There is a lack of film or documentary about Muslim and Islamic history in general, let alone films that are accurate, reliable, inspiring, or educational. Here is a great selection from Alchemiya that you can watch today.
By Basmah Ali
Nazi-occupied Paris, 1942. A child escapes a raid and takes refuge in the Great Mosque, where Imam Kaddour Ben Ghabrit decides to protect him.
Based on actual events, Ensemble – The Story of the Paris Mosque in World War II is a short and unusual drama that tells a little known story about European Muslims during World War II.
During the Nazi occupation of Paris, Kaddour Ben Ghabrit saved over 1,600 Jewish children and helped them to escape through the networks of the French resistance. It is a heart-warming tale of the selfless sacrifice made by the Imam in his attempt to save lives, and a proud reminder of the Muslim imperative to help others even in the face of personal danger.
Staying with the Second World War, another little told story unfolds in For Allah, King and Country, an inspiring documentary about the Indian Muslims who fought for Britain in WW2.
The documentary traces their footsteps from the muddy battlefields of Germany to Palestine and Mesopotamia and then to British hospitals. We learn of their strength and honour in battle, and visit the memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives. Many British Asian Muslims are descendants of those who sacrificed their lives in the world wars, and this documentary both keeps their legacy alive and provides a fitting memorial on film for future generations.
To bring us up to date in Britain we have The A-Z of British Islam. Before watching this superb documentary I did not realise the extent to which Muslim history in Britain predated our parents!
It uncovers our heritage and delves into what it means to be both British and Muslim. From unexpected Victorian Muslims to new converts and school children, this documentary weaves a beautiful tapestry of British Muslim history and life in the UK.
Aziza and Zainab travel the length and breadth of the country, meeting British Muslims and finding out what life is really like for them. They ask great questions and get some great answers really expanding this documentary into a very contemporary and interesting discussion about where things stand in the present.
For some much older and non-European history let’s go back to the 14th Century and learn about Ibn Battuta.
Born in Tangiers in 1304, he was an Islamic legal scholar whose wish to travel alone on his first Hajj at the age of 21, was the beginning of three decades of travel that surpassed even the travels of Marco Polo. With narrow escapes, near death experiences and his other trials and transformations all depicted along the way, Journey to Mecca: In the footsteps of Ibn Battuta is a very exciting and inspirational drama to watch.
Read a more in-depth review of Journey to Mecca: in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta here.
We will conclude almost 300 years before Ibn Battuta’s epic journey began, by exploring the life and impact of the greatest spiritual and legal philosopher in Islamic history, Al Ghazali, or to give him his full name, Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad Al Tusi Al Ghazali.
Revealing profound parallels with our own times, Al Ghazali: The Alchemist of Happiness, examines the development of Ghazali’s philosophical thought and his existential crisis of faith that arose from his rejection of religious dogmatism.
Ghazali became known as the ‘Proof of Islam’ and his path of love and spiritual excellence overcame the pitfalls of the organised religion of his day. His path was largely abandoned by early 20th century Muslim reformers for the more strident and less tolerant school of Ibn Taymiyya. Combining drama with documentary, this film argues that Ghazali’s Islam is an antidote to many of our crises in the present.
Read a more about the Al-Ghazali – The Alchemist of Happiness here.