Islamic history is a vast topic with many fascinating stories. It is heartbreaking that even though we have such a great history, many Muslims, both young and old, remain ignorant of the subject.
Understanding how Islam spread from a small, unknown city in Arabia to become one of the world’s most powerful empires transformed the globe in terms of science, literature, and architecture. Still, Islam changed the world for the better.
Islamic historical documentaries are always a great way to learn more about religion and history. But with so much Islamophobia around, can we still get our hands on authentic Islamic history? Rest assured because, in this blog, we bring to you some of the most revolutionary Islamic documentaries that will leave you mesmerized and are an eye-opener in every sense. From the early days of Islam to the contemporary conflicts in the middle east, spreading across different continents and providing entertainment, these documentaries cover information regarding the most popular beliefs to the lesser-known aspects of Islamic culture.
Why should you be aware of Islamic history?
History is a long-term memory where a nation’s voices are preserved. So, if people forget their history, it is like saying they are people without memory. As Muslims of the present day, we need to know the history of Islam to feel confident in ourselves and be proud of it and learn lessons from it.
We must understand what happened before and after the period of the rightly guided caliphs, the khalifa al raashidoon.
What were the factors that led to the spread of Islam after it? Was everything done in the name of Islam, or were there political and dynastic motives behind each conquest? For a Muslim, watching these Islamic documentaries or the study of history should be like watching the laws of Allah in action, the application of the theory given in the Quran, and practically shown by the Prophet (P.B.U.H). The Quran demands that Muslims reflect upon the history, not just knowing about it but reflecting upon it.
Knowing and reflecting on history will give us Muslims some time to contemplate what led them to rise and spread to every corner of the world and what led them to this situation they are in today?
How we went from being rulers to becoming the most downtrodden and deprived people in the world today?
Importance of Islamic documentaries:
Technology is a two-way sword. In this digital era, we clearly can understand what visually representing any information does. In the same way, we can use present-day technology to inform and document Islamic history.
Our youth and children must understand the history of Islam and the various sacrifices made to spread. No matter what anyone says. It wasn’t just a campaign to expand an empire. The driving force and why these empires flourished had a greater purpose than acquiring land.
As usual, more than watching documentaries, a depth study of our history can only be done justice by reading books. For this reason, it becomes essential to watch documented history from good sources. But still, watching documentaries could be an excellent first step in getting a feel and getting oneself in the mindset to deep dive into the remarkable history of Islam. Also 7 best islamic TV shows to watch.
1. The Crusades, from an Arab perspective:
The Crusades have always been told from the western and Christian point of view. This four-part series produced by Al Jazeera English presents an entirely different perspective on the Crusades. It shows the story of these medieval religious wars from an Arab point of view.
The documentaries include an enlightening interview with a panel of noted historians and academics. The crusade is an essential part of Islamic history, just as it is to the Christian world. And as Muslims, we need to look at the other side of the coin.
This documentary is an excellent way of understanding the Arab view of the Crusades and does an excellent work of separating facts from folklore. It is more than an Islamic educational documentary.
2. Islam: Empire of faith:
Whether you are a Muslim or not, the rise of Islam through the ages is something that has intrigued every historian. Within a few centuries, the Islamic Empire blossomed, projecting its power from Africa to the West Indies and Spain to India. This religious and political expansion has never been matched in speed or geographic scope before in man’s history.
The documentary Islam empire of faith tells this sensational story of the grand sweep of the Islamic power and faith during its first 1000 years. It’s a three-episode documentary that details the history of Islam from the birth of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) to the peak of the Ottoman Empire.
To describe the birth and splendor of early Islamic civilization, evocative reenactments and a stunning exhibition of Islamic art, antiques, and architecture are blended with conversations with scholars worldwide. It is the epic story of a cultural empire that dominated a Millennium, encompassed half of the world, and shaped history—narrated by Ben Kingsley and available as 3 DVDs.
3. Muhammed (P.B.U.H): Legacy of a prophet:
Of the many documentaries based on the life of the Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) this documentary displays the stories of the Prophet based on historical records and on the stories of living American Muslims, who make up about 7 million in population. This documentary takes its viewers not only to the ancient middle eastern sites but also into the homes, mosques, and workplaces of these 7 million American Muslims who follow Muhammed’s (P.B.U.H) life examples.
The life of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) provides a unique vision of life to be lived as a Muslim. He, through his example, has showcased to us how to live our lives. And it is this unique character in him that has made him the beloved of every Muslim across the globe. Irrespective of your nationality, every Muslim has a deep-rooted love for the Prophet of Islam. This documentary portrays the life of the last Prophet and focuses on how significant his teachings remain even after 1400 years in the heart of practicing Muslims.
4. The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors:
Talking about Islamic history and not talking about the Ottoman emperor is like eating pizza minus cheese. From a small tribe, it raised to become one of the prominent empires in Europe. The vast transcontinental Empire extended from southeast Europe and western Asia to North Africa.
The documentary Ottomans Europe’s Muslim Emperors presented by Rageh Omaar traces the roots of this Empire to a mere horse-riding tribe and how they roused to establish one of the most influential empires of the world, which changed the face of the world. This documentary was aired in 2013 in three episodes. This mini-series covers the rise of the Empire under Osman, a tribal leader who envisioned a great empire. In further episodes, we look at the contrast in the ruling style and conditions of the two great empires, Suleiman the Magnificent and Abdul Hamid 11.
It displays the stark contrast the two great empires faced during their times. One was at the peak of the golden era of the Ottomans, and the other was during the fall of the Empire. And in the last episode, they cover the first world war and the ultimate demise of the great Empire, which had ruled most of Europe from the 14th to the early 20th century.
It’s a fantastic documentary to learn about this great Empire which matched ancient Rome in its glory and collapsed less than a hundred years ago.
The contribution of Islam to art and architecture cannot be overlooked. From the Taj Mahal in Asia to the Alhambra palace in Spain, spreading across different continents, architectural marvels have enchanted the world through the centuries.
Islamic art: mirror of the invisible world is a PBS documentary film that showcases Islamic art’s variety and fantastic diversity.
It was first broadcasted on PBS in July 2012 and since then has been screened in various film festivals and even has won various accolades across these festivals.
Greater cross-cultural understanding is more necessary than ever, but the goal of this Islamic documentary series isn’t just to provide a political or historical context. Instead, it is to peer into extraordinary palaces and mosques, decorated gardens, ceramics, and paintings to watch the play of light and space and sense the sheen of delicate textiles, gold and silverwork, rock crystals, and precious metals gems. This documentary series explores and celebrates the extraordinary richness of Islamic art and architecture worldwide.
“The medieval Islamic world, from central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have intended to see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society, and system of belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our history” Prince Charles 1993.
These words were spoken by Prince Charles about 25 years ago and remain valid even today.
Understanding the relevance and importance of our religion holds great significance and value for us Muslims, as it will help us take pride in our identity as Muslims.
With the help of the above documentaries, you can glimpse what a considerable history we have. As always, books are a more excellent and good source of gaining knowledge, but the documentaries will help you taste the waters before taking a deep dive into Islamic history.