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Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

A Muslim’s Mixed Feelings About “Noah”

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Beloved Lord

I must admit: I really, really want to see “Noah.” As a Muslim, I was raised with this epic story of one of God’s greatest Prophets of all time:

[LONG] BEFORE those [who now deny resurrec­tion] did Noah’s people call it a lie; and they gave the lie to Our servant and said, “Mad is he!” – and he was repulsed. Thereupon he called out to his Lord, “Verily, I am defeated; come Thou, then, to my aid!” And so We caused the gates of heaven to open with water pouring down in torrents and caused the earth to burst forth with springs, so that the waters met for a purpose pre-ordained: but him We bore on that [vessel] made of [mere] planks and nails and it floated under Our eyes: a recom­pense for him who had been rejected with ingratitude. (54:9-14)

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Indeed, I have every intention to see the film, and I have been fascinated by the controversy surrounding it in some evangelical Christian circles. In addition, the film has been banned in some Muslim countries. They base this objection on the fact that it is improper to depict any Prophet of God. Indeed, there was a movie, “The Message,” that was about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but the late director Moustapha Akkad took great pains to not depict the Prophet Muhammad in any way, shape, or form.

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Still, I really, really want to see “Noah.” Before I even heard of the controversy, I could have told you that the screenwriters and director of the film would have taken liberties with the literal Biblical text (although, in truth, I do not understand why). Yet, I do understand the discomfort with any film depicting a Prophet of God.

From the Muslim perspective, these men are the best of humanity, the holiest of the human community. All of them – from Adam all the way to Muhammad – deserve nothing but the utmost respect and reverence. In fact, I do not accept the less than glamorous stories about some of them that are present in the Old Testament (such as King David). And it makes me nervous when any filmmaker wants to depict any of them in a film, because any negative portrayal would be a show of great disrespect.

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For instance, my absolute favorite film of all time, about which I wrote in the book Taking Back Islam, is the “Ten Commandments.” I always try to watch it every year. But, I am very uncomfortable with the film’s depiction of Moses’ love story with Nefertari. As a devout Muslim, I do not accept that a Prophet of God would engage in such immoral behavior, even if it was before he was commissioned as Prophet.

When the story of Moses was remade into a TV film in 2006, I couldn’t even finish watching it. The way Moses was depicted was so distasteful to me, as a Muslim who loves and reveres all the Prophets of God, that it was not worth my time. And herein lies my discomfort with depicting Prophets of God in film and television.

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Yet, I do not advocate banning the film in the United States or reacting violently to its release and distribution. If you do not believe you should see the film, then simply do not see the film. But I do urge those in the movie business should take utmost care to treat the sacred with respect and reverence. The Prophet Noah is a man sacred to all three Abrahamic faith traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The same goes with Moses, Jesus, and Joseph, all of whom have been depicted in film and on stage.

Still, despite my slight discomfort, I still really, really want to see “Noah.” I do not want to see the film so I can learn about the story of Noah: the Quran has done that quite marvelously for me. But, I do want to get a sense – just a sense – of what it may have been like at the time of Noah, a holy man who – had I been alive at the time – I pray I would have followed. I hope I am not disappointed.

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