Producer-director Moustapha Akkad, himself a Muslim, bent over backwards to present a religiously acceptable portrayal of Islam's founding. Akkad consulted imams in Egypt and Saudi Arabia to ensure accuracy and allowed their input on the script. Notably, Mohammad was not depicted onscreen in accordance with Islamic tradition. The production proved arduous and expensive, with extensive location shooting in Morocco and Libya. Akkad complicated matters by shooting Arabic and English-language versions simultaneously, with completely different casts.
The film's adverse media coverage hurt it more than the actual production. One media outlet claimed that Charlton Heston had been cast as Mohammad. Akkad and Heston quickly issued a denial but the announcement caused an uproar in the Muslim world regardless. The resulting furor led to widespread protests and riots, notably in Pakistan, where several people were actually killed. Meanwhile, Western interest in the film soured when reporters learned that Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddaffi helped bankroll the production. Akkad noted in his own defense that lack of Hollywood interest in the movie required him to seek funds elsewhere.
The movie gained considerable infamy as well for its connection to the July 1977 Hanafi Siege, when Islamic militants held 149 people hostage (and killing two) in three Washington, D.C. buildings. One of their demands? Destruction of Mohammad: Messenger of God for being "sacrilegious."
Despite these controversies, Mohammad actually turned a modest profit. In contrast, Akkad's follow-up movie, Lion of the Desert (1981) proved a monumental bomb, making just $1,000,000 USD on an alleged $35,000,000 budget.