Thursday, 5 January 2017


There was a time when we used to say “Salah Jahin, Abdel-Rahman al-Abnoudi and others are writing”… “Muhammed al-Mogi, Baliegh Hamdi and others are composing… “Um kolthoum, Abdel-Halim Hafez and others are singing”… we also used to say that “No’aman Ashour, Alfred Farag, Michael Roman and others are writing”… “Tolymat, Diab, Hassan Abdel-Salam and others are directing”… “Mahmoud Morsi, Samieha Ayoub, the Gaith brothers and others are acting”… then we add: the leader is fulfilling the dream, the people are working and building and the army is protecting… all are gathered by one purpose; belonging to Egypt and the Arab nation…

I say “used to”… a grammatical form to express an action in the past… that past we yearn to but unfortunately, failed to make moral out of it… which itself is a disease that requires a cure.

Last Tuesday, my mind wandered – although the place, attendees and crowds do not allow you to do such thing – and I said to myself: will it happen that one day we can say the same regarding our present time?... will it happen that one day we will say “Ibrahim Eissa used to write”… “Muhammed el-Adl used to produce”… “Magdi Ahmed Ali used to direct”… “X and Y used to act”… as I saw people enjoying what they were watching because they found a response to what is bustling in their minds and souls.

Before continuing, I admit these lines maybe biased to some degree.

Despite the long distance between the far east of Cairo in New Cairo district to the far west at the entrance of the desert road… and although it was very cold and night driving for old men like me is quiet dangerous, I could not resist the temptation of watching the movie “Mawlana” or Master… I also wanted to see my friends, including the writer, producer and director… I was attracted to the movie by its title; “Mawlana”… since I have been repeating this name through all my life as I belong to those Dervishes who love to eat meat broth added with rice and sauce, and who are chanting supplications, praising prophet Muhammed and are devoted to serving those who seek the blessings of his family and companions… we also had our own Master or Sheikh who was revered by our ancestors that kept loyal to him until they passed away.

Despite the first “used to” is used to the describe the dream we lived depicted in Jahin, al-Abnoudi and others’ words, the second “used to” is employed here to denote what turned our dream into a nightmare… this time, using Eissa’s words and directed by Magdi… however, in my opinion, the message is still the same as nations do not fulfill their dreams unless they refute or demolish what had shattered those dreams before.

I am not a professional critic who is in control of artistic tools of criticism, however I am one of those who are haunted by that dream and how to make it work out and survive… in my opinion, there is a huge difference between employing art in resisting the twisted ideologies that shatter our dreams and using statistics and data in long wordy statements to do the same task… in the latter, if you replaced the name of the incident you are issuing a statement about with another, nothing would change; as I have been for long years one of those asked to formulate a strong political statement attacking a situation or stance adopted by the state president or the government, especially the ministry of interior… and I know very well due to my experience that many of those who write such statements know nothing about the art of writing but to write their own names.

Back to our movie “Mawlana” which I was invited by my friend; the director Magdi Ahmed Ali to attend its premiere… I found a close resemblance between the picture appealing to the eye and the easy-going clear script that goes into the depth of the religious geography – if I can use this description… the movie also carefully weaved a braid of lines that best describe our political geography; a line representing the authority head and the ruling court… another of the grass-roots of the society along with supplications’ circles and scenes of hymns… also, that of the hypocrite employee preacher… the security man expert at destroying free thinking and wills… etc. If I went further into detailing, I will unravel this braid into more and more lines… again, I admit; I am biased.

Some professional critics mastering the science of artistic criticism may add other things I have not tackled here… it may be said that the movie is too direct that we can say it is a preaching sermon or even an instructing lecture in a school or college… some may also hint that some actors were not accurate in pronouncing some Quranic verses and committed some linguistic errors… others may think that the film is portraying the salafist ideology based on Ibn Taymmiya’s interpretations in the role of the devil.

However, to me, the movie message was fully conceived… I enjoyed the film and was really touched… and despite I have a very good knowledge of Christianity and Islam and all their doctrines to the extent that I can say I received no intellectual addition, I really enjoyed the movie and felt satisfied.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Al Ahram on January 5, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:

#alahram #ahmed_elgammal #mawlana