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“Umar” Ramadan Series: Review and Synopsis of Episode 16

Synopsis: The episode begins with Khalid ibn al-Walid deep in contemplative thought on the hills of Mecca. He then suddenly gets up and walks down into the town and goes to the Ka’ba. Suddenly a man approaches him and hands him a letter, telling him it’s from his brother al-Walid ibn al-Walid. The letter is a summons to Islam and tells Khalid that the Prophet himself asked about Khalid, saying that he should embrace Islam and would not only be a great asset to the Muslims but would himself be glorified by Islam. The letter ends by imploring Khalid to consider the words within the letter and to embrace Islam. Khalid is clearly deeply affected by these words and rides out on his camel (heading for Medina). On the road, he runs into ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, who he is surprised to see. After they embrace, ‘Amr asks Khalid where he is going and the latter replies that the matter has become clear to him and that Muhammad is indeed a Prophet, and that he (Khalid) is going to Medina to accept Islam. ‘Amr replies by stating that he was also heading to Medina…for the exact same purpose. When they get to Medina, a crowd is waiting for them, headed by ‘Umar and al-Walid ibn al-Walid, who warmly embrace ‘Amr and Khalid. The former tell the latter that the Prophet had told his Companions that they were coming to the city to embrace Islam and that everyone was happy at the news. The two are then taken to the mosque of the Prophet to take their shahadah. As Khalid recites the declaration of the faith in the presence of the Prophet, the Muslims of the city erupt into takbirs and cheers celebrating the event. Khalid, however, is solemn and tells the Prophet that he hopes God will forgive him all the times he fought against the Muslims and the Prophet. ‘Amr next takes his shahdah and also begs the Prophet’s mercy and forgiveness for all the times he fought against him.

In Mecca, Safwan ibn Umayyah and Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl are talking about what a major blow the conversions of Khalid and ‘Amr have been to the Quraysh. They state that if they were ever to embrace Islam, it would be like killing their own fathers anew. In Medina (as a contrast) Khalid ibn al-Walid is seen reciting the verses of the Qur’an which were revealed about his father (al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah) in the early stages of Islam…it is only with great difficulty that he manages to finish the verse and is greatly saddened by the fact that his father died a disbeliever, a fact to which the Qur’an attests. The next scene shows al-Walid ibn al-Walid dying in Medina, with some prominent companions around him. He turns to his brother Khalid and tells him that he is glad to leave the world knowing that his brother has embraced the message of the Prophet. After uttering the shahadah, he passes away.

The next scene has a  Khuza’ah (allied to the Muslims) caravan near Mecca being ambushed and attacked by Quraysh-allied Bedouin raiders from Banu Bakr. Several of the Muslims are violently killed. In Mecca, Abu Sufyan is outraged and worried that this attack (which was apparently done independently without any major chiefs consent) would break the truce between Muhammad and the Quraysh. In Mecca, an emissary from the Khuza’ah is reciting beautiful poetry which encapsulates his anger at the betrayal of the Quraysh and urges the Prophet to take action. Next, we see Abu Sufyan entering Medina (arrogantly, as always) and trying to convince Abu Bakr that Quraysh was innocent of the actions which led to the breaking of the truce. He then asks Abu Bakr to use his influence to convince the Prophet to renew the truce; Abu Bakr bluntly refuses. He then asks ‘Umar to do the same, and the latter responds quite forcefully by asserting that if the Prophet ordered him to strike the neck of Abu Sufyan within the hour, he would…so Abu Sufyan can forget about ‘Umar even considering to influence the Prophet to renew the truce. Next, Abu Sufyan approaches ‘Ali (who is holding a young al-Hasan in his arms) and tells him that he is perhaps the most inclined to mercy and justice among the Quraysh, and he could intercede for him with the Prophet. ‘Ali responds firmly by telling him that he would not and that the Prophet has firmly set his mind on this matter (the termination of the truce) and there is no chance of convincing him otherwise. ‘Ali tells Abu Sufyan that, as the leader of his people, it is up to him to take the right course of action. Abu Sufyan is next shown back in Mecca telling the chieftains (Suhayl ibn ‘Amr, Ikrimah ibn Abu Jahl, Safwan ibn Umayyah) that he was unable to secure anything for the Quraysh with Muhammad. Later when at home, Hind tries to convince her husband (Abu Sufyan) to keep up the struggle against the Prophet. He responds by saying that things have now changed and the Prophet is now politically powerful. She tells him that he is very mistaken if he thinks that if he converts to Islam, he will ever be granted a position (within the Muslim community) more significant than Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, or even Bilal (“the former slave of Umayyah ibn Khalaf”). She then insults her husband and thanks the gods that her father is not alive to witness the travesty taking place.

