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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Toledo

Although I initially planned to go to Valencia this week, I decided to head to Toledo instead. As the former Visigothic capital of their Imperium Hispaniae and one of the most important Muslim cities in al-Andalus, the pull of this city’s history is hard to resist. Its historical value is amplified by the fact that this was the first major Muslim city to fall to the Christian conquista movement in 1085…making it the place where it all began! The city’s Jewish city is also immensely significant, and I cannot think of a better place to spend the 520th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain than in Toledo’s historic synagogue. Valencia will have to wait!

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“Umar” Ramadan Series: Review and Synopsis of Episode 10

Synopsis: The episode starts in the year 622 and shows the hijra (migration) of the Muslims from Mecca to Yathrib/Medina. As we are shown scenes of groups of Muslims migrating to Yathrib, we are then taken to another Meccan council where Abu Jahl is asserting that the migration of the Muslims to a rich, Arab city makes the situation very different than their former migration to Abyssinia since this time ALL the Muslims were moving there. In other words, states Abu Jahl, this Hijra is a real cause for concern because the concentration of the numbers of the Muslims in Yathrib will make them a real political force. He says it is also worrying that the ‘Aws and the Khazraj have joined Muhammad, empowering the new religion further. Abu Sufyan talks about the economic implications of the empowerment of the Muslims in Yathrib (Medina lies on the road of the caravan route between Mecca and Syria), while ‘Utbah reminds everyone that the situation came to this because of their own overly harsh treatment of the Muslims. Abu Jahl then suggests that the only solution is to prevent as many Muslims from migrating to Yathrib as possible (by physically imprisoning them) and by killing Muhammad.  Subsequently, many Muslims are shown migrating in secret.

The next scene shows ‘Umar praying at the Ka’ba…with a lot of dark and angry looks directed at him, but to which he pays little heed. Following the completion of his prayer, he declares to the crowd his intention to migrate to Yathrib and challenges anyone to stop him. We then see ‘Umar and other members of his household preparing to migrate to Medina. Prominent Muslims (from the main tribes of Quraysh) are shown as being prevented by their families from migrating (due to their imprisonment).

The next scene shows Abu Jahl with the Quraysh planning the assassination of the Prophet. He suggests that each tribe should put forward one of their most prominent sons, each to be armed with a sword, who would then strike the Prophet all at the same time…thus, absolving one tribe of all the blame; rather ALL the tribes would bear the blame, thus deterring Banu Hashim from seeking retribution. The next scene shows this plan being carried out…however, as they prepare to strike, they realize it was ‘Ali that was sleeping in the Prophet’s bed and that the Prophet had already departed. This throws Abu Jahl into a real panic and he is later shown offering a bounty of 100 camels for any Meccan who captures Abu Bakr and Muhammad on their way to Yathrib.  The next scene shows Abu Bakr and the Prophet migrating together, and a Meccan finds them in the desert and vows that no harm will come to them by him and that he merely seeks to warn them about the bounty. In response, Abu Bakr conveys to the man (from the Prophet) that he will wear the bracelets of Chosroes, the Persian emperor, one day. The man looks elated. As he rides back, he encounters a group of Meccan horsemen who he tells to turn back since there was nothing to be found in that direction and he looked everywhere but could not find them (Abu Bakr and the Prophet).

