Hausa Film: Compatible or incompatible with Islam and the Hausa culture?(III)

By Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim

We the fans of Hausa video films have come to realize that it is the producers and the directors that are responsible for the corruption of culture and religion in these films. You know very well that every section of a woman is private. For instance, they are fond of allowing actresses without head covering, and straightening their hair; also making them wear skimpy Western dresses which reveal their body shapes, etc. In our awareness and education, we know these behaviors are immensely contrary to Islam. Don’t such actresses ever think of the Day of Judgment? Don’t forget their claims that they are educating or delivering vital social message. Is this how you educate—by corrupting Islamic injunctions? Please look into this and take remediate measures immediately. Aisha D. Muhammad Gamawa, Bauchi, Fim, Letters Page, March 2004, p. 6.

The Islamic view on film
Basically watching films, drama and the like is permissible as long as they do not present what is contrary to Islamic teachings like immorality, irreligiosity, licentiousness, etc. But, going by its origin in this context, some people perhaps hate the art of drama and, later, of films, because it was largely brought and promoted by the Christian, western colonial masters in Nigeria. Ideal Hausawa consider Islam not only relevant in their lives but a necessary panacea for the multi-dimensional problems of the modern world. Hence, for the film to function ‘effectively,’ its umbilical cord has to be severed from its originator’s—the West; or, the second option is to push the status of Islam to a lower ebb, which is what is collaboratively chosen by the majority Hausa video film-makers and their artists. Some filmmakers give all avenues for all sorts of religiously-generated criticism. For instance, they excessively copiously copy from Indian films, and subtly from other foreign films. They cleverly and without any copyright permission re-enact an Indian film that captures the attention of the audience.
This issue is actually an intricate one. This I say, for there are many self-called and pseudo-religious scholars who have taken it up with passion and as fashion to go on the media and crucify all actors and actresses as transgressors and promoters of unrighteousness. They largely and almost always ground their accusation on some sayings of the Prophet and Qur’anic verses, like:
“And I have not created the Jinns and Mankind except that they should worship me” 51:56
“We have left out nothing in this book…” 6:38

The two verses, as far as those people believe, leave no room for the films. Muslims were created to worship God, not to be ‘misinformed’ and ‘misled’ by mere mimetic representation captured on camera. No one would tell them that I can ‘teach’ or ‘enlighten’ you through film, or the like. However, Islam, I dare to say, is not an unsophisticated religion; it rather moves with the trend. This is why in many Muslim dominated countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others, their governments in conjunction with the film-making industries produce animated cartoon and normal dramas (usually as series and serials) and even full-length film for their citizenry. Unfortunately not so is done here.

Towards the possible way out and way forward
Film is a double-edged weapon, where it could be used for good or bad. It thus remains a great challenge upon all film-makers and the Muslim intelligentsia, and the government too, to utilize the art for good and produce ‘Islamic’ films. The religious establishment, which Adamu (2006a:57) dubbed “the main litmus test of the acceptability of a popular culture in the Islamic polity,” plays a greater role in the said mission. Scholars of various sects condemn what are seen as sexual excesses, cultural misrepresentation and adulteration, and the like in any Hausa home video. But with coming and, if possible doing it, together, such would be threaded.
Film is a transmitter of cultural value and mores of people, hence, the need for it to reflect and not to refract the peoples’ ethos. The Hausa filmmaking and producing personnel, on the one hand, should be aware of this. For their products to be approved and well accepted, they ought to base and act it out in conformity with the larger societal expectation, desire, want and need, and as enshrined by the state cinematography law. The film is done not for self-consumption alone, it is rather meant to be consumed and appreciated by others. And, on the other hand, the government should outline categorically the mode as validation of films’ moral rectitude and therefore as fit for public consumption.

Films are believed to play an important role in forming ideas about, and attitude to, the world, in setting agendas, and enabling (or not)  other ways of envisaging the [society] and doing many other “amazing” things (Perkins, 2000). This calls for the film-makers to be more careful. They should know more about what is called Entertainment-Education. To borrow some scholars’ words, “the message is NOT the story”. I am not advocating for didactic films as that may lead to running the risk of being boring. Get an approvable story, create actions, other dilemmas, other conflicts and blend all of these with your message. It could be, though silently, but very effectively achieved this way.
Why even at the level of the community, the filmmakers and the artists are, on many grounds, regarded with negative attitude, stereotype, disdain and contempt; though they are hailed by others in some instances. To amend this, I believe they should interact more with their audience, for neither can exist without either. Even in their ‘senior woods’—Hollywood and Bollywood—many stars are self-sacrificed humanitarian workers. For instance, Angelina Jolie has reportedly adopted children from around the globe, and she and others like Shah Rukh Khan have been making various and vast donations to the needy. Kannywood film-makers and artists should follow suit with however little they could offer. This will certainly get them the faith of the audience.
And many more other ways.

As it might have been deduced from the foregoing, the three—Islam, culture and the Hausa Home Video—could be harmonized, and thus will be of great benefit to the populace. The government, as the number one warring party, and the film-makers have to find a common ground for peace and progress. The case of Sani Danja and that of Kara’in Ibro talked about, happened, and will very much likely and possibly continue to happen in the future until and unless a kind of mutual understanding is built between the filmmakers and their warring forces. However, the agreement to be reached may not be a win-win one for both parties; one or both has/have to relinquish some ‘claims’ and let things be.