Around the hills of Mecca, thousands of Muslim soldiers are now encamped. Abu Sufyan is shown as riding into the encampment. ‘Umar sees him and praises God that He has brought Abu Sufyan crawling to the Muslims in such a humiliated state and is about to say more, but is stopped short by al-‘Abbas (the Prophet’s uncle), who tells ‘Umar to chill out. As he is brought into the presence of the Prophet, Abu Sufyan declares that “la illaha illallah” and is then pressed by al-‘Abbas to recite the second part of the shahadah. Abu Sufyan says “as for that, there is still doubt in my heart”. He is then pressed even more harshly on this point by al-‘Abbas until he finally declares the entire shahadah, but still maintains the smug look on his face. When al-‘Abbas declares to the Muslims that Abu Sufyan has embraced Islam, ‘Umar privately tells Abu Bakr that “By God, he [Abu Sufyan] did not utter the shahadah except from fear,” to which Abu Bakr replies that unless they rip open his heart and peer into his soul, only God can know that. He states that it is only for men to look at the outer appearance of things, and leave the inner for God to judge.

Abu Sufyan goes back into Mecca and announces that he has surrendered the city. There is outrage and Hind, his wife, screams at her husband and demands that the Quraysh execute him for treason and for delivering the city to the worst of enemies. She continues to insult Abu Sufyan and humiliate him, until he tells her quite forcefully to go home. Abu Sufyan announces that the conditions of the surrender were that all who remain in their houses or in the vicinity of the Ka’ba will not be harmed. Safwan, Ikrimah, and Suhayl vow to fight against the invaders and not accept the surrender. The Muslims, now about 10,000 in number, approach the city from all sides and loudly proclaim the takbir as they enter. From one side of the city, ‘Ikrimah, Safwan, and Suhayl put up some resistance to the brigade under the command of Khalid ibn al-Walid, but soon flee from the city. When they reach the Ka’ba, the Muslims are shown as destroying the idols and representations of the pre-Islamic deities. As the Muslim amass at the Ka’ba, Bilal climbs to the top of the structure and proclaims the athan. Next, several Muslims are seen going through the streets of Mecca proclaiming safety to all the inhabitants of Mecca, beckoning them to come out of their homes and go to the Prophet. In Abu Sufyan’s house, Hind and Abu Sufyan are discussing the situation and the former asks if the matter has come to an end, with Abu Sufyan responding in the alternative. He asserts that the Prophet has proven to be merciful and forgiving, more than the Quraysh deserve. Hind is still reluctant to accept the new reality, but is told that the next day she (and the other women of Quraysh) are obligated to go and pledge the oath of the allegiance to the Prophet. She asks how she can dare stand in his presence after the atrocity she committed against his uncle Hamzah, and Abu Sufyan asserts that either way her oath of allegiance will be accepted. Hind then asks her husband whether the religion of his forefathers has completely left his heart…and he declares that it has, for if such a faith was of any benefit, then it would have assisted him in his time of need. However, he states, he does not feel himself transformed and the past continues to haunt him as he has spent more years combating Islam than there are left in his life…and then erupts into a delerius assertion of his own status and position within Quraysh under the old order. Hind looks towards the idols in the room as he speaks and the episode ends.

Review: This episode was excellently done and very well-paced. I thought the conversions of Khalid ibn al-Walid and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As were done well and conveyed the significance of the event quite accurately. I thought the scene of Khalid reciting the verses which were revealed as a testimony to the unbelief of al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah (Khalid’s father) was important and signified Khalid’s desire to attain a sense of closure about his father’s disbelief and how different he was from him. Indeed, the very verse recited prophesies how al-Walid’s own sons would become Muslim. The breaking of the treaty of Hudaybiyya was also done quite well, as was Abu Sufyan’s reaction to it. However, I think they should have attempted to include the scene of Abu Sufyan approaching his daughter (the Prophet’s wife) and asking her to intercede for him as well, which she utterly refused to do. The conquest of Mecca was done pretty well (again, however, the post-battle/conquest executions were completely excluded, presumably because they would offend a 21st-century audience) and the representation of the smashing of the idols conveys the chaotic manner in which this was undertaken. However, they neglected to show the Prophet entering the Ka’ba and destroying the idol of Hubal himself, which is an event highlighted by all classical accounts. The scene with Bilal climbing the Ka’ba and proclaiming the athan as all the Companions (including all those who had struggled with the Prophet from the beginning) reflected upon God’s mercy at their changed reality.

One thing I thought they did a perfect job with, even though it is likely to be extremely controversial among certain circles was the role of Hind and Abu Sufyan vis-a-vis Islam. Hind, in particular, emerges as the key ideological opponent of the Prophet and the primary regressive force which refuses to accept the new reality. As the final scene indicates, Abu Sufyan (although officially a Muslim) still retains much of his bitterness towards the changed reality in Mecca and seems to be struggling to maintain his adherence to the new faith and his commitment to regaining his former stature. I thought the exclusion of Yazid and Mu’awiyah (Abu Sufyan’s sons) was quite odd…especially since they are key figures during the Islamic conquests, which will presumably be shown in future episodes. Mu’awiyah, in particular, is an important figure later (he rebels against ‘Ali and founds the Umayyad Caliphate) so it would have been interesting to see him brought in at this point in the story for viewers to get a sense of his role/perspective at this crucial juncture.

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