Muhammad: The Last Prophet will premiere in cinemas in 37 US and Canadian cities for one week from 14 November on Eid al-Fitr – a Muslim holiday marking the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan.
Usama Jamal, president of the film’s distributing company Fine Media Group, said it was an irony that Americans would be able to watch the US-produced movie after much of the world had already seen it.
It was completed just before the September 11 attacks on the United States by the al-Qaida network headed by Usama bin Ladin.
“The film was scheduled to be released in the United States around 2002 but [was put off] because it was just after September 11 and people were not in the mood to go to the movies,” Jamal said.
The 90-minute film that chronicles the early life and teachings of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was produced for Badr International by RichCrest Animation Studios, the creators of animated classics such as The King and I, and The Fox and the Hound.
Because of Islamic traditions prohibiting the visual representation of religious figures, no images of Prophet Muhammad appear in the film.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, said the movie was an excellent opportunity for parents and children of all faiths “to learn more about a historic figure like Prophet Mohammed and events that shaped today’s world”.
“The movie is especially relevant in the current time when so much of the media presentations of Muslims and Muslim life is so negative”
“It addresses the needs of the post-9/11 climate and is a creative and non-political way for the people to know about the history of Islam and the prophet’s message,” council spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmad said.
John Voll, director of Georgetown University’s Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding, said: “The movie is especially relevant in the current time when so much of the media presentations of Muslims and Muslim life is so negative.
“And this provides an alternative perspective,” said Voll, among a group of academics consulted about the movie, budgeted at more than $10 million.
Voll, a Christian who grew up in the Midwest and whose father was a Methodist minister, said the movie could assist the Muslim community itself in its continuing education, and provide a resource for educators in general.