3 Perspectives of Muslim Entertainment Through My Lensby Alimat Diallo Mahmoud
A Love Language
Films were always my love language. My siblings and I would race to the door of our apartment and wait for our father to return from work. He would usually come home with a new collection of VCR cassettes. We would tackle him with excitement and eagerness. Our tastes varied between classical Bollywood films, Disney cartoons, and Islamic lectures. My love for film allowed me to have an expansive imagination.
I could be in the southern outskirts of India at one point, at a river in a village in Ibadan, Nigeria, or dancing to the rhythm of the waters at the Red Sea. My childhood was rich with films from many cultures. This impacted me greatly and allowed me to be a student who always had something to share in my history classes. I fostered curiosity and appreciation for cultures foreign to my own. In my 20s, whenever I would travel to a new country it was easy for me to find immediate comfort around new cultures and quickly befriend locals.
A Window To Our Communities
We cannot neglect the impact of films in our households. Films, theatre, and art, in general, are a means to communicate with society in a very unique way. A good friend of mine, Reem, and I were recently in a talk show called Frames, organized by the American Learning Institute for Muslims. As a set production assistant she shared that her relationship with her religion impacts the way she wants to tell stories in her field. She reflected on how people consume media daily. This unquestionably has an impact on the way people see the world and the biases and prejudices they may form toward others. Stories are a learning tool for humans. Even when we think about the Quranic verses and the Seerah, stories are shared as lessons and reminders for humanity.
Knowing our Fard Al Ain (individual obligation) is essential but there should be community members who are well-versed in Fard al Khifiyah (communal obligation) as well. I feel that an understanding of both will help in creating films that are relatable to all Muslims. Art revolutionizes the way we see our world. Watching films that we can relate to, critique, and be inspired by are essential for our growth. Hence, being able to access films from services such as Qalbox is necessary for advancing the narratives we share with the world.
My friends and I recently shared our thoughts about shows such as Ramy, Ms. Marvel, and Mo and while there is Muslim representation, it is challenging for many of us to completely relate to the characters. We felt these stories focused so much on our struggles and vices and less on our spiritual wins. There may be cultural affiliation for some but for me, as a Black, West African, practicing Muslim woman, I couldn’t relate in the ways I would’ve loved to!
Creating films with Muslim characters is one thing but also speaking to the many different ways Muslims practice their religion and show up unapologetically as Muslims is important to showcase. It is important for film directors, writers, publishers, and actors to have a strong relationship with scholars in their communities and vice versa. This relationship can help foster trust and eventually will impact how films are created.
Blending Faith and Film
I recently watched Jilbab Traveler: Love Sparks in Korea on Qalbox about a young woman who traveled to different parts of the world, taking pictures, writing, and making a legacy of herself. Her father would refer to her as Ibn Battuta. The main character, Rania falls in love but not with the person society expects her to be with. As I watched her character develop, her journey reminded me of my own. I saw myself in Rania. Navigating love, romance, dating, and the courtship world is something so many Muslims can relate to.
Many of us enjoy films from streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and the list goes on but there is no guarantee that you won’t find discomfort in their films due to impermissible scenes for a Muslim’s gaze. Imam Ghazali in his Ilyha reminds Muslims of the importance of protecting our tongues, eyes, ears, and lower limbs (sexual desire) and how when these things are not protected not only is an individual’s spiritual well-being at risk but eventually the morality of the community. Alternative streaming services such as Qalbox are powerful because not only is it Muslim-friendly but it is also relatable and fun.
Looking forward to growing my love language for films through Qalbox so I invite you, my dear reader, to consider doing so as well.
About the Author
Alimat Diallo Mahmoud is a Togolese-Ghanaian-American, with a passion for spiritual well-being. After graduating from Rutgers University, she studied Islamic Sciences in Malaysia. She works as a facilitator in various capacities to create spiritually safe spaces for her Black, West African, and Muslim communities. Alimat has a growing interest in chaplaincy, medicine, and culture.