For some reason and a flawless wisdom, Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) chose the best of the best. He chose them so that they would become a group around the Prophet (PBUH). He purified their morals, cleansed their hearts and glorified their beliefs. Those are the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH), may Allah be pleased with them all. Indeed Allah has already been pleased with them in the Qur’an. He has sanctified them, praised them, raised their rank, honored and revered them and declared their sanctity inviolable. “Certainly was Allah pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree” [48:18]. “And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him” [9:100]. “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves.” [48:29]. And scores more of similar texts can be found.
And the Prophet (PBUH) safeguarded their honor, recognized their precedence, appreciated their efforts and gave glad tidings of Paradise to each and every one of them. He (PBUH) said: “(Fear) Allah! (Fear) Allah regarding my Companions!”, i.e. I warn you against slandering my companions. He (PBUH) said: “Do not make my Companions objects of insults after me”. He (PBUH) said: “By Him in whose hand my soul is, if one of you contributed the amount of gold equivalent to Uhud, it would not amount to as much as the ‘mudd’ of one of them, or half of it”. “It would not amount to as much as the ‘mudd’’ of one of them”, i.e. the extent to which one of them stretches their hands, or half of it, due to their precedence and superiority. So the companions of the Prophet (PBUH), may Allah be pleased with them all, have a sanctity which has been established by the revelation and endorsed by the Prophet (PBUH). Hence, the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) constitute a red line, and no one is allowed to trespass it.
The Companions of the Prophet (PBUH), may Allah be pleased with them all, have been afflicted in latter times with abuse through slander sometimes and derogation at other times. You may recall that through this platform I once talked about a person whom I didn’t like to name, but when he crossed this line and talked about Muawiyah (RA), the scribe of the revelation, the Companion of the Prophet (PBUH), I was compelled to talk about him. In Western countries, there is a malicious man, who has nothing to do with our religion, who had the audacity to slander Ayesha (RA), the wife of the Prophet (PBUH). These people went to extremes in their statements about the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH). And I only associate them with the people whom I want to talk about today in order to express that there is a bold attempt being carried out to slander the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) and we must stop the culprits in their tracks.
Ramadhan has departed along with its affairs. And perhaps the biggest issue which stirred public opinion this past Ramadhan was the impersonation of the character of Omar – may Allah be pleased with Omar – in what came to be known as ‘the Omar series’. Lend me your ears, O blessed one! As I don’t want you to perceive from my fervor that I will vilify some of the scholars whose considered opinion is honored, who have precedence in grace and knowledge, whose hair have turned gray in seeking knowledge and studying the books of the Sunnah, and they have foresight and understanding. If they are right; the get two rewards, and if they err; there is one reward for them, and their error is forgiven. Their error is forgiven in matters where there is a valid difference of opinion. Lend me your ears, O blessed one! Because the issue requires a level of scrutiny, which can only be grasped by someone with wisdom and understanding, and I consider you to be such a person.
Acting itself has been a matter of contention. Some scholars permitted it, whereas others forbade it. However, those who permitted it prohibited the impersonation and representation of honorable personalities. Leave aside the Prophets and the Messengers, leave aside the four Caliphs, they prohibited the impersonation of the ten who were given glad tidings of paradise. Some of them even prohibited the impersonation of those who participated in the battle of Badr and those who pledged allegiance under the tree in Hudaybiyyah because they have a distinction over the rest of the Companions. This was the original ruling. Then the scope of what was considered to be acceptable widened and some scholars began to consider the impersonation of the appearance of some of the Companions in acting as permissible. This is what they understood and they have a right to their view which should be respected.
