CAIRO – Saving no penny, the wealthy Sharjah emirate has opened a huge musical opera that tells the story of life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), sending an out loud call for dialogue among different faiths.
“Dialogue and understanding of each other is the Islamic approach, and one that was adopted by the Prophet Mohammed, and it represented an important aspect of Islamic civilization,” Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, was quoted by Emirati newspaper The National.
The Sheikh was speaking at the Clusters of Light operetta which opened to the public, bringing together the emirate’s senior officials with artists from throughout the Arab world.
The epic musical show was written by Dr Abdul Rahman Al Ashmawi, a Saudi poet, and composed by the Bahraini artist Khalid Al Shaikh.
The show had to be assembled in months by an international team that includes Piers Shepperd, technical director of the 2012 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.
The soundtrack was recorded by the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg in Berlin, led by the German composer Christian Steinhauser.
The show narrates the biography of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) from his birth until his passing, features more than 200 actors and 70 musicians, with cinematic visuals and live performances.
Mohammed Assaf, the popular Palestinian singer, opened the stage show, followed by artists such as Hussein Al Jasmi, Ali El Haggar and Lotfi Bouchnak.
It started with the pre-Islamic period, showcasing the worship of idols and the popularly-known Year of the Elephant, in which Prophet Mohammad was born.
It then highlighted key Islamic events, including the starting of the revelations, the historical journey of Isra wal Miraj, the first migration to Abyssinia and the major migration to Medina, the different Islamic battles, and finally the death of the Prophet.
For its makers, the opera about the life of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was a challenge they managed to pass.
According to the creative director, the first step for the international team was to watch The Message, a 1977 film about Muhammad’s life that showed the story from his direct perspective, conveniently keeping him off-screen.
“As we weren’t making a film, we didn’t have that luxury,” Lindsay told The Guardian.
“There’s only once in the show we refer to the prophet, and then we represent him as a source of light, which is accepted. For the rest of the time we didn’t need him in the story, as it revolves around him. The show is about what he’s doing, but it doesn’t actually need to show him.”
Shepperd said his involvement corrected many misconceptions he had on several subjects, including the position of women.
“If you look at the popular misconceptions about Islam, that isn’t the case at all. It’s great to be working on a show that explores those kinds of things,” he said.
Clusters of Light will be staged for another four days at the amphitheatre, after which the oratorio will travel to a number of other Arab cities around the world. Tickets for the show cost Dh50.