My thoughts on The Retreat

I am procrastinating (again) but wanted to share some thoughts on BBC2’s The Retreat documentary which finished last week.

I had actually wanted to take part in this documentary and perhaps would have if it had not been for uni starting in September. I even spoke to one of the producers last August who asked what had interested me about the Retreat and why I wanted to take part in it (though she never answered my questions as to where it would take place and who the teacher would be). So I told her, I am a Muslim, I pray five times a day, I fast etc etc but something seems to be missing. It was only a year or so ago that I had been introduced to the science of Tasawuff and so when I heard of the retreat programme and what it was about I thought “why not?”. But I didn’t go (obviously), so yeah I was looking forward to watching the programme.

Overall, I liked the programme. Located in beautiful Andalucia, Spain it offered a most befitting environment for serious contemplation and reflection. The participants ranged from your agnostic and non practicing Muslim to the revert and practicing Muslim. If there was anyone in the programme who I think would’ve have been me had I participated, I definitely think it would have been Aisha. The producers were looking for a mixed bunch of people and I guess they needed someone to come across as the “hardcore” strict Muslim and I can relate to Aisha in a sense, having approached things like that in the past myself.

We have to remember that this was a four week event made to fit into a three hour documentary and so there was definitely going to be some cut and paste jobs going on in the making of the final documentary. A perfect example would be this little snippet on the discussion on the type of dhikr that was going on at the retreat (I found it here):

Sidi Abdullah’s comments, I’ve heard, were edited and so his full answers were not shown and Aisha speaking on Islam Channel news, said she felt let down at the way the production team had protrayed her.

I think the main thing that made me go “hmm” was when they showed the sisters doing dhikr and experiencing hal. Apart from slightly freaking me out, I felt it was something private and personal and so should have not been aired.

Apart from all that, I enjoyed watching each one of the participants’ experience and I hope, and do think that they all came away with something positive-Pom’s shahada, Azim’s (re)discovery of Islam and Mudasser opening upto his emotions were the highlights for me of this documentary. Here’s a clip of some dhikr and hadra( I like Mudasser’s comments to Azeem):

So that was the Retreat. Some of the participants will be coming on this weeks SNL on Islam Channel Inshallah.

God Bless and Du’as

Usma

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~ by usma on 20, March, 2007.

13 Responses to “My thoughts on The Retreat”

  1. Salaams
    The Retreat was definitely one to watch, it showed something unseen to many in the Western world, a peaceful representation of Islam. The mix of people was just right, and although clearly there was some serious editing going on, I feel it could have been worse; it was a T.V show after all and did have to focus on including the interesting bits. I could definitely relate to Aisha, I mean if someone hadn’t ever been exposed to anything remotely ‘sufi’ or anyone would react as she did, I liked the comment at the end – where she said she felt she needed to spend more time with Allah alone… I think that’s all that Sidi Abdullah wanted, not some mass conversion to sufi Islam, but the participants to find their spiritual sides, as our souls are clearly in existence but in the mayhem of the material world are easily forgotten.
    Striving Soul

  2. Salam, The programme, (like I said on my blog) on the whole was really good. It is so typical though that the BBC ends up editing great chunks of the conversations between the brothers and sisters. Once I found out the Brother Abdullah words were edited during the making of the programme I felt cheated. This is because to edit words like they did require great effort and time. In affect, they purposely changed the meanings of his answers….and that is bad.

    I still didnt like all the hand shaking and inter-mingling!!!!

    btw I like your blog 🙂

  3. […] Sidi Abdullah and Sidi Iqbal led the retreat in Spain, which was broadcast earlier this year on BBC 2. […]

  4. Salaams, they just finished airing this series in Australia. Overall I found it a really rewarding experience. It looked such a beautiful setting and being a follower of Tassuwuf I found the dhikr enlightening as well.
    I was a bit concerned with Abdullah’s comments in reply to Aeysha’s doubts, but let that go as the series progressed.
    I have to say I was quite annoyed with Aeysha, she did not come off looking good from this. Her views were fine and I had no problem with it – it may be she was not prepared or informed of the retreat’s aims, but I felt she wasted both her own and everyone else’s time.
    I’m sure she is not so regimented and closed as portrayed, but really some of her attitudes to the retreat did not make it easy for her. But I guess she served as a foil (probably quite deliberate of the film makers) but in the end her presence helped to bring certain nafs to the fore, so had a positive outcome.
    It might seem I’m a bit harsh, but I do get annoyed with born Muslims giving off an air of superiority, and self-conscious ‘self riteousness’ – it turns non-Muslims and potential Muslims right off. I mean, in the end it was the environment, the Shaykh and the dhikr (as facilitated by Allah SWT of course) that helped soften Pom’s heart and give her Hidayya to convert, not Aeysha’s do-gooding conservatism.
    She seems a nice person but I hope she gained something from the whole exercise, from where I’m standing she was wasting her own and everyone elses time.

  5. As-salamu ‘alaykum,

    The series wasn’t aired here, so I watched parts 2 and 3 on Google Video (part 1 was missing)… All in all I found the two episodes moving and special. I agree with what was commented with above, but I must say that retreats and programmes like that are highly beneficial. Two people converted and others had their faith envigourated. A friend of mine told me that his (non-Muslim) mother was so moved by the series that she said afterwards: “I’m a Sufi!”

    I would love to go on a retreat like that.

  6. Hello! Do you happen to know if this particular retreat is something that’s organized every year? I felt a great peace come upon me while watching the documentary and I have this feeling that I should go there and maybe find God.

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