Search - Islam: Empire of Faith on DVD

Islam: Empire of Faith
Islam Empire of Faith
Director: Robert Gardner
3hr 0min

Islam: Empire of Faith is the epic PBS documentary that charts the history of Islam from its beginnings in Mecca and Medina in the seventh century to the glory of the Ottoman Empire 1,000 years later. The demonization of I...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Robert Gardner
Creator: Ben Kingsley
Studio: PBS Home Video
Format: DVD
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/2000
Run Time: 3hr 0min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1

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Member Movie Reviews

Lenka S. from DANVILLE, PA
Reviewed on 8/18/2011...
Glorifying Islam while demeaning other peoples.
(0.5 star - I wish I could give negative star for this glorified propaganda of Islam)

This production is quite biased, sometimes subtly in its choice of pictures, other times not so subtly in its choice of language. What you will not hear about is the gruesome nature of the Arabic conquest. While, according to this documentary the Muslims were led by a noble faith in God, the truth is many people were slaughtered in the conquests. Many thousands of Zoroastrian Persians were slaughtered; the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) were allowed to maintain their faith, but were subject to a special Muslim toll tax that did not apply to Muslims. They also were not allowed to proselytize, and their legal testimony was not as valid as their Muslim overlords. Many people were given only three options: conversion, death, or slavery. All peoples have conquered and slaughtered the Other; neither Muslims nor Christians are exempt from such behavior. Nonetheless, some Christians received more toleration than they had had under the Byzantine Empire. But the fact of the matter is that modern religious toleration was birthed in the European Enlightenment, not in the Middle East or West Asia. Muslims did develop much philosophy and learning, however many of the scholars working in Cordoba and Baghdad were Jews and Christians, albeit studying in peaceful cooperation with the Muslims. Paper was discovered via Chinese slaves brought into the empire, and the slave trade formed an integral part of the economy of the Muslim lands. Although Muslims did not invent slavery, which has been around since the dawn of civilization, they did innovate the African slave trade. Several times we hear about Europe "languishing in the Dark Ages". No serious historian uses the term Dark Ages anymore, as the past decades have revealed a much more complex and intellectually interesting history. The term has been abandoned for the more appropriate Middle Ages, being as it is the bridge between the ancient and modern worlds.

The unmentioned taxation of non Muslims called Jizya is only one example of the society the Muslim empire created with Muslims being 1st class citizens, Jews and Christians being 2nd class. Same applies in court - only a Muslim is to sit court over a Muslim, for killing a Muslim, the victim's relative can demand the death of the murderer, for murdering a Non-Muslim the perpetrator can never be killed; there are rules of dressing for non-Muslims (in fact coloured stripes on the cloth showing it is a Jew or Christian) - Jews and Christians were not allowed to ride horses, only donkeys (a major humiliation and degradation) in the Muslim empire, their dead had to be buried out of sight of the town, "loud mourning" was forbidden to them, I could name many other grave injustices.
How do you see these from "another perspective"? That is pure discrimination on the basis of (the wrong) faith.

A great oversight is its short shrift of Iran. Iran is one of the centers of Islamic civilization, the center of Shiism, and a complex and interesting culture. The glory of the Safavid Empire and the beauty of its capital Isfahan are briefly mentioned, but there is no word on Shah Abbas, Iran's ruler at the height of this empire.

Also, this DVD focuses on politics, not religion. You will not gain a deep understanding of the myriad forms of Islamic faith in this documentary, certainly a key point of interest for some individuals. The Sufi dervishes were only very briefly mentioned, which is a shame because Sufism is a fascinating expression of Islamic mysticism, looked at with great suspicion by more conservative Muslims. Neither will you hear much detail about the schism between the Sunni and Shiites. The roots of this split are told, but the theological differences are not discussed. It was the development of Shiism that was a great impetus for the conversion of the Zoroastrian Persians to Islam, as it incorporated Zoroastrian ideas, merging the Saoshyant with the Hidden Imam to be revealed in later times.

While concluding the presentation at the height of Ottoman power in Asia and Europe shows a glorious point of culmination of Islam as an empire, it fails to address some important questions: It fails to answer why the Ottomans in particular and Islamic civilization in general fell into extended cultural decline by the late sixteenth century--just when several Western European nations were expanding in strength and commerce. As a result, it fails to address the question of what can happen within a religious group during a period of decline, as has been the case with every religion at some points in time. Finally, it fails to connect the glorious cultural past of Islam to its developments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which would be very helpful to modern viewers. But then again, perhaps these matters were beyond the range of the project.

Movie Reviews

Great movie for school
FoxHunterGirl | Illinois | 12/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am teaching a cultures class for middle school students. This movie fits right into my curriculum and helps present the information in a format that the students enjoy. I am so glad I found it!"