An animated film that was shown in some North American theaters this past week [November 14-18] drew crowds of Muslims celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, the holiday that ends the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Carolyn Weaver has details on "Muhammad: The Last Prophet."
TV Report transcript
It looks like the Hollywood animated film that it is. But the purpose is serious: to tell the story of Muhammad.
"In a world of darkness…one man sought wisdom from God."
The film covers the beginning of Islam 1400 years ago. But in accordance with Islamic law, the prophet himself is not shown.
"Where do you go every night?"
"To hear a prophet of God."
Produced in 2000 by a Saudi company, Badr International -- and created by former Disney director Richard Rich -- the film has been shown in Middle Eastern countries. But it couldn't find a North American distributor until now, when a Chicago-based company, the Fine Media Group, rented 93 theaters in U.S. and Canadian cities, and sold tickets over the Web, and through Islamic centers.
At one of the sold-out screenings in Arlington, Virginia, mostly foreign-born parents brought their American-raised children.
"I just want them to know some history about Islam, and our beloved prophet, so they at least have some understanding of our religion."
"I really want to see it because I want to get to know about him, and it's in English, too, so I could actually understand it."
"A lot of people have the wrong idea about Islam. We want to correct their ideas about Islam. Islam is a religion of forgiveness and love, and giving others all the best you can, and not hatred, and all these bad pictures they show us over the TV and everywhere in the media. So I hope - I'm not sure about the movie yet - I hope this movie will give a better image about Islam, the real religion."
"And it's also animated, so it's more for the kids, not for the adults, like recently, there was "The Passion of the Christ," which of course is only for the adults, you can't take the kids to it. But this is a good opportunity to bring the whole family. And it's during the week of our feast Eid, after Ramadan."
"I want to get to see it because I don't know how to read Arabic, and there's no way I could find out [about the story] until I watch the movie, because the only way I could know about him is if I read the Koran, which is in Arabic, and I don't know how to read Arabic."
"Muhammad says the idol gods are powerless."
"He must be punished!"
The film was created with advice from religion scholars at Georgetown University and clerics at Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque. It may be the only animated feature that begins with a stamp of approval from an Islamic council.
"There is no God but God."
The audience reviews at the Arlington, Virginia screening were uniformly positive, too:
"It teaches you how you could be a good Muslim, and then you actually know that there's only one God, and Muhammad was the last prophet."
"It was very interesting. Like the stories we were taught in Saturday school, it showed us everything now, and it was more interesting. I really enjoyed it."
"I thought the movie was great, and it showed the biography of the Prophet, and it was really nice, they put it in a kid's way, like no killing or anything. It was a family movie."
Following the sold-out special screenings, executives at Fine Media Group say a distribution deal for Muhammad: The Last Prophet is in the works for theaters throughout North America. They say the film could be released as soon as January.