It all started with one word. I was browsing the Middle East Monitor (at https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20230322-saudi-arabia-is-retelling-the-hijrah-and-shaping-a-new-narrative-through-art/) and the word retelling. Now in media the word retelling has a negative connection, especially when the word narrative is in that sentence, as such the title ‘Saudi Arabia is retelling the Hijrah and shaping a new narrative through art’ drew my attention. Now, I had no idea what Hijrah was, so I had to look it up. Hijrah gave me “the Prophet Muhammad’s migration (622 ce) from Mecca to Yathrib (Medina) upon invitation in order to escape persecution”, as a non-Muslim I had no idea of that, as such I was interested to learn more. It must have been quite the trip as it is about 450Km. Which on camel implies about 3 days travel. But back to the article. There we are given “The exhibition “Hijrah: In the Footsteps of the Prophet” and the documentary “In the Footsteps of the Beloved” are embracing historical and scientific evidence, signalling a change in Saudi Arabia. There is a long sequence in the movie where a Saudi archaeologist, very thin and emaciated, is walking up a mountain in the desert. A black man is bravely holding an umbrella sheltering him from the sun, and going up the hill with him. It’s a long sequence, that seems almost to stress the suffering of the two men. The archaeologist in the film is actually Dr Abdullah Alkadi, a scholar who — according to a guide at the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (Ithra) — travelled in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad more than fifty times in order to retrace the Prophet’s 8-day journey from Makkah to Madinah in 622, known as the Hijrah.” Now that is a worthy side for anyone to see and as Dr Alkadi is focussing on historical evidence, aided by science and modern technology we get to see the a side of Islam that anyone would, or should be interested in seeing. And then the jackpot comes from Idries Trevathan, curator of Ithra. He gives us “bringing scientific evidence through the medium of art allowed us a bit more freedom of exploration” that is one art show I should try to visit (well, when it comes to Sydney), perhaps it never comes to Sydney and we would have to visit it in Saudi Arabia. Scientific views through art is a noble endeavour, no matter what the narrative tends to be. No matter how I see it, this is something all non-Muslims need to take notice off and I feel certain if this movie makes it to BluRay I will seek it out. With my extremely limited knowledge of Islam, I had nothing more than the movie ‘How to assassinate a politician’, I wonder what people with actual knowledge of Islam can create and the title ‘In the footsteps of the prophet’ seems a lot more worthy. Even as it is seen a more arthouse and lacking action, it gives a larger population an insight towards the prophet. Anyone who wanted to learn more about Islam should be on the first line of a place that sells the movie after its cinema release. I reckon that sales numbers will go through the roof in Bangla Dash, Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey as well.
And I did not seek this out, one word drew me into the article and I learned a whole lot more that hour than merely something about a narrative. There are times when simple curiosity pays off in the most unexpected ways.