With the release of the Live Action Aladdin, Disney films has gone above and beyond to honor the culture behind the story. There were lots of small details within the film that have caught the eye of worldwide fans, but there was one detail that touched my own heart.
What Is A Kufi?
A kufi is a round, brimless hat that’s worn in parts of Africa and southeast Asia. A kufi can be highly decorated, which is one way men in this area of the world announce their social status.
While a kufi could mean a man is part of the Islamic community, it isn’t a guarantee. This hat is an essential part of the culture, which is why it took my breath away to see the sultan in Aladdin wearing a kufi.
What A Kufi Means For The Culture
Watching the sultan, played by Navid Negahban, in his kufi brought immediate tears to my eyes. Live action Aladdin was always going to be magical to me (it’s my favorite Disney animated film), but this one part — something many would never notice — made my heart swell.
Seeing sultan in his kufi in Aladdin made me think of my grandfather and my two uncles. Powerful yet humble Muslim men, who cherished their children. The way the sultan was portrayed in this film felt right. Not a bumbling, round-belly, oblivious royal. A fiercely loyal and loving father who stood tall, protected his daughter, and showed a side of the Islamic community I wish so many could see and embrace.
Why Sultan’s Kufi Was Important
No spoilers, but even the scenes where we see him in his kufi says so much about how patriarchs are seen within the African and South Asian culture. I saw my grandfather in his eyes, and my mother in the eyes of Jasmine. I saw my uncles in his eyes, and their beautiful daughters in the eyes of Jasmine. I saw MY dad in his eyes, and myself in the eyes of Jasmine (which pretty much broke me).
A Nod To Friday Salaam
Another small detail that mattered? FRIDAY Salam. A one-word change can make a big impact. In the original Aladdin, Robin Williams sings “brush off your Sunday salaam” in A Friend Like Me.
In the Live Action Aladdin, Will Smith sings the correct verbiage of “brush off your Friday Salaam.” The Muslim holy day is Friday, not Sunday. This little change was a big nod to the culture represented in the film, just like sultan’s kufi.
While I may not be a Muslim anymore, I have still honored, respected, and loved the Islamic culture. It’s the culture that raised and nurtured me. This one small detail of a well-placed kufi in Aladdin, showed me how much Disney respects the culture they were tasked to portray in this film.
I really hope the cast and crew are proud of what they created. Aladdin was a visually beautiful love letter, on so many levels.