Ertugrul and Umar Series, Is it Our New Medium?

Suhaib Shahab introduces Dirilis Ertugrul and Umar drama series in the backgrounds of early days of revelation of the Qur’ān and the present days of Facebook Generation, and underlines the need for grabbing this most impactful medium to disseminate our word to the masses.

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Suhaib Shahab introduces Dirilis Ertugrul and Umar drama series in the backgrounds of early days of revelation of the Qur’ān and the present days of Facebook Generation, and underlines the need for grabbing this most impactful medium to disseminate our word to the masses.

Aforetime when poetic rhymes were spectacle, amusement or fun for Arabs, God revealed His message – the Qur’ān, whose literary greatness, inimitability and impeccability mesmerised Arabia that embraced it as heavenly in a span of just 23 years – fastest ever. History is yet to witness any such mission.

When the Almighty decreed His Messenger ﷺ to broadcast the heavenly communique publicly, it was the custom in Makkah to take off one’s clothes and announce from Mount Safa – what we call today the big breaking news or new talk in the town. It was Twitter or BBC – media of the time. The Prophet, who was ordained to perfect morals, did take liberty of then modern-day media to preconise his message, omitting the immoral part. God and His Prophet didn’t fail to keep tabs on media channels of the 7th century, of course by deleting the grimy script and enjoying its competency and efficacy.

The 21st century is called the Facebook Generation, the generation which grew up watching Harry Potter. They don’t read better, they watch the longest, surf social networks all days and nights, a clip of TikTok can brand you a celeb star, kids even fetch fortunes through these mediums be a tiny baby shark video clip on YouTube amassing you views in billion. An average American kid watches the television 28 hours a week; youths in India crave for Wifi for more than anything else. For them a day without it is inconceivable!

Undoubtedly, there are hideous demerits of these medias, it’s like the analogy of a knife employed to murder although it could be used for cutting breads or cakes; Constructive? Or Destructive? All up to you.

Like Mount Safa, these mediums could productively be availed of and one such work was manifested by Mehmet Bozdag when he directed a drama series Dirilis Ertugrul. Urdu dubbing of Turkish drama took the subcontinent by storm, setting new records when the pilot episode was launched, breaking record of most new subscribers of YouTube channel in a month. Series views reached three billion and had entered Guinness Book of World Records as best in history of global drama.

The drama illustrates the struggle and sacrifices of Kayi tribe, Suleyman Shah, his son Ertugrul and his grandson Osman while laying foundation stones of the Ottoman Empire which ruled over three continents for six centuries. Often described as Turkish Game of Thrones, a set based in Turkey recreating scenes of 13th century Anatolia was visited by prominent world leaders like Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, then Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and others.

Bozdag, in his work, did succeed in keeping binge watchers of the show at edge of seats hooked up throughout. Turkish TRT1 Channel is attracting new such historical series and film making by other directors like Sultan Muhammad Alparslan and Melik Shah of Seljuk dynasty and Unus Emre. It’s not an unprecedented work for Muslims in this arena of cinematography. Earlier, Irani production too filmed a series ‘The Yusuf’ on life of Prophet Yusuf though the finest work is a 2-hour movie ‘The Message’ shot in Morocco and Libya, depicting the message of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

What a work! ‘Umar Series’ directed by Hatim Ali has been produced by Qatari cinema under the supervision of Dr. Yusuf al Qaradhawi on the entire biography of great Caliph Umar. Eighty per cent of the narrations in it are authentic as per Dr Zakir Naik, who recommended watching the 30-episode series and also the film ‘The Message’.

Umar Series covers the struggle of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his Companions in Makkah, decisive battles fought in the foundation and burgeoning period of Islam, Hijrat, socio-political and economic aspects of the Muslim community in Madinah and the entire 10 years regnant of Caliph Umar, encompassing spread of Islam all over Arabian Peninsula in his lifetime.

Unlike Ertugrul, which is surely part of our glorious history sketching struggles of our ancestors produced in assisting Islam to reach us and making us proud being part of a global religion, spread in every corner of the world having devotees in every culture and in every language, Umar Series is more of describing Islam from its original source or is exhibiting the source of Islam. It’s focused on drawing inception of Islam, elucidating What Islam is. What was its authorised message when it originated and what every Muslim should know about. It includes the process of revelation, backlashes and plotting of idolaters and enemies in Makkah and responses the Qur’ān gave in return.

Hatim Ali’s series describes a city before the advent of Islam, journeying through transition from an ignorant civilization to becoming the most auspicious and cultivated land that the world would ever see. It unfolded the course how great companions like Khalid Bin Walid schemed and plotted alongside enemies of the Prophet ﷺ until becoming the greatest military man and commander that has ever lived.

The series exhibits how the great Companions dealt with individual and state affairs and Islamic Jurisprudence when revelation had ceased and there was no prophet among them to right their wrongs. The programme evinced how the Caliph of such a mammoth empire lived with frugality and piousness of highest level until he was martyred.

It’s important for a drama to create impact on its watchers’ soul, bringing changes in them smaller may they be. Umar Series has achieved its goal in bringing revolution to hearts. None can emulate Caliph Umar – one of the greatest Companions – but actor Samer Ismail did his best in absorbing the role to the best of his ability.

Indisputably, nothing is better than reading memoirs of these great companions, fathoming their sacrifices or struggles however for a generation. To read these memoirs or watching dramas or films produced on the bases of these memoirs could provide an alternative for the readers and watchers and thereby help them keep from the Hollywoods and Bollywoods. The great memoirs we have are unmatched, unerring and just according to human psyche. They could never be compared to Bollywood that has Nagins (human-snakes) as lead characters or Hollywood where a lead role in the form of a professor manoeuvring how to concoct biggest heist, justifying robbery of national gold reserves.

Need is for Muslims to make best use of this realm of the planet’s most impactful medium and disseminate our word to both Muslims and Non-Muslims who live in this art day in and day out.

[The writer, based in Mumbai, is Mechanical Engineer by profession and Member of SIO]