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Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet

Airs Monday, October 15, 2012 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

This 16th Century painting from a Turkish manuscript depicts a scene from the...

Credit: NY Public Library, Astor, Lenox & Tilden Foundations. Spencer Collection- Turkish Manuscript, "Siyari-i-nabi" by Mustafa ibn Yusuf, Istanbul, 1594-5

Above: This 16th Century painting from a Turkish manuscript depicts a scene from the time of Muhammad. Members of the powerful Quraysh tribe in Mecca debate the impact of the growth of Islam in Medina, the nearby city where Muhammad led his converts.

His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was only six. But sheltered by a powerful uncle, he made a good start in life, established himself in a profitable business and married well. And then, at the age of 40, he was transformed.

A man who could not read or write, he announced that he was the prophet of God. His name was Muhammad, and in the next 23 years he would bring peace to the warring pagan tribes of Arabia and establish the new religion of Islam, which today has 1.2 billion followers.

Three years in the making, "Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet," which premiered in 2002, travels in the footsteps of the prophet to the Arabian desert and the holy city of Mecca where much of Muhammad's story unfolded.

"There are six to seven million Muslims here in American, where Islam is the country’s fasted growing religion, but many Americans are completely unfamiliar with the life story of the remarkable man who founded this religion 1400 years ago," says producer/director Michael Schwarz.

This sweeping two-hour documentary goes well beyond the boundaries of the past. "Muhammad is 'history in the present tense,'" says co-creator/producer Michael Wolfe, a well-known Muslim author. "In it, we reflect on this 7th-century story through the experiences of 21st-century Americans who feel deeply connected to what Muhammad did, said and believed."

With some of the world's greatest scholars on Islam providing historical context and critical perspective, "Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet" tells of intrigue and faith, revolutionary ideas and bitter persecution, brutal war and brilliant diplomacy in an arid desert where tribal allegiance was often the only protection.

Muhammad was orphaned as a child, but he was fortunate to be born into the powerful tribe of the Quraysh in the city of Mecca, a regional pilgrimage site and commercial crossroads.

He became a successful trader based in this cosmopolitan center and married a woman who was a wealthy merchant. Yet as Muhammad prospered with the city, he saw that the poor were increasingly neglected and hedonism dominated the culture.

One day in the desert, while meditating in a mountain cave, Muhammad was struck by a revelation that changed his life and the world. Terrified by the force of the experience, he began to recite words that came to him, words he said were from God.

These messages would continue throughout the rest of his life. Unable to write them, he would repeat them to his growing band of followers until they became part of their collective memory.

Slowly these revelations began to form the book we now know as the Qur'an (or Koran). While people were shocked by these claims, "they acquired credibility because of the very nature of the words spoken," says M. Cherif Bassiouni, professor of law at DePaul University. How could an illiterate man make up language of such poetry and wisdom?

A KQED presentation, "Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet" was produced by Kikim Media and Unity Productions Foundation.

The Los Angeles Times called Muhammad "a candid, thoughtful, flowing, visually stunning film.…that is as timely as documentaries get….this important film delivers again and again.”

Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet

"Muhammad: Legacy Of A Prophet," tells the story of the seventh century prophet who changed world history in 23 years, and continues to shape the lives of more than 1.2 billion people.


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