In light of the tumultuous state of world affairs, the recent scourge of terror attacks, and the current political debates and heated rhetoric that surround these sensitive issues, a clear foundation of understanding regarding the Islamic religion is more essential than ever before. An informative and timely five-part documentary series titled History of Islam seeks to provide exactly this sort of thoughtful analysis. This ambitious project, undertaken by the educational content producer Caspian Report, attempts to present a wide-sweeping and objective summary of Islamic identity.
The history they offer is well-researched, and culled from lengthy written accounts dating back to the 7th century. The film's premiere installment deals with the earliest beginnings of the religion as the prophet Muhammad first conceived it. Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law, was the first non-blood relative to embrace Islam and publicly declare himself to be Muslim, and he ruled the Caliphate for just under two and a half years following Muhammad's death.
Islam's prominence in the world found firm footing in the exploits of Bakr's military advisor. As detailed in episode 2, the Caliphate's second ruler Umar spread the religion with unprecedented success following Bakr's death, conquering territories like Mesopotamia, Persia, Syria and Egypt. The film paints a vivid portrait of Umar as a tempestuous, but sharp-minded man who was utterly transformed by the religion, which in turn resulted in his quest to inspire similar reforms upon society.
The remaining three episodes cover additional milestones in the Islamic movement. There's the story of Uthman, the leader who succeeded Umar, lead Islam to further expansion, and was eventually assassinated by rebel opposition. Another chapter deals with the rising popularity of Uthman's successor - Ali - and the growing divisions which were to follow between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. A concluding chapter addresses the actions of the competing leaders in both of these factions of the Muslim faith, and how their discord lead to a troubling power struggle which continues to this day.
Characterized by ongoing narration and static visual imagery, History of Islam is at times a bit dry in presentation, but nonetheless exceptionally informative in its content.