Sun. Jan 16th, 2022

On Saturday afternoon the Muslim Student Association presented a screening of the 1976 film “The Message: The Story of Islam,” which details the life of the prophet Mohammed and the beginnings of the Islamic faith.”The Message” stars legendary actor Anthony Quinn as Mohammed’s warrior-uncle Hamza. Quinn is best known for his role in “Lawrence of Arabia.” It was directed by Moustapha Akkad, the famed Hollywood producer behind the “Halloween” franchise. Akkad served as producer on each of the franchise’s first eight films. He passed away in 2005, two years prior to Rob Zombie’s remake hitting theaters. He received an “In Memory of” credit on that film.

The film’s composer, Maurice Jarre, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

“The Message” follows the life of Mohammed as he begins his role as the Prophet of Islam. It traces the origins of the faith to its roots in Mecca, where early Muslims were persecuted for their beliefs. Eventually, Mohammed led a group that reached about 70 in size from Mecca to a city called Medina, where they were welcomed.

While in Medina, the religion grew in size and strength. After much hardship, Mohammed and his followers became strong enough to not only return to Mecca, but take over the city as well. In time they were able to spread their faith throughout the world. Recent estimates say that there are over one billion Muslims in the world today.

In accordance with Muslim tradition, Mohammed is never seen or heard in the film. This means that even though Mohammad is the film’s main character, he is nowhere to be found in it.

Whenever he is present, light organ music is played. “The Message” breaks the fourth wall often by having characters address the camera directly, with the camera acting as the point-of-view of the prophet. His words are only spoken through the voices of others, who repeat them rather then have Mohammed say them himself.

Also off limits to depict are any of Mohammed’s wives, daughters or sons-in-law.

This latter restriction comes into play during a crucial battle scene late in the film where Ali, one of his sons-in-law, fights an adversary one on one. Only Ali’s sword, which is known as Zulfiqar, is shown.

One scene towards the conclusion of the film features Mohammed riding triumphantly back in Mecca. In it only his camel and his staff are shown, the rest is shot from his point-of-view.

The film faced tremendous hostility initially from several Muslim groups when rumors spread that Quinn would in fact be portraying Mohammed. Some went so far as to threaten to blow up buildings in order to prevent the film’s release. No acts of violence were ever perpetrated, though the film was banned in many Middle Eastern countries. These countries were against the idea of Mohammed’s story being turned into a movie.

Two versions of the film exist, one in English and another that was filmed in Arabic. Each features different actors in the main roles. The films were shot simultaneously, with actors performing a scene in one language, only to have it reshot immediately after with a new cast speaking a different language.

The Arabic version of the film is known as “Al-Risalah” and is often sold on DVD packed with the English version.

“The Message” tells the history of Islam in great detail. The film runs almost three hours in length, as it meticulously recreates the world that Mohammed lived and taught in. Crew members spent over four months constructing the city of Mecca alone.

The film tells a story that few outside of the Muslim faith have heard and it gives insight into the world’s largest- and possibly most misunderstood- religion. It’s meaning has not decreased with age.

Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu

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