Until finally, this eventuality came to pass and a show by the name of “The Omar series” was launched. A group of scholars who have their status, prestige and precedence devoted themselves to reviewing just the historical narrative of the Omar Series. And they endorsed it from the narrative and historical point of view. That is to say, they only reviewed the script without getting involved in the details of filming, casting, decoration, set design, nor were they involved in checking the appropriateness of the “cultural props” or verifying the “timeline of events” in the series. And this is where the fault lies, dear brothers. If, for the sake of argument, we acknowledge the permissibility of impersonation of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH), then there is a trap which cannot be overcome. You know through your reading of the biographies of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) that Imam Al-Dhahabi, Ibn Sa’d and others who wrote history, did not witness the minute details of the lives of these Companions. They recorded for us their names, the names of their wives and children and the situations and events – both favourable and unfavourable – which transpired at their hands. They depicted and narrated for us events that happened to them with the Prophet (PBUH). They depicted their journeys for us. But no one can claim that he was with the Companions day in and day out, and that he watched the Companion drink water, eat this, lean on that, nor can he describe the physical and ethical traits of the Companion with precision. This hole in the process of dramatization cannot be plugged-in in any work without critical and detailed knowledge, so how can a director or a writer presume to be so bold as to write for us these intricate details about a people, the most minute details of whose lives are a source of legislation? Did not the Prophet (PBUH) say: “You must keep to my Sunnah and to the Sunnah of the Khulafa ar-Rashideen (the rightly guided caliphs), those who guide to the right way.”? Hence, they have a Sunnah (an example) which is to be followed. Accordingly, their actions and their following of the example of the Prophet (PBUH) can validly be given the status of evidence. Consequently, the scholars have explored the issue of contradiction between a Companion’s actions and what he has narrated, and whether his actions are given preference over what he has narrated, or if his view is given preference over what he has narrated. These are issues which have been topics of research for the scholars, the implications of which have been utterly trivialized by this film.
A lot of these holes have been plugged with dialogue which was not said by Omar (RA), uttered by Usman (RA) or spoken by Abu Bakr (RA). They were compelled to do this due to the fictional narrative they had to create. Furthermore, dear brothers, and I have seen this personally, from some of the people who have been moved by this series – and we do not deny that it had a positive impact on some people. And why has this impact occurred, dear brothers? Because we are a people who do not read. Otherwise, if we did read, we would not have needed anyone to impersonate the appearance of these greats. I would have preferred that the image of Omar remain an ideal image in my mind, not polluted by so-and-so’s impersonation of it. I would have preferred that the images of Atika, Umm Kulthum, the wives of Omar (RA) and the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) remain images immersed in the idealism of our minds, and not for someone else to come and occupy this position in our minds to represent and impersonate it. – Some people from the public come and say: “You claim that growing a beard and lengthening it is a Sunnah, whereas I have seen so-and-so playing the role of so-and-so (RA) trim and cut it and perhaps shave it off completely.” As a result, ordinary people are objecting by using these portrayals as an argument and are regarding the actions of the Companions as portrayed in the series as a parallel source of legislation.
Dear brothers, our Prophet (PBUH) saw in a dream, and the dreams of the prophets are revelations, that he entered Paradise, and he stood in front of a palace – the hadith is in Bukhari – and asked: “For whom is this palace?”, he was told: “It is for `Omar.” The Prophet (PBUH) returned, and when he woke up he told the story to Omar. He said “I intended to enter it and see it, but I remembered your (`Omar’s) Ghira (and gave up the attempt).” Omar (RA) wept and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! How dare I think of my ghira (self-respect) being offended by you?” In some narrations of this hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) saw a maid from the maids of Omar (RA) so he lowered his gaze and turned away guarding the stature of Omar (RA). The Prophet (PBUH) did not say: “The world of dreams is different from the real world”, as some people today say: “The world of acting is different from the real world.” Where is the self-respect of Omar (RA) when his wives appear fully adorned? Where is the self-respect of Omar (RA) when his body becomes apparent? Where is the self-respect of Omar (RA) when some portions of his personality and life are shown and other portions are concealed because they are not in line with the director’s vision and the channels’ vision and policy? So there is indeed a sacred, inviolable side to the lives of the Sahabah which must not be trespassed.
