By Salman Ansari Javid

“I Am a Sheikh”: Documentary on Islamic scholars in Qom

December 15, 2019 - 18:20

QOM – “I Am a Sheikh” is a six-minute-long radio documentary about the typical daily life routine of Iranian students at Feizieh Madrasa, a major Islamic seminary in Qom. The documentary, by independent producer Morteza Namazi, went on to win the first award for an Iranian production at the Grand Prix Nova 2018 International Radio Festival in Croatia. It was awarded the second place in the Short Forms category.

Prix Marulic is an annual festival of audio plays and documentaries based on texts from literary and cultural heritage, organized by the National Radio and Television of Croatia, HRT. The festival is competitive and is open to broadcasting organizations and independent producers.

The documentary shows a typical day in the life of an Islamic sciences student starting with the sound of sipping from a cup of tea followed with the words: “In the name of God”. The doc examines a typical daily routine in the life of the scholar, with every morning starting at Feizieh and the traditional classes given by famous scholars, continuing with the usual daily routine of shopping in the evening and returning to family and home.

With the sound of a heart beating in the background, the day goes on as the heartbeats become faster. Accompanied with the sound of an electrocardiogram, the interval between the heartbeats become shorter and shorter until the continuous sound of a beep is heard, depicting a flatline representing mortality. 

Describing his experience in Hvar, Croatia, Namazi points out that “it was interesting for Westerners as the word ‘Sheikh’ usually refers to the ruler of a tribe in the Persian Gulf Arabic states, whereas in Iran the word sheikh refers to a clergyman in the Islamic seminary.”

Namazi remembers a member of jury pointing out how interesting it was for him that a scholar’s life in Qom is so deeply intertwined with his family.

In his latest work “The True Mystic” Namazi depicts the unique voice and style of prayers of late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Bahjat Fumani. “In this documentary, I focused on his emotional outlet during prayer sermons, which he showed by crying during his prayers.”

Namazi was born in Isfahan in 1987. At the age of six, his family moved to Montreal, Canada where he spent his early years in elementary schools. When the family returned to Iran in 2000, he continued his education in Qom. He graduated with a BA in English translation from the University of Qom in 2012. Later on, he continued education with MA in cultural studies at Kashan University where he graduated in 2018.

In 2008, Namazi started working at Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s “The Call of Islam” radio broadcast in English. He continued his work at Radio Maaref as a producer.

In 2015, he produced “The Forgotten Ayatollah”, a nine-minute documentary about the life and works of Ayatollah Seyyed Abolqasem Khansari Riazi, a famous scholar from the city of Khansar. The documentary premiered in 2015 at the Prix Marulic Radio Festival, where he was selected as a member of the jury as well.

About his future plans, Namazi wants to engage in Ars Acustica, a form of radio program made only from sound effects without any conversation. Using this genre, his documentary will be about the martyrdom of Ali Asghar (AS), son of Imam Hussein (AS), in Karbala.

About 10 minutes of sound effects, Namazi explained that this is “one of the miracles of radio, in which you produce a program without anyone saying a word.” His inspiration came from “Happy Birthday Darling”, a nine-minute Ars Acustica by the renowned Russian producer Dimitry Nikolaev, about World War I.

“Things I’ve been working on since 2015, I consider these works as a new method of ‘tabligh’ or ‘Islamic propagation’. Old methods we refer to as ‘minbar’ or lectures. We should use the new methods and mediums instead of old ones for propagating the word of Islam.”

Concluding his interview, Namazi stressed that “artists in Iran are in need of more government support and encouragement in order to continue working for the sake of Iran.”

Photo: Morteza Namazi (L) holds his award along with IRIB Vice President Hamid Shahabadi (C) and Radio Maaref director Mohammed Kaviani during a ceremony held in autumn 2018 to celebrate Iranian artists’ wins at domestic and international events. 


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