The infatuating story of Prophet Muhammad, the creator of the Islamic religion, told by Bibi, played by Denise Black, and his daughter Fatima, highlights the complexity and great gravity of Islamic history.
Directed by Eli King and written by Sheikh Al-Habib, “The Lady of Heaven” opens with a modern-day conflict in Iraq and a little boy, Laith (Gabriel Cartade), whose mother is killed by jihadists right in front of his eyes. He is discovered by an Iraqi soldier, Raed, played by Oscar Garland, who takes the boy under his protection with his mother, Bibi. She tells the story of the Lady of Heaven and the battles the Islamic people had to go through over 1400 years ago.
“The Lady of Heaven” is the perfect mix between entertainment and a history lesson. The switch between modern-day and past reflections is anything but confusing. Black’s portrayal and smooth storytelling of Fatima and Ali, her husband and second cousin, gets lost in the troubles of the change in power. Muhammad’s declaration in making Ali his next successor raises questions from his followers, ones like his father-in-law Abu Bakr (Ray Fearon).
It is worth noting that Lady Fatima’s face is never revealed; it is always covered by white or black fabric. The storyline focuses on the conflicts between the switch in power following the death of Muhammad. Although Black depicts the Lady as a pure and devoted daughter and follower of the Islamic religion, the film never shows her tending to the sick or wounded from battles as Black narrates.
The conclusion of the movie portrays the Lady of Heaven as a symbol of strength and hope to Muslims like Bibi, Laith, and his mother, Fatima. This eventually connects to the beginning of the film when Laith’s mother is shot by ISIS, who has a different interpretation of Islam and what the Lady of Heaven means to the religion.
As someone who is not fully educated on Islam and Muslim history, the narrative was difficult to follow and grasp, especially in the beginning. I definitely learned a lot from this film and having to had done research on the Islamic religion after watching the film. The title, “The Lady of Heaven,” seems almost misleading, considering her appearance in this movie is not as prominent as you think it would be.
That being said, the general story follows the beliefs of Shia Muslims in which Muhammad only had one biological daughter. It is also important to highlight that the beginning and end of the film note, “Following Islamic tradition, no individual represented a Holy Personality during the making of this film. The performances of the Holy Personalities were achieved through a unique synthesis of actors, in-camera effects, lighting, and visual effects.”