Thursday, November 23, 2006

Muslims welcome Ramadan with a film dubbed in Tausug

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Sep 12, 2006) – Something old becomes new again. The 1976 Anthony Quinn movie, The Message, will screen in the city when Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan beginning September 23 or 24, but the original English and Arabic language movie will be dubbed in the Tausug dialect.

Peace Loving People (PLP) Productions, a community based independent production group spearheaded this project. PLP in good faith thought of translating the film so that the locals can appreciate and understand the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad, which is what the film is about. PLP believes that breaking the language barrier and making the movie accessible to the masses will better convey the essence of Islam in this day and age. The movie will screen on the first week of Ramadan.

The holy month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is the fasting month for all Muslims. It is a special time in Islamic history in which Allah revealed in the Qur'an that the reward for good deeds, acts of charity and acts of worship are multiplied in this month.

The Message, directed and produced by Mustafa Akkad, chronicles the early history of Islam as well as the time before the advent of Islam when most Arabs were not monotheistic and worshipped a number of male and female deities. The Prophet Muhammad changed all that when he began preaching Islam, the religion that believes in one God and respects all the prophets He had sent .He also encouraged the people to stay true to the five pillars of Islam, namely faith, prayer, fasting, alms-giving, and pilgrimage.

Handling a delicate issue

While it is forbidden in Islam to depict the Prophet Muhammad in anyway, the movie sidesteps the delicate issue by not directly showing a physical representation of the Prophet. Instead. actors talk directly to the camera. This avoidance of the use of images depicting or representing religious figures in order to maintain the mystery and respect their holiness is called aniconism.

According to the Internet Movie Database, the film was made in both English and Arabic with two different casts. Scenes were shot back to back in both languages. Initially, the movie was said to have been banned in many Middle Eastern countries because religious leaders were averse to the idea of having Prophet Mohammed's story made into a motion picture.

While the movie was beset by production problems, it went on to receive an Oscar nomination for the musical score of Maurice Jarre.The film also shows how peace can be obtained. Muhammad reveals to thepeople that He will not go to war unless it is in defense of the people and cautions them against going on the offensive against anyone. In the story, Muslims were also shown being welcomed by Catholics in Ethiopia – clearly demonstrating the unity and religious tolerance between Muslims and Christians during those times.

The practice of Ramadan

Coming as it does just as the Ramadan begins, the movie becomes a meditation on Islam and the way of the Prophet, who fasted for a month from water and food and abstained from sexual intercourse. The Ramadan is a time to be in tune with the faith and 12-year-olds are initiated into the practice of fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four are Traditionally, most Muslims in the Southern Philippines spend the first day of fast doing away with distractions from the outside world. This includes watching television, listening to the radio, reading magazines unless the media is related to Qu'ranic verses or prayer sermons.

Restaurants owned by Muslims are closed during the daytime and open thewhole night for those who wish to break their fast during Iftar (meal in the evening) and Suhoor (a meal before the sun rises). During these times, traditional Tausug, Yakan, Sama and Badjao food can be enjoyed.Aside from shutting out outside factors, Muslims also work on obtaining inner peace. Everyone avoids speaking or thinking ill of anyone and repent for bad actions done in the past. After Muslims break their fast by eating and drinking after the sun sets, they then go to the mosque to pray the Tarawih. It is the next valuable step to perfecting Ramadan evenings.

‘The Message’ on TV

PLP Productions also plan on broadcasting the film on local television channels in Zamboanga City as well as Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu. The film will also be shown in schools after the Eidl Fitr, the festival that ends the fasting month. The festival is celebrated through a prayer in the mosque followed by sumptuous neighborhood banquets. Like the Christian practice of Christmas, generosity fills the air and kids get goodies from their kin. The celebration aims to thank God for his mercy, the renewal of one's faith and the dedication to doing good and avoiding evil.

With The Message dubbed in Tausug (it’s been translated into 12 other languages, according to the IMDB), Muslim youths can easily relate to and learn about Islamic history. It will also make them aware of a universal truth – that we are all brothers and sisters and must love one another.This seals the message of the Prophet Muhammad.
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