Omar: The Second Caliph is a unique and much celebrated drama series that tells the story of Islam through the perspective of Omar ibn al-Khattab, the second Rashidun Caliph. Historically accurate and beautifully made, countless Hadith are brought to life as we travel with Omar on one of Islam’s most important spiritual journeys.
by Sarah Khurshid
Imagine this: You have just finished work on a Friday evening. Although you have prayed Isha Salaah, you are still feeling physically stressed and spiritually low. As you turn off your laptop, you see members of your family buzzing and visibly excited to be spending the evening together. How about watching a family-friendly drama series with enough punch to satisfy your desire for weekend escapism, allow you to unwind with your family and remind you of your purpose as a Muslim? Great idea but you have already binge-watched all the episodes of Ertugrul as well as caught up with Osman. Now what?
Omar: The Second Caliph is a renowned 31-part, historical miniseries that uncovers the life of the beloved companion of Prophet Muhammad and the second Rashidun Caliph, Omar ibn al-Khattab. The series was released during Ramadan in 2012, and was directed by Hatem Ali, who had previously recreated Islamic history for the screen in his 2001 series Salah Al-Din.
Omar: The Second Caliph, features a stellar production team and a talented cast, including Ghassan Massoud, who starred as the Ayyubid Sultan, Saladin, in Ridley Scott’s 2005 film, Kingdom of Heaven, making Omar TV entertainment of the highest quality. However, the concept of portraying such a pivotal and influential figure in Islamic history for entertainment purposes may alienate some viewers. Reassuringly, the production team maintained responsibility for the portrayal of Omar by consulting a committee of Islamic scholars to ensure historical accuracy and avoid sensationalising the life and legacy of Omar ibn al-Khattab. The team’s attentiveness to its portrayal of Omar and his spiritual journey, from a young and hostile nonbeliever to the most just and merciful caliph, has enabled this hit series to become one of the most widely seen TV drama series in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
The series begins during the 23rd year of Hijra and features Omar, portrayed by Samer Ismail, reminiscing about his youth as a camel shepherd for the Quraysh. The series is valuable because it offers a distinct outlook on the life of the Quraysh and how the advent of Islam affected and changed the culture and lifestyles of the Arabian tribes. Moreover, the viewer sees exactly how Omar changes and develops from being a non-believing merchant and macho wrestler, to a compassionate and strong Muslim jurist and ruler.
As well as the rich and gripping storyline, the series has high production values that will satisfy even the pickiest viewers. The dynamic and polished opening sequence draws you straight into the story and the atmospheric and effortlessly recreated pre-Islamic period. The series was filmed in Morocco with a cast of 30,000 actors all fully at home in the bustling and lively shopping districts and places of worship including medieval Makkah.
Omar’s story is one that is cause for great celebration in the Muslim world because he opened his heart to Islam and repented for his past wrongdoing. Despite his vigorous temper, he actively chose to improve himself and made conscious and thoughtful choices that realigned him with his values as a Muslim. Omar: The Second Caliph is both valuable and enthralling to watch because it offers so much additional context to this giant of Muslim history making him accessible and much more real to the viewer.