, we slip and sin without even thinking we did anything wrong.

      I appreciate your du’aa. Please keep making it. I really appreciate it, more than you know.

      And I ask you to continuously ask Allah to guide us during this project, forgive us for any mistakes or sin (whether in or outside this project), and to make this a cause for us and viewers to draw closer to Allah in this world and on the Day of Judgment.

      JazaakAllaahukhairan.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

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  13. Safwat al-Mulk

    Please ponder and reflect. The Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) said, to paraphrase, a sign of the Last Day is that knowledge wil disappear. When asked about this statement, he said, the scholars will die and so the people will lead by the ignorant. This is also seen in the way we Muslim view the inheritors of the prophets. We show little to no respect for them. They are disrespected in some cases or left ignored in some others.

    Reflect upon your own words: “So relate the story, perhaps they may reflect”

    Are You a Sign of the Last Day?

    “Time and time again we read verses about Allah’s mercy and forgiveness, but it is often not real for us.  It is only when we hear stories like the one about the young new Muslim that we begin to get a glimpse into that vast world of Allah’s compassion for His servants.

    When I heard the story of the girl hearing the last verses from Soorat Al-Fajr before death, my eyes welled with tears.  I longed to hear those Divine words recited to me.  But as I reflected on my life and my shortcomings, I wondered if I’d be given that gift.

    What was it, I wondered, that she had done that pleased Allah so much that she earned this momentous blessing?  Was there something—anything—that I could do to earn something similar?”

    Have you found the answer to this question?

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    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Safwat, barakAllaahufeek.

      It is truly a blessing to have this level of love and concern for one another in the ummah. I ask Allah to increase you in your love for the sake of Allah and your keenness to having your brothers and sisters reflect carefully on their souls.

      I have for many years reflected on the question I asked readers, and I continue today—as it relates to all aspects of my life. And I pray to Allah that I never stop asking this question.

      It appears that you believe that any scholar who would agree to this sort of project is a Sign of the Day of Judgment and who is amongst the ignorant whom people trust and lead people astray.

      Naturally, neither you nor I can know if this is the case. And if it were the case, we won’t know until the Day of Judgment.

      One thing that my experience with researching this project has taught me is that there is so much that we don’t know.

      I’m not sure what definitive Islamic evidences from the Qur’an or the Sunnah has led you to believe this project to be such a grave sin, but I can certainly understand your concerns.

      My suggestion is if this is how you truly feel, then make du’aa for me, the director, and all Muslims helping and in support of this project, even those scholars and students of knowledge who advised me to go forward with it.

      As for me, I am bearing in mind that Allah is Al-Ghafoor Al-Raheem, so if we are mistaken for agreeing to this, I ask Allah to forgive us and have mercy on us.

      Again, thank you for your concern.

      It is truly heartwarming to know that I can depend on some of my brothers and sisters to express sincere concern for me, and thus make du’aa for me, raising their hands in private supplication asking Allah to keep me on the right path and forgive me my sins. If this is the only thing I gain from having announced this project, then by Allah! This is greater than even I could have hoped for.

      Please keep me in your prayers.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

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  14. saleh

    You said ”

    I honestly don’t know “who decides” what’s modest enough for
    non-Muslims. Modest dress is a subject of debate even amongst Muslims,
    who do not even agree on whether a Muslim woman’s face should be seen.

    As for the director/producer “looking at uncovered women”, I think
    this is a valid concern (even if we ignore the fact that “uncovered” is a
    relative term when dealing with non-Muslims). But this concern affects
    any male working in a field that includes interaction with other humans
    (who may be female), which is just about every male professional (and
    student) in the West.

    I don’t give definitions of “haram.” That’s a right that belongs only to Allah.”

    Thats not a valid excuse, just because some Muslims living in the west are exposed to females who are not covered doesnt mean we as Muslims purposely show women on the big screen, this is creating fitna to say the least, and this might open the door to some worse cases.