In Quba (just outside Medina), we see ‘Umar, Bilal, and other prominent Muslims anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Prophet to the city. Suddenly, Abu Bakr and the Prophet (not shown) appear and the people are elated. The next scene shows ‘Ali migrating on how own to Medina and emphasizes the strenuous journey he faced; he walks, rather than rides on horseback. Before long, his feet are bleeding and he is almost collapsing from exhaustion. He then arrives in Quba. The first person he sees is ‘Umar, who greets him heartily. Next, we see the Prophet (only his camel is shown) and the other prominent Muslims entering Medina, greeted by the song “Tala’a al-Badr ‘alayna” and palm branches being waved. Meanwhile, in the background an exchange takes place between one prominent notable of Medina (Abb Allah ibn Ubayy ibn Sulul) and the head of one of the Jewish tribes (the Banu Qurayza I think) and they both agree to oppose the new religion brought by the Prophet. The next scene shows the construction of the mosque of Medina with all the prominent Sahaba taking part in its building. It is also implied the Prophet himself partook in the construction. As they all finally stand in the mud and palm structure (the new mosque), ‘Umar announces the mu’akha/brotherhood agreement declared by the Prophet, in which each Muhajir (Meccan) would take as his “brother” one of the Ansar (Medinian Muslims). The next scene shows the Constitution of Medina being read out which declares the Muslims and non-Muslims of Medina to be a single “umma” or community, with rights and obligations to maintain so they could live in harmony. The chiefs of the Jewish tribes of Medina are elsewhere shown reacting bitterly to this document, claiming it limits their rights and grants the Prophet unprecedented authority in a land which was not even his. One of the chiefs also attacks the absurdity of the idea that the Prophet brought a divinely-revealed scripture, as Moses did.

Review: This episode was alright, although not as engaging as the last two. I thought they did a good job showing the various complications that arose as a result of the hijra, but they did very little to show the danger of the journey itself. With the exception of ‘Ali, hardly any of the Sahaba are shown suffering on the journey or lamenting the fact that they had to depart from their homeland. This struck me as rather unrealistic. That said, I thought the representation of ‘Ali in this episode was done excellently…his bravery, courage, intellect, and strength of will all come out very clearly. He’s developing into one of the more interesting characters of the show. I thought some elements of the episode were rather confused and some scenes made very little sense in the broader scheme of things. I wasn’t sure what to make of the representation of the Jews of Medina…I thought it was premature to depict them as scheming and plotting the VERY MOMENT that the Prophet sets foot in Medina. The traditional texts certainly don’t present things in this way. But, in any case, I guess I’ll have to wait and see in what direction they will take this before commenting further. I’ll end on a positive, less critical note: the scene of the construction of the mosque, with Abu Bakr, ‘Ali, Hamza, ‘Uthman, and ‘Umar all partaking in its building and working together was definitely well done and definitely captured the harmony of the early Muslim community.

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“Umar” Ramadan Series: Review and Synopsis of Episode 9

Synopsis: The episode begins with the Quraysh discussing the implications of the continued Muslim residence in Abyssinia. Abu Jahl explains that they have mercantile interests in that country which they cannot allow to be jeopardized. He suggests that they should send emissaries to the Negus (king of Abyssinia) in order to turn him against the Muslims in his kingdom. ‘Amr ibn al-‘As is chosen for the mission. As ‘Amr arrives in the presence of the Negus, he is embraced warmly by the Ethiopian monarch indicating that they have a very close friendship. ‘Amr brings the king expensive and extraordinary gifts to win his favor. Their discussion soon turns towards the Muslims, and ‘Amr explains how he completely abhors how they departed from the religion of their people and forefathers. He continues and asserts that the Negus should hand them over to ‘Amr so he can take them back to their families, who will know how best to deal with them. The Negus is rather surprised and asserts that the perspective of the Muslims is rather different based on what he has heard. The Negus then goes on to explain that it would be outrageous for him to hand over a people who sought his protection…and, as an Arab of Mecca, ‘Amr should understand the concept of “jiwar” (extension of protection to those seeking it) and respect it. ‘Amr pushes the matter a bit further…and the Negus explains that before even considering the matter, he needs to allow the Muslims to speak in their own defense with regard to the accusations leveled against them. He suggests a public engagement where both the Muslims and ‘Amr can put forward their own arguments…”proof against proof” as the Negus says. ‘Amr looks apprehensive and is reluctant to accept this.

