How do you make one of the most lengthy and popular stories in islam into an exciting, full blown movie while remaining faithful to every beloved detail? This is one of those questions that evaporates mean-spirited filmmakers whose eyes is on the look for routine stories you watch and forget the title the next hour. The courage to standstill to the question alone certifies ASHABUL KAHFI as a work of bold ambition at the time of cinematic timidity.
One of the critiques you often hear of Kannywood is that instead of advocating islam, which should be their prime focus, they are transgressing against it. Another is that their low standard sinks their movies below the point of recommendation. Well, ASHABUL KAHFI is a letter to the critics: we do represent islam and we are standard on our unsophisticated terms.
When you are adapting a story from the QUR’AN, precision and accuracy matters most, not complexity. While some random writer on the other side of the planet would get unhealthily excited to an obsessive level, Yakubu M Kumo realises the central purpose of the movie and ensures that the movie’s heart is firmly in the right place. The movie is a little expanded for the sake of character development but the original story remains intact. The movie remains submissive to the story of the QUR’AN.
The act of telling a story is often more important than the story itself, ASHABUL KAHFI falls into the seldom cases. The story is more important here. The best thing about the movie is that it makes you see it, believe in it and feel it. The Director puts the main quest on hold; introduces the characters (Tahir Fagge, then Ibrahim Maishunku, then Al-Amin Buhari, then Nuhu Abdullahi and the rest), establishes the mood, sets the stage and then sets up the quest. The background music occasionally connects the viewer to the action and above all, there is no cheesy special effect in sight.
The film doesn’t offer much narrative surprises; the lack of unexpected twists actually works in its favour because such can mislead people and create an avenue for all sort of religiously-generated criticism. The director succumbs to the screenplay which is admiringly impressive and keeps the story straight-forward. The film ends as soon as the final story stage clears in order not to create diversions.
Some of the cast are new to the business but they carry themselves as veterans throughout. The cast are, if not as inspired as any veteran actor in any high-profile movie, close enough to make no difference. They are elements through which great educative values pass- something to be proud of for a life time.
The movie’s greatest weakness is, I think, as an educative and reformative picture, it should have stated the virtues of the surah, reason behind revelation of the verses containing the story, the wisdom behind the convergence of the youth, brief discussion of the lessons inferred from the story, etc. It doesn’t give much insight on the culture, art and geography of the people of that age too.
Movies act as an escape hatch for people who wish to forget their worries, frustrations and tensions, even if its effects last for few hours. Therefore entertainments should be incorporated into a movie of whatever genre. ASHABUL KAHFI does not offer much entertainment. The dialogue of the movie is too plain and well-timed suspense (not twists) should have been helpful.
ASHABUL KAHBI is a story of a young men who live in a disbelieving town, so they decide to migrate for the sake of Allah and run away. Allah rewards them with his protection in the cave- they sleep and wake up (309 years after) to find the entire village believers. Their stay for this long period without eating and drinking is one of the signs of Allah and proof of his magnificent ability. Movies nowadays are hardly showcasing art and knowledge, ASHABUL KAHFI is not one of those lowest-common-denominators. It carries lessons that need to be reflected upon because the story is from QUR’AN.
The QUR’AN contains all information and commands necessary for believers’ life. One of its greatest miracles is that it has retained its relevance to all people, regardless of when they live. Its narratives about past nations provide guidance in many ways. The story of ASHABUL KAHFI is from surah Al-kahf (9-26). Recitation of surah Al-kahf on friday illuminates one with light from one friday to the next.
People of the cave passed through a serious test of faith and the surah signals the possibility that people living in the endtimes might face similar test because it contains many secrets and expressions hinting at the endtimes. Among the signs: it contains the believers’ defence against Dajjal (the first ten verses) and the account of Dhul Qarnayn’s encounter with Ya’juj-Ma’juj. The story of ASHABUL KAHF is, in a way, guidance for Muslims of the endtimes in seeking Allah’s mercy and assistance to make it easier for them to fight godless movements.
Movies can go a long way toward regaining national consciousness and in utilising energy of the youth by a skillful adaptation of moral, social and educative themes. ASHABUL KAHFI tasks youth to be a source of strength for one another and to make a concerted effort toward attaining what they seek from Allah.
Narrative errors: Contrary to the actual story in which the dog didn’t enter the cave, the dog enters the cave in the movie “…And their dog stretching forth his two legs at the wasid…” (Al-Kahf,18). The wasid means ‘at the entrance’ as most scholars agreed for angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog. Secondly, the manner in which the young men sleep in the movie is not the manner described in the QUR’AN “And you would have thought them awake, whereas they were asleep…” (Al-kahf,18). They were said to have slept with their eyes open.
Lastly, the movie misconceives the generation that witnesses their wakening (they are shown to be all Muslims). The generation was skeptical of resurrection and Allah showed them example with the people of the cave “And we made their case known, that they (the people of that generation) might know the promise of Allah is true and there is no doubt about the hour…” (Al-kahf,21). Believers do not doubt resurrection in the least. Another reason justifying the argument “…and those who won their point said, we verily shall build a place of worship over them…” (Al-kahf,21). The people who made this statement were likely to be nonbelievers because islam rejects such deed. Their winning over the case indicates popularity. Allah knows best.
Although ASHABUL KAHFI may not reach a beloved classic on the fun-seekers’ timeline, I think the makers of ASHABUL KAHFI have done more than they have been given credit for.
Producer: Usman Mu’azu
Director: Aminu Saira
Cast: Nuhu Abdullahi, Sadiq Sani Sadiq, Ibrahim Mai Shunku, Al-Amin Buhari, Tahir Fagge, Halima Atete and others.
Written by: Anas Abdullahi