The first thing to say upfront is this review (more a set of observations) and this reviewer is biased. I cannot undo what I am. I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. It is impossible for me to be neutral. I can of course seek to be objective, but I can only see it through my eyes as it were – through my world-view glasses. What I can be, or aim to be, however, is fair. With these parameters in mind, let’s get to it. Just one other thing – I’m not an expert on Islam, I will not pretend to be one.
In terms of its production the program is well made and well presented. Rageh Omaar does a good job. He’s obviously biased but then we know that. That’s better than someone like Jeremy Bowen presenting who thinks he’s being objective. So far as I can tell the facts about Mohammed – those presented anyway – seem to be accurate. Mohammed was born in 570, orphaned at 6 (his father having died before his birth) and was apparently described at age 21 as the Truthful One. Though Mohammed was illiterate we should not get the idea he was unintelligent. He was clearly a powerful personality, very intelligent and extremely persuasive. In the year 610 he had the first of a series of spiritual encounters. He thinks he’s going mad but his wife seems to know better and assures him it’s real. How she knows this we are not told. So the whole system of Islam as it became known is because his wife told him it was true.
Omaar up front directly compares Mohammed to Jesus by saying Mohammed was just a man. Unlike Jesus he was not the Son of God, did no miracles and did not rise from the dead. One other very important detail that Rageh leaves out is that Jesus is sinless, Mohammed is not. The Mosques have no images of Allah or Mohammed unlike the Christian Churches. There was a controversy in the 4th Century concerning images (to break out again later) within the Churches over the use of images but by the time of Mohamed they were widely used so maybe this in some way influenced his views. I guess it would have been from his perspective quite a counter-cultural thing to do. And in my opinion he was right.
We were told there are extensive written sources in The Hadith and The Koran. Scholars had to sift through thousands of sayings to arrive at an authoritative Hadith text. One Islamic scholar tells us these memories are preserved through history. One external source is provided concerning Mohammed, writing ‘only’ 24 years after his death about Mohammed giving laws. So, there is we were told, a large body of detailed facts.
We were told very little about any Christian influences. There were many doctrines that by the time of Mohammed were settled orthodoxy – the person of Christ and the Trinity for example. This does not mean there were no errors and it seems Mohammed took as orthodox teaching on the person of Christ and the Trinity when they were actually nothing of the sort. For someone who claimed to have direct revelations from God (Allah) to know this seems to me a serious flaw. Didn’t Allah guide His prophet into all truth – clearly not.
Nowhere are we told whether Rageh Omaar or anyone else on the program or anyone else period supports Sharia Law. This is I think, very important. For this reason: There is no separation between Islam and the State. What we have been treated to is a very subtle charm offensive. The program will be hailed a BBC first and an un-qualified success. Iran might get a bit upset – but then they have to make the right noises. As an aside a Muslim I work with (a really nice guy) has only seen clips of it but ‘couldn’t trust the media’ anyway. He didn’t seem interested or felt it not worthwhile watching. He confessed his lack of knowledge about the history of his own faith. But then many Christians exhibit a similar lack of historical interest.
I love the way language is used to covertly undermine the Christian message. I mean it’s very simple really – there are only two options. Option 1, either Islam or Christianity is true, there can only be one. Or, option 2, neither of them is true. If it is option 2, we should all find something better to do with our lives. But if it’s option 1; we need to think about which one is true. That’s not being Islamophobic that’s being a seeker after truth.
There are quite a few things unsaid and unanswered – so far. Maybe they will come up later. We’ll come back to this. So far I have watched the first episode (of three). I’m just going to watch episode 2. I’ll maybe come back and edit this post.
- BBC 2 The Life of Muhammad, Part I (profundamental.wordpress.com)