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New on DVD: The Life of Muhammad

posted by Nell Minow

PBS distribution this week released “THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD” on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. It is a three-part program, presented by acclaimed journalist and author Rageh Omaar, charting the extraordinary story of a man who, in little more than 20 years, included humble beginnings in Mecca, to his struggles with accepting his prophetic role, his flight to Medina, the founding of the first Islamic constitution and his subsequent military and political successes and failures.  It also explores his legacy as a religious and historic leader, with chapters called: “The Seeker,” “Holy Wars,” and “Holy Peace.”

Filmed on location in Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem, Turkey, Syria, the U.S., the United Kingdom and Jordan, the series also draws on the expertise of some of the world’s leading academics and commentators on Islam, including Tariq Ramadan (academic and fellow of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford), Ziauddin Sardar (London-based scholar and writer specializing in Muslim thought), Tom Holland (British novelist and historian), HRH Princess Badiya El Hassan of the Jordanian Royal Family, Dr. Amira K Bennison (senior lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Cambridge University), Sajjad Rizvi (associate professor of Islamic Intellectual History, Exeter University), Bishop Nazir-Ali (author of “Islam: A Christian Perspective”) and John L Esposito (professor of Religion and International Affairs and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University).

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Any documentary about a religious figure is guaranteed to be controversial.  Some people will object that the series is biased; others will object that it strives too hard for objectivity.  It is a work of history and anthropology, not a hymn. Along with the historical narrative, the film addresses Islam’s role in the world today and explores interpretations of Islamic attitudes toward money, charity, women, social equality, religious tolerance, war and conflict, well worth watching by anyone who wants to learn more about one of history’s most influential and inspirational leaders and the followers who continue to practice his faith and spread his word.

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