I know what you’re thinking. Haven’t I vowed not to get on the Netflix ship ever again? Fine, I admit defeat. I’m back on the Netflix ship, raising my white flag as I’m helplessly swept away by the tempestuous sea of this TV series dubbed as the Turkish Game of Thrones – Diriliş: Ertuğrul (Resurrection: Ertuğrul). It’s a series set in the 13th century, revolving around the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman Ghazi aka the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
Those who know me well would know that I’m not the kind to indulge in a TV series for hours on end. I was compelled to get on the bandwagon when I saw some Islamic teachers talking about it on their social media. At first, I was skeptical. 76 episodes in Season 1 alone? And approximately 40 minutes per episode? That sounds like all the hours that make up my entire life which I’m not getting back. Besides, sword fighting, horse riding and tribal councils? They aren’t the sort of thing I’d be excited to leave work and rush home for. But the next thing I know, I’ve conquered a freight train of episodes and landed myself in the middle of Season 2.
Diriliş: Ertuğrul serves a huge plate of action, a pint of history, a dash of romance, and even a sprinkle of comic relief. There are plenty of reasons to like this show: The plot thickens and twists so you’re often at the edge of your seat. The soundtrack is ace. The good-looking Turks in traditional, modest outfits. The women not conventionally portrayed as damsels in distress – they are worriers and warriors who are are more than able to hold the fort and yield their own swords to fend for themselves. The valuable lessons in upholding righteousness, tradition, humility, valour, nobility, honour, unity, justice, faith, hope. Oh, and the Muslim pride that burns in your heart as you watch how Muslims aren’t portrayed as the minorities or terrorists – we’re the undefeated heroes, the warriors, the saviours instead.
The show’s been likened to the highly popular Game of Thrones which wasn’t enough to captivate me after trying out the first episode (and being mostly disturbed by the uncomfortably intimate scenes). This is where Ertugrul had won me in comparison: it’s a kind of entertainment that is, by today’s standards, extremely clean. By that I mean no stress of worrying whether there’ll be a lewd scene right around the corner (it’s the main reason I avoid TV, it puts me off). Cringy slow-mos, exaggerated sound effects and its relevance to modern Turkey aside, I think what makes this series so arresting for me is its element of faith which constantly refuels and reminds me of His love, mercy, justice, and hope. We can’t deny the powerful influence of media, and to have a TV show portraying Muslims as heroes and which is fundamentally rooted in faith is refreshing. I’d say the Omar miniseries would come close but I kind of left the series halfway (I guess it just wasn’t as convenient since it wasn’t on Netflix) and it’s also not created to be an epic that Ertuğrul is. And it’s just something I don’t get from the typical Malay dramas I happen to come across, you know? Where Allah isn’t just your Lord you turn to in times of distress and isolation, but the One you should also turn to in times of gratefulness and celebration.
This show reminds me that with all the things that are wrong and devastating in the world right now, what will rebuild it is hope. In the depths of darkness, there is always light. In the cesspit of corruption and evil, His justice and mercy prevails. In a world where morals have become confusing, unwavering values rooted in one’s heart will be the catalyst for victory. In a world where following noble customs, traditions and rituals are seen as backward, we need to show the world how sticking to our values and practices is the most honourable, future-forward thing a human can do. Believers will always triumph if we stand united, even when we are outnumbered, even when circumstances seem bleak, even when the odds do not seem to be on our favour, even when the whole world is against us.
Ertuğrul and his closest companions strive to live their mission like how our prophet (PBUH), and the prophets before him, did. And you can see that from their determination to spread the light of Islam despite the hardships, and all the close shaves they encountered as they danced with death during their quests and were sent blessed souls in their path to save them, which delivers the message of how Allah SWT will help His servants who seek help from no one but Him. It reminds me that when we are on the side of Allah, we’ve already won. It reminds me that before a feast or a fight, the name of Allah should always sit on our tongues. When we have God, nothing is impossible. As long as we are on the right path – the path of justice and the path of faith – then Allah will clear the path for us. It reminds me that the du’a (prayer) is the weapon of the mu’min. It made me realise how powerful the du’as of our forefathers are. We would not be where we are today without their prayers. We are riding on the blood of our martyrs. I realise and am ashamed of the strength of faith they must hold in their big hearts; so much that they are willing to die for it, in comparison to the bit of iman I hold in my frail heart. Their fearlessness, sacrifices and relentless, selfless pursuit in the betterment of the next generation and for the spread of Islam, awes me. It makes me feel great to be a stranger in this world. It makes me feel cool to be a Muslim.
Now I know we don’t need a Turkish soap opera to prove all that, but it is uplifting to have a media representation of our oft-criticised faith being showcased tastefully. Also, in a way, this show had taught me to shift my perspectives and be more grateful with life. Like, you know, at least I don’t have to traverse lands with my tribe on camels in order to find a home to escape the harsh winters whilst dealing with syaitans like Noyan and Titus.
But let me warn you – once you are in it, you will be in it for a long run. You’ll either thank me or hate me for this (I hope it’s the former). Nonetheless, I hope we can appreciate it for its championing of Islamic values that the current world today so lacks. Because what the world needs now is hope. And a TV series like Diriliş: Ertuğrul reminds us that if we believe and have faith, there will be plenty of that for every one.
Till next time,