Ramadan diary: Why I’m spending my month with controversial TV series ‘Omar’

UPDATE: Omar can now be viewed with English subtitles, MBC has said.

Part three of our Ramadan Diary series features Hassan Al-Ibrahim, co-founder of think tank FIKRA Consulting and Research. Al-Ibrahim, a Qatari, says he’s planning to spend this Ramadan a bit differently than in years past – by watching TV and learning something from it.

By Hassan Al-Ibrahim

Different thoughts usually come to my mind whenever Ramadan is about to commence. They are all around the same idea.

If Ramadan is only about the spirituality, religiosity or sociality, wouldn’t it simply be a repetitive course of actions and hence lose its sentimental value?

While the mainstream media has failed to use this opportunity to get the best out of the people, I will give it to Saudi’s MBC Group (believe it or not), who has made it easier for people to spend this Ramadan a bit differently.

This year, MBC is presenting Omar, a controversial new TV series starring the second caliph of the Prophet Muhammad and widely considered the real transformer of the Islamic polity of the Madina into a more relatively sophisticated state with established systems and institutions.

‘Good governance’

The first episodes have focused on the main characteristics of Omar, which are justice, compassion, vigilance, and perspicacity. These are fundamental values that need careful molding in order for them not to contradict.

These characteristics were reflected in the governance system during Omar’s tenure as a caliph too, which many Muslims consider as a reference point in their history for “good governance.”

In addition to their usual televangelist shows such as Amr Khaled’s and Nabil Al-Awadi’s, both Qatar TV and MBC jointly produced this TV series.

The show uses actors to depict the Rashidun caliphs, the first four successors of the Prophet Muhammad. For decades, the impersonation of these historical figures was considered taboo for different reasons, many of which no longer stand as valid arguments.

New era

Omar has taken a big leap forward, opening the door for the impersonation of all the prophets and unlocking potential for Arabic and Islamic dramas. It also sets a precedent as an Arabic series to be dubbed in other languages and shown in Indonesia and Turkey.

Ramadan offers nations and people alike the opportunity to contemplate.

Therefore, while some pass the month arguing about the show, I have decided to spend my Ramadan with Omar and explore the roots of our political philosophy, as they are unique to every nation.

The more reading I do in the history of this region and about its historical figures the more I ask myself, where did they get it wrong?

Credit: Image courtesy of MBC

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