Muslim Journeys Film Series

In partnership with the Maine Humanities Council and the Lewiston Public Library, we are proud to present the Muslim Journeys Film Series.  These first rate films provide a compelling and nuanced glimpse into some of the pressures faced by the next generation of Muslims. Each film in this series will be followed by a discussion facilitated by Reza Jalali, Author and Coordinator Multicultural Student Affairs at University of Southern Maine.  All films will be shown at the Lewiston Public Library.

Muslim Journeys Films is a free, library-based film and discussion series offered by Maine Humanities Council’s Maine Center for the Book as part of the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf created by the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


September 3:

“There is a passage in the Qur’an that says if you memorize the Qur’an and teach it to others, you will be successful in this life and the next life.” In Koran by Heart, the young scholar who says this has already committed the entire Muslim holy book to memory. He has also earned a place in the Islamic world’s oldest Qur’an memorization contest—though he’s only ten.

Every year, about one hundred of Islam’s best young students from around the world come to Cairo for the International Holy Koran Competition. Many are in their late teens, some as young as seven. Koran by Heart follows the progress of three scholars, a girl and two boys, all ten years old, as they compete against students who, in some instances, are nearly twice their age.

Scheduled during Ramadan, the two-week event is both grueling and exhilarating. The competitors adhere to the practice of daytime fasting prescribed for the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, and the rounds sometimes go well past midnight. But the boys and girls recite before audiences of clergy and family members who, though discerning, are full of admiration. The finals are broadcast on Egyptian national television.

Koran by Heart captures the skill, determination, and faith of the young competitors, but never lets the viewer forget that they are children: the solemn girl we watch as she accepts a prize from the president of Egypt is the same high-spirited kid who squeals with delight on her first camel ride.

October 1:

This ninety-minute film, Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World, takes audiences on an epic journey across nine countries and more than 1,400 years of history. It explores the richness of Islamic art in objects big and small, from great ornamented palaces and the play of light in monumental mosques to the exquisite beauty of ceramics, carved boxes, paintings, and metal work. It revels in the use of color and finds commonalities in a shared artistic heritage with the West and East. The film also examines the unique ways in which Islamic art turns calligraphy and the written word into masterpieces and develops water into an expressive, useful art form.

Like all art, Islamic art carries with it the fundamental values and perspectives of the artists who created it as well as those who commissioned and paid for it. It incorporates the basic themes of transcendent beauty common to all creative endeavors. The film reveals the variety and diversity of Islamic art, offering a window into Islamic culture and a variety of perspectives on enduring themes that have propelled human history and fueled the rise of world civilization over the centuries.