Empire of Faith
PBS documentary looks at the history and contributions of the Islamic world.
On Tuesday evening, May 8th,(2001) members stations of the U.S.-based Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired the new documentary Islam: Empire of Faith. Muslim scholars, community leaders, and activists screened the film before it aired, and gave positive reports about its balance and accuracy.
The first one-hour segment ("The Messenger") introduces the story of the rise of Islam, and the extraordinary life of the Prophet Muhammad. It covers the revelation of the Qur'an, the persecution suffered by the early Muslims, the first mosques, and then the rapid expansion of Islam.
The second segment ("The Awakening") examines the growth of Islam into a world civilization. Through trade and learning, the Islamic influence extended further. Muslims made great achievements in architecture, medicine, and science, influencing the intellectual development of the West. This episode also explores the story of the Crusades (including stunning reenactments filmed in Iran), and ends with the invasion of Islamic lands by the Mongols.
The final segment ("The Ottomans") looks at the dramatic rise and fall of the Ottoman empire. All three episodes aired back-to-back on Tuesday evening. If you missed it, a video of the series is available for purchase from PBS.
Islamic leaders who viewed the documentary expressed appreciation for "the network's efforts to offer a balanced and accurate portrayal of Islamic history" (CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad). Series producer Robert Gardner was responsive to Muslim concerns about specific aspects of the film, particularly an artistic image of the Prophet Muhammad which was later removed.
Visit the links above to learn more about the program. PBS also offers an interactive website which provides educational materials based on the series. If you are outside the PBS viewing area, a home video and book of the series is available. After watching, please visit the Islam Forum for ongoing discussion of this program and other Islamic topics.