The next scene shows the Muslims in Abyssinia (led by Ja’far ibn Abi Talib) discussing this suggestion among themselves and they come to the uneasy conclusion that they should certainly engage ‘Amr in public. The next sequence of events should be familiar to all who have seen “The Message.” As ‘Amr is on one side and the Muslims (led by Ja’far) are on the other and the Negus is sitting on his throne, ‘Amr bows deeply to the monarch. The Muslims, ofcourse, do not bow but greet the monarch with “Assalamu ‘alaykum.” The Negus responds quite harshly and asserts that the Muslims know the accusations leveled against them: they have entered into a religion which is neither of their forefathers (paganism) nor that of Abyssinia (Christianity)…therefore, he asks, what is this new religion?! Ja’far then begins his speech (taken word for word from classical sources): “Oh king, we were an ignorant people who worshiped idols, consumed unlawful things, and the strong among us would oppress the weak. We were in this state until God sent to us a messenger from among ourselves, and to whose moral qualities and truthfulness and noble lineage we can all attest. He called us to the worship of the One God and abandon the worship of idols made of stone/wood. He also enjoined us to speak truth, maintain trusts, avoidance of bloodshed, and prohibiting the forbidden things. He also enjoined us to abstain from reprehensible actions such as the exploitation of people and the expropriation of the wealth of orphans. He called us to the worship of God alone, joining with Him no partner. Thus, we followed him and believed in him and what he brought from God. As a result, our own families and people attacked us, tortured us, and attempted to force us to abandon our faith. When their oppression became overwhelming, we came to your land and we sought your protection…we hope we will not be wronged by you, O king.” The king is moved by these words and asks Ja’far if he has an example of what the Prophet has brought from God. Ja’far responds in the affirmative. The Negus asks him to recite some words. Ja’far begins to recite the first several verses of Surah Maryam, dealing with the birth of John the Baptist/Yahya. This moves the Negus completely and he begins weeping. He asserts that these words and that which was brought by Christ seem like two rays of light emanating from the same lamp. He turns to ‘Amr and tells him to be gone and that he would never hand the Muslims to him. The king also tells ‘Amr that he used to think that he had a sound mind and logic, but now he sees that he was mistaken given the opposition of ‘Amr to such a beautiful message. ‘Amr tells the king that if he gives him one more day, he’ll bring a very strong argument against the Muslims, which even the king (with his sympathy towards them) will not be able to deny.

The next day, ‘Amr states that the Muslims say incredible things (used in the negative sense) about Jesus, so let the king ask them about it. The king turns to the Muslims and asks for an explanation. Ja’far explains that they only say about Jesus that which is in the Qur’an: that he is the Word of God and His spirit which was cast into the womb of the Virgin Mary, and that he is a prophet and servant of God. The king approves and declares the Muslims to be safe in his land and that even for a mountain of gold he would not let any harm come to them. He gives ‘Amr back his gifts and tells him to depart.

Following Amr’s return to Mecca, Khalid ibn al-Walid is making a joke about the failure of his mission to Abyssinia. This infuriates ‘Amr, who then goes on a diatribe against the idols…he starts (alarmingly!) yelling at the images of the pagan gods, demanding to know why they did not come to his aid at such a critical moment. Again, Khalid starts laughing.

The subtitles show that the year is now 617 (the 7th year after the first revelation). ‘Umar is shown embracing two other Muslims and engaging them in small talk, at which point the two sons of Suhayl ibn ‘Amr appear and greet them with the salaam. They then head to prayer together. Meanwhile, the Quraysh are having yet another council (!!) and Abu Jahl declares that they need to kill Muhammad to end the entire matter of Islam. His suggestion is met with approval from the main nobles. The next scene shows Abu Talib, sensing the increasingly violent tendencies of the Quraysh, imploring his clan of Banu Hashim to protect Muhammad, even though they may not all follow his faith. Only Abu Lahab refuses, who rushes to the idols of al-Manat and al-‘Uzza to declare his allegiance to them. Abu Jahl, back at the council, then lays down the terms of the boycott of Banu Hashim (a set of clauses which would be hung at the Ka’ba), which, in summary, generally asserts that no Meccan tribe will interact with/intermarry/trade with the clan of Hashim until they give up Muhammad.

