▪︎Readers’ commendations and criticisms
▪︎ What makes the Turkish TV series tick
▪︎Cost of watching over 500 episodes
Turkish historic TV series, Diriliş Ertuğrul is arguably the biggest Islamic-themed movie that has taken the Muslim world by storm. The series, produced by Turkish filmmaker, Mehmet Bozdağ, has gained a lot of attraction among lovers of entertainment in no fewer than 76 countries, with close to 1 billion viewership worldwide as at June 2020.
Daily Sabah had earlier reported in May that the Turkish series, which saw Engin Altan Duzyatan playing Ertuğrul Bey, has been translated to more than 25 languages, including English, Urdu and Arabic, with sales rights licenced to all the 76 countries.
Although banned in some countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and UAE for political reasons, Diriliş Ertuğrul meaning “Resurrection Ertuğrul” has been massively watched in the UK, Canada, Scotland, Pakistan, Yemen, Tunisia, Kashmir, Indonesia and South Africa.
However, the series which started filming in 2014 and whose final, 500th episode was released in May 2019, is still not so popular among Nigerians, the country with Africa’s biggest entertainment market, and of course, with the largest population in Africa.
Nonetheless, Muslim News Nigeria, is making efforts to promote the drama series and bring it to the consciousness of many Nigerians.
Nijeryalı gazeteci Raşit Abubekir (@rawshieldpr)
Diriliş Ertuğrul ve Kuruluş Osman'ın etkilerini örneklerle değerlendirdi
Ona göre bu diziler İslami değerleri koruyor
— Gökhan Kavak (@gokhankavk) May 23, 2020
Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic newspaper published its first story entitled, ‘Diriliş: Ertuğrul: The perfect TV Series for Nigerian Muslims stuck at home in this era of Coronavirus’ earlier on the 21st of March, almost the same period the Nigerian government declared a total lockdown in the country to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus disease.
In the said report, the medium wrote in part, “As people adhere to the stay at home advisory/directive issued by the Federal Government, we recommend this Turkish Series, (Diriliş Ertuğrul) to all our esteemed readers. It is a flawless and perfect work of art that could bring the family together and enjoy an unforgettable weekend.”
Muslim News Nigeria has since dedicated its midweek and weekend Islamtainment to promoting Ertuğrul, alongside other Islamic movies. Consequently, thousands of its followers started searching for the movie on YouTube and Netflix, with some seeking guidance on how to access the drama series for their viewing pleasure. There are also many reviews on Ertuğrul, from many Nigerian Muslims that got published on the medium.
Commendations and criticisms
The move by Muslim News Nigeria to give Ertuğrul the necessary publicity has continued to receive reactions and commentaries from fans and readers.
While many people saluted and applauded the uniqueness of the medium in consistently popularising the drama series in Nigeria, some others frowned at it for different reasons.
Commentators confessed that Muslim News brought their awareness to the movie. For instance, Jibril Umar said, “Muslim News had brought Ertuğrul closer to us. It has continued to update us on weekly and weekend bases, with interesting episodes from the seasons. It has been interesting, informing, educative. I really commend the medium’s continuous efforts in promoting the movie.”
— Hajarat Alli (@precioushaj) May 27, 2020
Also commenting, Lateefah Farawe, who got to know about Ertuğrul through Muslim News’ Whatsapp status, said, “Many a time, I see the updates which regale us with the contribution of the Turks to the spread of Islam and say this is beautiful and then, look away. But it got to a stage that I saw one of the episodes that was shared, and I was moved with how a character was addressing the community, telling them wherever there is hypocrisy, people would not unite.
“So, he was telling them that those who are truly for him on the mission should stay, while those who are not for him should leave. So, I was moved with that kind of Islamic activism to the extent that I called my husband to also watch it.
“My husband later bought into the idea, as he also watched it. One day, he came from his workplace, and told me to bring my phone that he wanted to log me into Netflix. And that was how we started watching the movie.
“Since we started watching, I must say that we have enjoyed it so far and we are pleased with it because it reminds us of our responsibilities as Muslims. It teaches us that if we fail to play our parts, the whole Muslim Ummah would suffer for it,” she added.
