Aaqil Ahmed on The Life of Muhammad

The BBC’s first Muslim head of religion discusses a long-overdue series

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Aaqil Ahmed on The Life of Muhammad
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Aaqil Ahmed
Telling the story of Muhammad and, by definition, of the birth of Islam is for me not just a TV first, it’s also something that you could say is long overdue and of great significance today. Why? Just look at the world around us.

Muhammad’s name still resonates at the centre of modern global politics. An understanding of both who Muhammad was, what he stood for and the legacy he left behind, could be said to be a prerequisite to really understanding world affairs.

Into this mix comes The Life of Muhammad — a serious attempt to try to explain not only who Muhammad was, but how he lived, how he became a Prophet, what he believed in, and ultimately what his legacy is — both as a principle and how Muslims live it today.

To some people in the UK, Muhammad is simply a name — a person they know is seen as a Prophet by Muslims — but beyond which they know very little.

This series wants to try to get a little further, to try and open up some knowledge. It’s not anything else; it’s not a piece of propaganda for any one point of view. It explains all aspects of his life — from his birth, to the importance of the drafting of the Constitution of Medina, to his final sermon. But it also doesn’t shy away from difficult areas such as his relationships with the non-Muslim tribes of Arabia, his many marriages or his warrior status.

As well as travelling in Muhammad’s footsteps — both literally and historically, in Mecca, Medina and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, seldom-seen cornerstones of the Islamic faith — Rageh Omaar also interviews some of the world’s leading academics and commentators on Islam. Some are very positive and some not so. It’s this fine balancing act that I think makes this series stand out. It would be easier to tell this story from the extremes of both sides, but this series is that rare beast, the middle ground, which is often the harder story to tell.

Whether you are a follower of Islam or not, whether you believe all or nothing of what the series says, whether you wonder how we came to live in a world where people can commit acts of terror in the name of their faith, or whether you simply want know who Muslims are and who Muhammad was — this series is an attempt to answer those questions, and to do so for the first time ever on British television.