The next scene shows ‘Umar traveling on the road with his young son ‘Abd Allah, when three men block the road and attacking him. He says he has no problem fighting them in defense of himself, his child, and his property, so if they want let them attack…at which point they flee. ‘Umar then starts giving his son advice about bravery. As he continues on the road, he runs into Abu Bakr. Apparently, they were both taking supplies to aid the Banu Hashim, who were suffering greatly under the pressure of the boycott. As the subtitles indicate the beginning of the year 618, we see the tragic effects of this boycott: poverty, starvation, and death. It has been three years since the beginning of the boycott and the pressure against the Banu Hashim has become overwhelming and the entire clan has been forced to live in the rocky hills near Mecca, having been driven from the town. Abu Talib then orders his son ‘Ali to go to the Prophet, to accompany him, and defend him even at the risk of his own life. Ali pledges himself to this.

Back in Mecca, a rift has occurred among the Quraysh, with some of them moved to pity by the state of the Banu Hashim, but Abu Jahl and his circle remain adamant that the boycott will remain in place. The party against the boycott then vow to tear the manuscript hanging in the Ka’ba down…as they enter the Ka’ba, they find that the notice has been torn and eaten by termites except for the words “In your name O God” (bismika Allahum). ‘Umar, observing all these events, then rushes to the Prophet to tell him the news.

The next scene shows Abu Talib dying, with ‘Ali tending to him. The Prophet then enters the room. Abu Talib asserts his love for Muhammad and states that he wishes he can live longer just to spend the time in his company, but alas death arrives. He then points to ‘Ali, Hamza, and al-‘Abbas and tells the Prophet to place his reliance in them, as they will never let him down. He then passes away.

The next scene fast forwards to the year 621 and the ‘Aws and the Khazraj (Arab tribes from Yathrib/Medina) pledge their allegiance to the Prophet and believe in his message. Some Meccan sahabis are then shown as being in Yathrib teaching the new converts the precepts of the new religion. The Medinian phase of Islam is about to begin…

Review: This episode was simply wonderful! I wasn’t sure that they would have been able to pull off such an inspiring and powerful episode right after the last one, but they did this and more. The two most powerful scenes were the exchange between Ja’far ibn Abi Talib and the Negus in Abyssinia and the death of Abu Talib. I find myself becoming increasingly appreciate of all the characters, all of whom are played excellently, and their role in the broader story. I am really thankful the producers and director decided to focus the story more upon the Prophetic biography and the story of the rise of Islam, rather than exclusively on the figure of ‘Umar. This makes for a much better series and also greatly exalts the figure of ‘Umar by highlighting (without overemphasizing) his role in this magnificent series of events. I was a bit disappointed they completely skipped the episode of the Isra’a and Mi’raaj, since that is an extremely important point for the early Muslim community, where both ‘Umar and Abu Bakr (not to mention ‘Ali, ‘Uthman and other prominent sahaba) prove their loyalty to the Prophet by continuing to follow him…even as some Muslims abandoned him. However, it was perhaps necessary to do so in order that all the major events be covered in the space of 30 episodes. This episode ends at the point right after the oath of allegiance of the Medinian tribes to the Prophet and, thus, right before the hijra…which marks a major milestone in the history of Islam. I’m very eager to see how they represent what happens next…

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Tisha B’Av

Today/tomorrow marks the fast of Tisha B’Av for our Jewish brothers and sisters. This day is meant to mark the various calamities and disasters visited upon the Jewish people throughout history, from the destruction of the two temples, the Roman persecutions, the Crusades all the way to the Holocaust. Most solemnly, since I am here in Sfarad/al-Andalus, it also marks the day the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 (July 31, 1492/Av 8-9, 5252 AM). It is often forgotten that the Jewish community of Sfarad/al-Andalus/Spain was persecuted, forcibly converted, and/or expelled in a manner similar to the Muslim community in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. However, as both Muslim and Jew mourn the past in this tragic land, let us also look forward. Yes, what was lost can never be retrieved, but we can all work for a brighter future God-willing. We can pave the way to that future by eliminating all forms of discrimination, hatred, and prejudice (those phenomena which gave rise to these historic tragedies)…beginning with the lingering animosities in our own hearts.