Some critics have however accused Muslim News of hidden motive – for focusing much attention on the film due to its publisher’s interest in the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was named the newspaper’s Global Muslim Personality of the year 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Yusuf Aweda, a social media commentator criticised the medium for presenting the movie as an inevitable means for understanding Islamic history and dawah, saying the movie was never a scale to measure people.
His words, “I have personally had a long debate with the publisher on his addiction to Ertugul, the movie. He is over preoccupied with the movie. No matter how beneficial, it is just a movie. Nothing else.. Scripted and directed by some people who had their own motive and agenda too. I am not kicking against watching the movie, but preoccupying one’s thoughts around it is what I dislike.”
Responding to criticisms, the publisher, Mallam Rasheed Abubakar said the medium was not promoting the TV series because of his love for President Erdogan, adding that, “It is an interesting Series that promotes islamic culture and reminds us of our glorious past when Muslims united against cruelty and stood for fairness and justice. Ertuğrul received more popularity due to its historical relevance.”
Abubakar, who had been a journalist in the Nigerian entertainment industry before establishing Muslim News, explained that the already divided Ummah has a lot to learn from the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman, who founded the Ottoman Empire.
According to him, “Even if the Turkish series was shot or sponsored by another country other than Turkey, it would have attracted similar mention and publicity by the medium.
“When Saudi Arabia’s MBC launched Black-Crows in 2018, the medium promoted it because it was the first Arab TV series that tackled extremism and exposed how extremists recruit and indoctrinate their would-be victims under the guise of establishing their so called Islamic Caliphacy. Very lovely and fantastic expose.”
— Muslim News Nigeria (@muslimnews_NG) May 23, 2020
Abubakar maintained that he would continue to promote Ertuğrul and if possible use his network to bring the movie to Nigeria cable stations. He stressed that, “There is nothing wrong if Ertuğrul and other Turkish series are brought to the door of Nigerian Muslims, after all, we watch Mexican, Indian and Korean TV series in their original languages. They’re all subtitled in English.
The author of “Muslims and the Threats of the Media” believes that the movie industry is a potent tool to wage a soft war in the 21st century, calling on Muslim elites and entrepreneurs to invest in the media.
Bashiru Musa, a northern historian, commended Muslim News for promoting the movie, suggesting that it should be dubbed or subtitled to Hausa, the language spoken by Hausa people, the largest ethnic group in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He said, “I commend the focus of Muslim News on this Turkish series. But I want to advice that the promoters consider translating to the Hausa language. Already, Indian films in Nigeria are being translated. I believe the resources to achieve that are in place.”
What makes Ertuğrul Tick
Ertuğrul has given Muslim youths an alternative narrative that does not only correct misconceptions and stereotypes about Islamic culture in Bollywood and Hollywood, it also has direct influence on the Muslim population globally.
Set in the 13th Century, the historic drama centres around the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, who was the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
“With the prevailing loss of interest in reading books where people could learn, movies like Ertuğrul provide a safe resort in educating Muslims about historical events,” Mansur Ismaila, a media analyst who follows the drama series told Muslim News.
Monsur noted that Ertuğrul is a critically important opportunity for the Muslims of the world to learn about their history – of power, scientific and social leadership, military prowess and civilizational might.
According to him, “You see, we have become an Ummah that has stopped reading, and the safest place to bury our most treasured historical gems, away from our permanent sight, is in our own very books.
“However, we love and watch movies, like Western cultural influence has pushed us to. As such, the Ertugrul masterpiece is an important opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims to learn about the great men (and women), Turks and otherwise, but all Muslims, who led the world and showcased the beauty and strength of Islam as a global power.”
Mansur posited that, from the huge viewership and success Ertuğrul recorded across the world in a very short period of time, something promising is coming for Islam and Muslims.
He said, “In addition, Ertugrul and Osman, both of which have recorded blistering success and at least a billion global views, are a promise of what is to come, and what is to return, of Islam and Muslims as global powers.
“Add that to the fact of President Erdogan and the AKP of Turkey, the restoration of the Hagia Sophia and current chatter about the long sought, and rightful restoration of the Masjidil Aqsa in Jerusalem, then your guess is as good as mine.”
