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Nur: a rollercoaster of Malaysian Muslim drama

This acclaimed and controversial Malaysian drama series explores faith, love, self-interest, fame, family and hypocrisy within the Muslim community. First aired in 2018, Nur is a must-watch series with adult themes that is sure to spark a discussion.

by Sarah Khurshid

Get your popcorn. And a box of tissues! This week Alchemiya is reviewing Nur, an intense, 19 episode drama about the young and rising Ustaaz Adam as he falls in love with a prostitute named Nur. Created by Shahrulezad Mohammedan, this acclaimed and thought-provoking drama stars two prominent Malaysian actors, Syafiq Kyle as Ustaaz Adam, and Amyra Rosli as the titular character. These are the two central characters around which the story revolves. 

In the opening episode of Nur, the handsome and popular Adam returns to Malaysia from a trip to Jordan. Adam comes from an esteemed and celebrated family that runs an Islamic education centre in Malaysia where Adam’s father is a prominent and respected Ustaaz. 

However, Adam’s ambitious sister, Aishah, realises that her father’s approach does not connect or resonate with the younger generation. Wanting to protect and maximise her family’s success and business ventures, Aishah manipulates Adam’s homecoming and popularity by secretly arranging his marriage and encouraging him to take over his father’s position. Initially, Adam doubts his ability to support the community as an Ustaaz and resists marriage. On the other hand, he also feels a sense of duty to support his family. As he is undoubtedly pondering these challenging decisions, he becomes enamoured with the mysterious and inquisitive Nur. 

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The whole cast passionately portrays each distinct character with conviction and flair. Our leading male, Adam, is pious and admirable. As a rising Ustaaz, he is enthusiastic about representing his faith and offering support for his community.
However, as he deliberates between his noble intentions and his opposing desires his trajectory becomes clear. Although well-intentioned, he struggles with the choices and sacrifices he must make with everything intensified by his position in such an esteemed religious family.

Adam’s state of confusion and imperfection serves to humanise traditionally honoured figures in society, like the Ustaaz. This makes the struggles of the soon to be married, and imperfect Adam, a very relatable character for the audience. 

Throughout the series, Nur’s occupation as a prostitute becomes an open topic of debate. As a Muslim and a prostitute, Nur challenges the judgmentalism and preconceived assumptions about diverse Muslims and sex workers. Moreover, Nur’s storyline has close parallels with Adam’s storyline. His popularity, beauty and status as an eminent bachelor is manipulated by his sister to further her family’s business interests raising questions about his own agency. It is unlikely that these similarities in their storylines are coincidental and this in itself presents provocative commentary on attitudes and hypocrisies within Muslim communities. 

In this and many other ways Nur is a uniquely challenging contemporary drama. It gives us pause to reflect on things that mostly go unquestioned like the stereotypical simplicities of the impeccable Ustaaz and the shameful prostitute. On the pure entertainment level it is a riveting watch, packed with irony, sadness and heartfelt moments. It is shocking but this shock value is never gratuitous. It is just enough to grab your attention and open up wide ranging discussions. So get your popcorn and a box of tissues and prepare yourself for a Malaysian rollercoaster.

NOTE: What we are reviewing here is Season One of Nur. The whole series was conceived as a trilogy that includes a prequel and a much anticipated and popular Season Two. Alchemiya is currently in negotiation with the producers of Nur to get Season Two so… watch this space! 

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