Islam: Empire of Faith (2000)

This 160 minute, three-part documentary tracks the rise of Islam in the 7th century through to the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century. It is produced for PBS and narrated by Muslim Ben Kingsley.

The film really only follows the achievements in empire building, the arts and sciences, commerce, architecture, and society. It nearly altogether ignores the dogma of Islam and how it has evolved from it's not so humble beginnings in Saudi Arabia. It focuses on the initial spread of the religion and then how commerce kept the people relatively united and how this brought about a cultural revolution and awakening to the arts and sciences. Leaders of the various dynasties are spotlighted as were major events like the Mongol invasions and the Christian crusades.

The visual scenes are as authentic as they can be with countless mosques, palaces, and cities being featured from Cordoba, Spain to Persia. The architecture that dots the empire of Islam is truly magnificent and the film is worth watching if only to watch the lavish buildings.

I was disappointed that there didn't appear to be any actual Muslims interviewed as experts in the roots and beginnings of Islam in part one. There was one Muslim expert among the several American and British commentators, but I would have liked to have heard from Turkish experts during the Ottoman chapter and Spanish experts during the Cordoba chapter and Iraqi experts during the Baghdad chapter. Overall, the comments were very positive about the empire, often juxtaposing the clean and advanced culture of Islam with the sickly and barbaric Christians in Europe.

My primary complaint is that it doesn't propose any reasons for the current state of Muslim affairs. It doesn't correlate any of Islamic beliefs with much of anything. It is like having an encyclopedia being read to you.

Official Site | IMDB

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