Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Sunni community in Iran has called on the Iranian regime to ban a television drama that “insults the Prophet’s companion Abdullah Bin Zubayr [Ibn al-Awwam]” and other companions of the Prophet. Religious scholars at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University have condemned the Iranian regime allowing the broadcast of the Persian-language series “Mokhtarnameh” [Al-Mokhtar’s Message] on Iranian television. The scholars said that this televisions series includes “insults to the companions of the Prophet, including Abdullah Bin Zubayr.” The Al-Azhar scholars also stressed that “Al-Azhar University does not accept any insult of the Prophet’s companions.”
For his part, official Al-Azhar spokesman Mohamed al-Tahtawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Al-Azhar University categorically rejects any insult of the companions of the Prophet, or the Prophet’s wives.
He also called on the Iranian authorities to take immediate action “to prevent the outbreak of sectarian violence.”
For his part, Dr. Mohamed Rafat Osman, a member of Al-Azhar University’s Islamic Research Academy said that “under the provisions established by Islam…it is prohibited to insult any human being, whether he is present or absent, alive or dead, and this is something that is agreed upon by the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet.”
Dr. Osman added “we must always keep in mind that the companions of the Prophet were the intermediaries between us and the Prophet, for we would not know the Quran without them, for it was through them that God preserved the Quran after they learned the word of God Almighty by heart, preserving it for those who came after them…therefore they deserve to be held in respect.” He also added that the companions of the Prophet had recorded the Prophet’s life and sayings, which form the basis of the Hadith and Sunnah, and represent the “second source for Islamic jurisprudence, after the Quran.”
Osman said that “we understand this insulting of Abdullah Bin Zubayr by some Shiites in light of their insults towards the mother of the believers, Lady Aisha, for Abdullah Bin Zubayr was the son of her sister…and in fact he is better known as Zubayr Ibn Al-Awwam, who fought against Imam Ali in the war between Imam Ali on one side, and Talha Bin Ubaidallah [and Lady Aisha] on the other, at the Battle of the Camel.”
For his part, Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, former al-Azhar Deputy and also a member of the Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy said that “the Islamic Research Academy, which is the most senior doctrinal body at Al-Azhar University, has previously announced its rejection of the portrayal of the Prophets, or any of the ten companions promised paradise, in any artistic or dramatic work.” He added that Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy had previously decreed that it is not permissible to portray these figures and that portraying the Prophet’s companions [on television] could cause controversy. The ten companions promised Paradise included Abdullah Bin Zubayr and Talha Bin Ubaidallah, who are both portrayed in Mokhtarnameh.
This series has [also] been the subject of controversy in Iran between Shiite religious scholars over the portrayal of certain historic Islamic figures. Whilst Sunni groups have condemned this series, with the Imam of the Ahl Al-Sunna group in the Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran issuing a fatwa prohibiting people from watching this series, and calling on the Iranian authorities to ban it from television.
Mokhtarnameh is a television series based upon the life of al-Mokhtar Ibn Abu Ubayd al-Thaqafi who sought to avenge the death of Imam al-Hussein at the Battle of Karbala, killing many of those who took part in this battle before being killed, along with many of his supporters, outside of Kufu, Iraq. Mokhtarnameh has a season-run of 40 episodes, and has a huge cast of approximately 140.