Another Nigeria-based journalist, Sulaiman Alamutu told Muslim News that the drama series is filled with lessons in leadership, commitment and dedication to the service of Islam.
“The series address the essence of focused leadership to achieving the common goal of the Ummah. This is captured by Ertugrul Ghazi’s vigour and resilience in the face of internal treachery and external threats against his tribe, Kayi, and the Islamic world in general,” he said.
Alamutu recalled how the Turkish drama series connects with a book he read a long time ago, noting that excessive penchant for wealth and power erodes the influence of Islam.
“Watching the series reminds me of Abu Umar AlFaruq’s book, ‘Lessons from Our History’ which highlighted how the quest for power, domination and wealth among Muslims led to the eventual waning of Islam’s influence and the collapse of the Khilafa.
“The success of Ertugrul evokes the feeling of hope and conviction that Islam and Muslims can still reclaim their rightful position.”
Cost of watching Ertuğrul
Many Nigerian viewers and movie enthusiasts have raised concerns on the non-availability of the series on the cable TV channels, saying, it is expensive and costly to watch all the episodes on online platforms.
Muslim News learnt that apart from the Season One which was subtitled in English and available on YouTube, all the complete 150 episodes are streaming with and without subscription on Netflix and http://kayifamily.com respectively.
But many fans told our Correspondents that they couldn’t afford Netflix monthly subscription, which ranges from N2,900 (7.47$) to 4,400 (11.34$).
There are complaints that the seasons consume too much data due to the lengthy storyline that runs into well over a hundred episodes, adding that it would have been awesome if they could watch it on terrestrial television.
Titilope Olurode, an avid fan of Ertuğrul said though watching the series online is costly, the quality and lessons learnt so far has kept her going.
She said, “When I started watching, I was on an Airtel 4GB data plan which goes for N1000 (2.56$). By the time I watched about 10 episodes, the data had been exhausted. I recharged another 4GB, then another one. I was supposed to be worried but I wasn’t because of the powerful story behind the series. I was glued.
“The next time my data finished, I was on episode 37 where Halime Sultan (Ertuğrul’s wife) was about to be married to Sultan El-Aziz of Aleppo. The suspense was unexplainable. To enjoy the remaining episodes uninterrupted, I decided to switch to another network, MTN, which offered 20GB data for ₦3500 (8.97$). It seemed like a lot of money to spend on data at a go but I felt like it was worth it since I was barely halfway through Season 1.
“So, I ended up buying MTN 20GB two times, some 2GB here, 4GB there in between too. In total, I have spent more than N10,000 on data while still on Season 2 Episode 100. The Series, I learnt, is up to 5 with close to 500 episodes. You can see why I still have a long way to go.”
Olurode also said that she has not watched a new episode in about two months, noting that she can’t wait to complete the season 2 where she stopped watching.
“Noyan killed Tugtekin and Gokçe and I’m still heartbroken. So, I’ve not watched a new episode in about 2 months. But my heart is healing so I might get back to finishing Season 2 and starting Season 3, In sha Allah. I can’t wait to see Halime’s and Ertugrul’s children grow, in the subsequent seasons.
Salim Ibraheem, a school administrator, was among the few Nigerian fans that completed Ertuğrul, seasons 1 to 5 within three months, after spending N1, 320 on Netflix subscrition and free browsing.
According to him, “I recharge spectranet monthly with 10,000 naira with free midnight bonus, which can be used between 1am to 7am.
“So, during the midnight, I would download up to 20 episodes, watch them offline during the day. After exhausting the episodes, I deleted and then I downloaded another 20 episodes. That was how I was able to watch the whole seasons in three months on data bonus.
“The good thing is, my main data was used for other things during the day. I only used the data bonus to watch this interesting series. It was so interesting and worth the cost and effort aincurred on it, he added.
Ibraheem appealed to the Turkish authorities to partner with Muslim News or any other interested individual and corporate body, in order to bring Ertrugul and other Turkish series to the Nigerian market, noting that most people who intend to watch it may not be financially buoyant to withstand the cost.
Ibrahim, who hinted that he has just completed the first season of Kurusul Osman, a sequel to Diriliş Ertuğrul, called on all Muslims to watch the movie, saying it is full of lessons that would influence their lives positively.