Dear brothers, if, for the sake of argument, we acknowledge that it is permissible to impersonate the characters of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH), then please explain to me: How can a director, producer or actor impersonate the character of Ja’far ibn Abi Talib (RA) about whom the Prophet (PBUH) says in Bukhari: “You resemble me both in character and appearance”? He who wants to cast Ja’far, out of all people, must believe that he is casting Muhammad ibn Abdullah (PBUH). How will this person dare to cast the character of Al-Hasan ibn Ali (RA), who, when Abu Bakr (RA) saw him playing with the boys, he lifted him and said, “Let my parents be sacrificed for your sake! (You) resemble the Prophet (PBUH)”? How will the director, producer and all the participants in the process of dramatization cast the characters of Abu Sufiyan ibn Al-Harith and Qutham ibn Abbas (RA), cousins of the Prophet (PBUH), who were the closest of people in resemblance to the Messenger (PBUH)?
I am not inflexible, not at all. I do not permit anyone, whether they are those whom I have met through social media or those who come to the masjid, I do not permit them under any circumstance whatsoever to vilify the imams and scholars who reviewed the script of this series, because these scholars believe that their responsibility ends at reviewing the historical narrative and the script only. And if they have erred, for the sake of argument, then this does not give you the license to slander them because they are between two rewards. If they are right, they get two rewards, and if they err, they get one reward, and they are exempted from blame in the sight of Allah. But the responsibility, does it end with reviewing the script? I met one of them in Ramadhan, and he is one of our scholars, elders and preachers, and I said to him: “Honored Shaykh, does the responsibility end with just reviewing the script?” If that was so, the owners of banks who take legal rulings from the Shariah advisory committees would have objected to us. Those who merely obtain written rulings allowing their transactions, even if their subsequent implementation might be in violation of those rulings. Have you not seen how the juristic councils revoked their ruling regarding the permissibility of Tawarruq (buying an asset in installments and selling it immediately in cash) because there was a glaring chasm and a disparity between its theory and practice.
All the violations that occurred in this series may be open to debate. Some might say: “Showing the faces of the actresses is a matter of difference of opinion between scholars”. The participation of women in all that took place in this show from obscenity and excessive chatting to unnecessary mixing with men (and the Companions are free from these things!) might be labelled as a matter of “difference of opinion” by some. But how can a Muslim impersonating a disbeliever be a matter of dispute? The person plays the role of Abu Jahl, insults the Prophet (PBUH) day and night, bows down to the idols of al-Lat and al-Uzza in the show, swears by them, worships them and offers sacrifices to them. And even worse than that, he dares encroach upon the station of the Lord Himself, Glorified and Sublime be He, and insults Allah, the Almighty! He insults Allah! Exalted be He. Allah has forbidden us from provoking people to insult Him. “And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge.”[6:108] If your insulting someone will lead to them insulting Allah, then you too are at fault and share responsibility for the sin, and are instructed to desist from insulting the person. If this is the case for one who merely provokes, then what of the one who plays the role of a disbeliever and insults Allah repeatedly, he slanders the Prophet (PBUH), prostrates to idols, swears by al-Lat and al-Uzza, wears the cross, mocks Islam?! “Grave is the word that comes out of their mouths; they speak not except a lie.”[18:5] This begs the question: is the actor exempt from liability when he is in character? Does he leave the real physical world during this time? Does he play the role in some utopia where he is beyond legal constraints? Or do the ends justify the means? They say: “Reporting kufr is not considered to be an act of disbelief”. Yes, but the one who acts out kufr might be committing an act of disbelief, because he is not merely narrating kufr. We are reporting kufr when we narrate from our Lord, Exalted be He, “And the Jews say, ‘The hand of Allah is chained.’”[5:64]. We are reporting kufr when we narrate from the Prophet (PBUH): “Let there be curse of Allah upon the Jews and the Christians for they have taken the graves of their apostles as places of worship.” But reporting kufr does not allow us to wear the cross, insult Allah or slander the Prophet (PBUH).
May Allah bless you me by the Great Qur’an and grant us benefit from its verses, exhortations and wisdom. I ask Allah to forgive all our sins, so ask Him for forgiveness, blessed are those who seek forgiveness from Him.
-This is a translation of a Friday Sermon delivered by Shaykh Taufeeq al-Sayegh back in 2012 soon after the series made its debut.
-I would like to thank Ibrahim Hanif ur Rahman bhai for his invaluable efforts in translating and revising the sermon. May Allah reward him for this.