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Salobreña

So I was a bit bored today in Granada and decided to head to the coast for some fresh air and sunshine. I ended up going to Salobreña, not a hugely important town historically but that definitely does not take away from its beauty. The town served as the summer residence of the Nasrid sultans of Granada and the destination for exiled princes and imprisoned scions of the royal family. As a town, it is quite small (I saw everything there is to see in less than 2 hrs) but the beach is a great place to relax and enjoy the Mediterranean breeze.

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“Umar” Ramadan Series: Review and Synopsis of Episode 8

Synopsis: The episode starts with Abu Jahl verbally abusing the Prophet at the Ka’ba. Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (the Prophet’s uncle) then rides in on his horse, approaches Abu Jahl and strikes him hard on the face, declaring “How dare you abuse him when I am a follower of his religion?!” Abu Jahl doesn’t respond and just stands there stupidly. Hamza then goes to the house of the Prophet and takes his shahadah, officially becoming a Muslim.

Meanwhile, ‘Umar is in his house, sitting before an idol of Hubal, and deep in thought with his anger building as his thoughts turn towards the “divisions” caused by the Prophet. He then immediately gets up, straps on his sword, and heads out of his house (presumably) with the intention of killing the Prophet, as he suggested in the previous episode. On his way, he encounters one of the Quraysh who asks him where he is headed in such a hurry and so armed. ‘Umar explains that he is going to kill the Prophet and end the matter once and for all. The Qurashi noble says that he should first put his own house in order, explaining that both ‘Umar’s sister (Fatima bint al-Khattab) and his brother-in-law have become Muslim in case he didn’t know. ‘Umar is enraged and turns back.

The next scene shows Khabbab (a prominent early Muslim), ‘Umar’s sister and brother-in-law reading a manuscript of the Qur’an (Surah Ta-Ha). At the door, ‘Umar overhears the recitation of the Qur’an and bursts in demanding an explanation; by this point Khabbab has rushed into the inner quarters to hide. When Sa’id (Fatima’s husband) suggests that they have accepted Islam, ‘Umar begins brutally beating them both. At this point, Fatima angrily calls ‘Umar the enemy of God and asserts proudly that they have indeed become Muslim. He stops attacking them and realizes that there is blood oozing from his sister’s face…but when he proceeds to offer his help, she refuses it. ‘Umar then sees the manuscript of the Qur’an protruding from underneath the mattress and, despite the initial protestations of his sister (who feels he seeks to destroy it), he begins reading it. He is clearly moved and then looks up at his sister and brother-in-law and says “This is what Quraysh is fleeing from?!” He then declares that He who says such things (meaning in the Qur’an) is worthy of worship Alone. At this point, ‘Umar’s sister expresses great delight and Khabbab emerges from the inside room with a smile on his face and says “The Prophet’s du’a has been realized…he said may God glorify Islam with one of these men: Abul Hakam ibn Hisham (Abu Jahl) or ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. ‘Umar then remembers his conversation with ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud earlier on and is moved.

‘Umar then asks to be taken to the presence of the Prophet. He arrives at the Prophet’s house (still strapped with his sword) and the sahaba inside are hesitant to let him in at first, but Hamza tells them to open the door. When ‘Umar enters, Hamza pins him to the wall demanding to know why he has come armed. Next, as the  Prophet enters the room (implied), ‘Umar acknowledges the Oneness of God and the Prophethood of Muhammad…at which point all the sahaba present declare God is Great and embrace ‘Umar. ‘Umar also sees his brother (Zayd ibn al-Khattab) among the sahaba and tells him “You preceded me in Islam”. ‘Umar then commits himself, in the presence of the Prophet and all the sahaba, that he will do everything in his power to further Islam.