    And I think you are wrong, scholars throughout history have used the term haraam and didnt say the right belongs only to Allah, because despite of the right belonging only to Allah, it is Allah who gave the scholars the authority to give judgment on matters of halal & haraam from Qur’an & Sunnah & the way of the Sahabah……..The Prophet Salla Allahu Alaihi Wasallam clearly said that one glance to a woman is allowed and the other is not, now imagine Muslim males watching your movie and all the women in them, will they take a glance a them once only??!!!

    May Allah guide us all to the straight path and I hope this movie never releases……..

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    • ghuraaba

      Saleh,
      We are leaving in strange times and we ask Allah to make us remain strangers. Your arguments are valid but I hope you will not be swallowed by the huge opposition the ghuraaba strangers face and will face in our times. Even from within…give glad tidings to the ghuraaba

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  15. Asif Balouch

    A great article. As an aspiring creative writer myself also with a multimedia/film production background , I benefited from this unique perspective. This has me interested in more of Umm Zakiyyah’s work and I am now compelled to read her works and support her writing endeavors.

    I do understand the negative perception Muslims have of the Hollywood industry and with the kind of movies they regularly churn out, one would feel that nothing good can come from the industry and even if you have a worthwhile story, it may be bastardized to the point where its essence–if it was a movie that puts Islam in a positive light–is lost.

    Despite this, I do feel that Muslims should still struggle and strive to try to make breakthroughs in Hollywood by telling stories that the mainstream can relate to. There will be a producer or director or company out there somewhere that may latch onto a story and keep its essence and make it seen to viewers around the world. Movies are a powerful means of influence in American culture and its something that Muslims should aggressively make a mark on and something that I myself do still want to make a difference in, Inshallah.

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  16. SC

    SubhanAllah, how could we NOT be happy for Umm Zakiyyah’s decision? I recently moved from NY to the Middle East, and I will say reality we all know: almost every single household in the developed and developing world has at least one (if not more) television sets. And Allah knows better – we could definitely use some better programming with a better message (these Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Turkish, Lebanese shows are pushing every envelope under the sun, and I don’t see any complaints about them). I barely watch television, and for those 9 years when I didn’t have one: you cannot escape the public sphere, billboards, PC ads, etc. Seriously.
    Not only that, but the special “Ramadan” series on Omar bin Al-Khattab (sponsored by Saudi, Qatar) had a board of religious scholars as consultants, and depicts characters who wore the head covering, or partial covering (as was reality with all kinds of people). I’m not sure why we feel that Umm Zakiyyah’s book has to be depicted in the form of angels on earth.
    My beautiful brothers and sisters in Islam, please wake up: scholars have not come up with one answer about filmmaking for da’wah purposes. Some have already approved of similar features with islamic messages (in Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, Malay, etc) throughout the Muslim world for years now. Not sure what’s different about English-speaking audiences (as if we’re “better” or haven’t seen worse)? Again, seriously, guys..
    Focus on the bigger picture: everything about this book is da’wah. What part are we playing in proper/kind/loving da’wah to our family/neighbors?

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  17. Thinker

    I am way late into this conversation, but to all those with objections – how many of us have not watched, and cried, and came much closer to appreciating Islam after watching ‘The Message’ over and over again? My family [who would watch all kinds of TV shows anyway] found the Message touching and got more interested in the stories of the Sahabah after that. [I do not get into the fiqh of portraying these characters on screen - when I show these movies to my cousins who would otherwise watch "Friends" or other such shows, it is really a no-brainer!]

    I do not speak from a scholarly point of view, but as a part of the audience, who even today when she needs to “relax” her mind a bit sees films like the Message, and then other ‘kids’ [hollywood] films like Shrek or Akeelah and the Bee, which are relatively “harmless fun” with a moral.

    When young Muslim women have gatherings, wouldn’t it be better (as audience) to have a collection of movies that are positive, entertaining, at the same time a just representation of Islam?

    As Umm Zakiyyah said, as long as she and the director are willing to go ahead with it with no qualms of conscience; I as an audience look forward to the movie and would not mind promoting it to my non-Muslim and Muslim sisters, insha Allah.

    Beyond that, Allah is the Best Judge of Affairs and He alone knows what is inside our hearts. Wa Allahu ‘alam.

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