Iran’s most expensive film ever, “Mohammad”, was released Wednesday in 143 cinemas throughout the country. The religious blockbuster has been widely criticized by Sunni Islamic clerics, who claim that trying to depict Prophet Mohammad is forbidden.
'Mohammad, Messenger of God' is a film about the prophet's childhood. The 171-minutes movie never shows his face, but depicts Mohammad by showing the back of his head.
According the Sunni religious institution, al-Azhar, portraying the prophet - including his voice - is an insult and prohibited.
“The actor who plays this role may later play a criminal, and viewers may associate these characters with criminality," Abdel Dayyem Nosair, adviser to Al-Azhar head Ahmed al-Tayyeb, told AFP.
The movie's director, Majid Majidi, said the film would improve Islam’s “violent image” by giving the right impression of Mohammad’s life.
In an interview with AFP in Tehran, Majidi said extremists and jihadists such as the Islamic State group "have stolen the name of Islam". In the Western world, "an incorrect interpretation of Islam has emerged that shows a violent image of Islam, and we believe it has no link whatsoever" to the religion, he said.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has shown support for the film. In 2012 he made an unprecedented visit to the film’s set.