He then immediately goes to the house of Abu Jahl, bangs on the door, and–when Abu Jahl answers–tells him that he should know that he has now become a Muslim. Abu Jahl slams the door in his face. Next, he goes to the home of al-Walid ibn Mughirah and does the same thing. Finally, in the presence of the remaining nobles of Quraysh (‘Utbah, Abu Sufyan, Umayyah, etc.) he declares openly that he has become a Muslim and is now a proud follower of the Prophet. They set some thugs on him, but he soon overwhelms him with his physical strength until one of his tribal allies arrives and threatens the Banu ‘Abd al-Shams (the dominant tribe in Quraysh) with retaliation if they attack anyone of their allies again (‘Umar, from the Banu ‘Adi tribe, being one of them). Khalid ibn al-Walid, speaking with another Meccan noble, asserts that the the conversion of ‘Umar to Islam has changed the whole equation in Mecca.

‘Umar then gathers all the Banu ‘Adi around him, asserts his conversion to Islam, and calls them to the new religion. The next scene shows ‘Umar in the presence of the Prophet imploring him to allow him and the Muslims to pray at the Ka’ba, even if the disbelievers should detest it. Then, we see a group of Muslims (including all the prominent sahaba) led by the Prophet (not shown or heard) chanting the shahadah marching towards the center of Mecca to where the Ka’ba is. They then proceed to pray.

The Quraysh are then gathered once more for a council and this time are in real panic, discussing the events which have transpired since the conversion of ‘Umar who had been one of the most outspoken advocates of an anti-Islamic policy in Mecca. It was a real victory for Islam that he converted, they say.  The Quraysh then decide to challenge Muhammad to perform miracles in public to humiliate him in front of the people. There follows a public encounter between ‘Umar and the main notables of Quraysh, in which the former explains to them that their challenge to the Prophet is merely another sign of their disbelief, since even if he brought forth all the wondrous miracles they asked for, they would continue to disbelieve (he cites a number of Qur’anic verses to this effect). The next scene shows the Muslim exiles in Abyssinia receiving news that both Hamza and ‘Umar have converted (and that a large number of people in Mecca have entered Islam), which prompts many of them to return to the Arabian Peninsula. Finally, the episode ends with the imprisonment by Suhayl ibn ‘Amr of his two sons who have converted to Islam.

Review: This episode, by far, was the most intriguing, moving and engaging. The major event of ‘Umar’s conversion was done perfectly and was taken, almost word for word, from the classical Islamic texts. The emotional and psychological moments between ‘Umar’s persecution of his brother-in-law and sister and his acceptance of the Oneness of God are conveyed perfectly on screen. The actual scene of the conversion (in the presence of the Prophet and the Sahaba) could also not have been done any better. I really enjoyed watching the character of ‘Umar transform completely within this episode from one of the staunchest persecutors of Islam into one of its most committed champions. The impact of this event on Mecca (and the Quraysh) was also very well-done! All-in-all, an excellent episode and a great way to transition into the next phase of  the story of this great man’s life!

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“Umar” Ramadan Series: Review and Synopsis of Episode 7

Synopsis: This episode begins by showing the beating of ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud by the Quraysh and then turns to ‘Umar sitting with his household expressing frustration at what he witnessed…he asserts that the Muslims have responded to persecution with calls to peace and that their weak have become strong and their strong have become merciful. He continues and says that “we” (i.e. the Quraysh) allow the strong to oppress the weak, while the Muslims care for one another, with the rich and powerful among them bearing the burdens of the weak, and cites the example of Abu Bakr and ‘Uthman in freeing many Muslim slaves. He then laments how Ibn Mas’ud was beaten by the Quraysh. At this point, his brother in law interrupts him and says he also perpetrates persecution against Muslims…’Umar declares that he only persecutes those of his own rank (not the weaker ones) and proceeds to assert that these divisions within Quraysh have all arisen because of the Prophet. He then vows to murder the Prophet in order to restore peace and order…before his sister interrupts him and implores him to think carefully about what he is saying. His brother-in-law (or brother?) then raises his voice and tells him to cast all such thoughts from his mind.

