The Al-Hassan We Al-Hussein controversy
Although the TV series "Al-Hassan We Al-Hussein" is set in the early Islamic Empire, its themes are causing great controversy
Farah Montasser, Wednesday 3 Aug 2011
This Ramadan, alongside the many TV shows that either mock the former Mubarak regime, discuss vividly the brutality of the police forces, foolishly depict the biographies of Arab artists, or speak of the good old days of the Ottoman emirate Egypt, comes "Al-Hassan We Al-Hussein", a historical pastiche about the grandsons of the Prophet Muhammed during the "Great Sedition" of the early Islamic Empire.
Directed by Syrian Abdul Bari Abu El Kheir, "Al-Hassan We Al-Hussein" provides perfect depiction of the early days of Islamic reign after the death of the prophet, including some of his companions — which is currently fueling huge controversy among Islamic scholars in the Arab world.
Writers of the show, Mohamed El Seyadi and Mohamed El Hasseyan, feature some of Islam's greatest scholars and advisors, including Abu Hurreyra, Abdullah Ibn Al Zubayr, Moawya Ibn Abi Sufyan (played by Rashid Assaf), Amr Ibn El Aas, Zeinab bint Ali Ibn Abi Talleb, and Yazid Ibn Moawya. Some of the closer companions to the Prophet Muhammed, like Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, the Prophet’s cousin and father of Al-Hassan (Khaled El Ghoayri) and Al-Hussein (Mohamed El Megali), and Uthman Ibn Affan, the ruler at the time, were not shown on screen. The director depended on a strong voiceover and firm speeches that educate and explain Islamic history to the audience.
"Al-Hassan We Al-Hussein" aims to shed light on an important stage in Islamic history — "the Great Sedition" — by depicting the lives of Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein, grandsons of the Prophet Mohammed, and their role in the defence of the Caliph Othman bin Affan and support their father Ali bin Abi Talib. It is such portrayals of Islamic figures that has angered major Islamic institutions, including Al-Azhar.
According to the Ahram Arabic Portal, Al-Azhar among many Islamic institutions has requested the shelving of “Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein” due to its portrayal of the grandsons of the Prophet Muhammed, as they belong to Ahl El-Beit (Members of the Prophet’s household).
Al-Azhar has issued a statement warning all channels not to screen the show since the embodiment of the Prophet Muhammed’s companions in a drama is religiously forbidden. Following this statement, Egyptian Minister of Information Ossama Heikal blocked the screening of the show on official Egyptian state television channels.
Only a few days after its screening this Ramadan, four law suits have been filed against the production company of the show and Nilesat, the satellite provider, for approving the screening of the show in Ramadan. According to Ahram Arabic Portal, the four lawsuits will be heard next Wednesday, demanding to stop the series, despite the fact that the production company involved received approval from several religious scholars and institutions across the Arab World and Iran at the end of each episode, including Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, among religious scholars in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Arab countries, Ahram Arabic reports.
Portrayal of the Prophet, his family members and some of his Sahaba (companions) has been banned according to a law issued by Al-Azhar. The law dates back to 1926.
Muslims have always condemned portrayals of religious figures, fearing they would be worshipped as images, as in many other religious cultures. Yet Dr Mohamed Emara, author of Islam and Fine Arts, argues “Arts are allowed, depending on their purpose.” Does the TV show "Al-Hassan We Al-Hussein" serve a good purpose?
As announced by the production company, the TV show’s budget reached over $3 million, to get a picture perfect depiction of the desert living of early Muslims. As Ahram Arabic reports, among the co-producing countries of the show are Jordan, UAE, Lebanon, Syria and Morocco.
The show debuted beginning of Ramadan on most Arab channels, including Al-Hayat, Al-Tahrir, Lebanese channel LBC, Rotana Egypt, Rotana Gulf, and Al-Nahar. Egyptian state television rejected the show one day prior to the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
Here comes the response of the audience: Ahram Online asks if this act of banning such shows isn't giving such Islamic figures a touch of divinity — the very effect Muslims rejected in the first place? Can’t such figures be treated like normal human beings as long as the truth is revealed? Shouldn’t religious authorities only reject historical misconceptions, if they occur? The decision is yours ...
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