The next scene shows Abu Bakr and the Prophet (not physically depicted obviously, but the context makes it clear he is there as well) praying near the Ka’ba…which provokes the ire of Abu Jahl who rallies the nobles of Quraysh. As they approach the Ka’ba, Abu Bakr casts himself between them and the Prophet and tells them to fear God and questions how they can persecute someone merely for saying “my Lord is God.” Abu Jahl then proceeds to physically attack and beat Abu Bakr quite severely and pushes him away, at which point another Qurayshi noble (‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah) begins whipping him brutally until he falls unconscious. During all this, ‘Umar is watching from afar. As Abu Bakr regains consciousness (in the next scene, surrounded by his friends and family), he immediately asks about the Prophet and his condition, and whether he was at all harmed. Even in his weakened state, he continues to inquire about the whereabouts and safety of the Prophet. He then is carried to the Prophet’s house by his relatives. Once inside, Abu Bakr brings his mother into the house where she takes the shahdah at the hands of the Prophet himself. A very touching scene.

The next scene goes to the house of ‘Utbah, where Abu Hudhayfa is chastising his father for his oppression against the Muslims and Abu Bakr in particular. ‘Utbah is unapologetic and declares that his son should be thankful that he has not inflicted any punishment on him, even though other notables of Quraysh had already done so to their sons who followed Muhammad. Abu Hudhayfa says that God will judge between them, as he judges between truth and falsehood. Elsewhere, there is a small scuffle in the home of al-Walid ibn Mughirah where his sons al-Walid and Khalid ibn al-Walid (yes, the famous general) are arguing over the teachings of Islam. Khalid is staunchly against, while al-Walid seeks to convince his father and brother that such teachings bring mercy, justice and compassion into the world, and are not as bad as the Quraysh are making them seem; however, he declares, he has not become a Muslim yet. The next scene shows ‘Umar approaching ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud sitting under a tree at night just outside Mecca. They engage in discussion and about religion. Very moving. the relationship between these two characters is among the most interesting in the show so far

The next scene shows al-Walid ibn Mughirah approaching ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab the next morning and telling him that the Prophet had given permission for some of his followers to migrate to Abyssinian…and said it seemed very strange. We are then returned to ‘Utbah and Abu Hudhayfa arguing again, this time about the latter’s decision to migrate to Abyssinia. A lot more goes down…with the Quraysh continuing to deliberate about how to deal with the Muslims, especially in light of their new decision for a substantial number of them to leave Mecca. Wahshi and Bilal then run into each other in Mecca and get into a serious argument, with Bilal trying to convince Wahshi about Islam, but the latter refusing to listen. Much of the episode revolves around a lot of the personal struggles and journeys of several of the Muslims from Mecca to Abyssinia.

Next, we see Ja’far ibn Abi Talib leading the delegation of the Muslims to the Negus of Abyssinia, who grants them safety and sanctuary…the Negus reassures them that, like all prophets, Muhammad will be successful but they have to be patient and trust in God. Back in Mecca, the Quraysh are in a major crisis…worried about the establishment of the Muslims in Abyssinia. Abu Sufyan, in particular, is anxious that such a situation could dramatically disrupt Meccan trade in Abyssinia. The solution of the council: lessen the persecution of the Muslims in Mecca until a more viable answer to Islam is found.

Review: This episode was rather slow, but nevertheless good. I thought they did an OK job dealing with the migration of the Muslims to Abyssinia and the reverberations this move had on the Quraysh. I really love how each early Muslim has his/her own small plot and storyline which all interweave together as the story develops further. However, I feel that more attention needs to be devoted to the character of ‘Umar, who seems important but not important enough in this episode. After all, the show is named after him! Also, at times, the plot seems rather erratic and moves too frequently between the different characters rather than focusing substantially upon one. I suppose this is the best way to cover the most ground, but it is also a little distracting for the viewer.

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