I came across this beautifully profound yet simple story by Zinsight author George Ziniewicz. It resonated so deeply with me that I just had to make a Sufi Comic of it.
The concept of a terminal works well as we are merely the instruments of God’s will. Only if we would wake up and recognise it. If only we surrender our vanity and give ourselves up to God, we will receive the instructions, bandwidth and resources needed to create our best life ever; in the gentlest, easiest way possible.
Passionate to share the love and wisdom that is at the heart of Islam and other spiritual traditions, Saimma and Daniel Dyer of Chickpea Press are working hard on a new book.
‘The 99 Names of Allah’ creatively introduces younger readers to names that describe God, complemented with sacred traditions, activities, and reflections.
I ask Daniel Dyer, the illustrator behind this colourful guide about what makes this book unique, how they have explored Islamic spirituality, and how we can help bring this book to life.
What inspired this book?
The beauty and power of the Names drew me. Something also told me that children need to explore them – not just adults. It began as a simple poem to orientate children to the Names, and then evolved into something much broader and, insha’Allah (God willing), much deeper.
What is unique about ‘The 99 Names of Allah’ book?
I don’t know of any children’s book in English that explores the 99 Names of Allah in way that I would wish for my children. For me, an exploration of the Names needs to be centred on the heart, on awakening children’s innate empathy, creativity and insight. It needs to help children to understand Allah’s attributes and to appreciate the places where these attributes are best reflected: in themselves and the natural world.
As well as helping to foster a spiritual and ecological awareness, it needs to help them appreciate the diversity of modern societies. It should help them identify with all humanity, not just Muslims, and perhaps help them to appreciate that there is more than one path to God. It also needs to be imaginative, colourful and richly illustrated in order to really engage.
Someone wise once said, ‘Happiness is the goals of all goals!’
If you ask people why they do what they do, you’ll find “being happy” is behind every single human goal, mission, objective and wish to achieve that “something”.
Happiness not only leaves us with a positive feeling in the center of our being, people who tend to stay ‘happy’ also:
Enjoy their work a lot more
Suffer from less anxiety and tension
Can make creative contributions to their projects and the society
Spread goodwill and cheer
Accomplish a lot
Lead more fulfilled lives without heeding the rat race around them
Make the world a much better place with their sunny temperaments and easy smiles
Compare these desirable states with the mind-set of an individual mired in negativity. You’ll find that they:
Complain very often – leaving everyone around them dissatisfied
Rarely get anything done.
Creative drive is sub-zero.
Have poor health and get stressed easily
So how does one become happy?
Some of the latest psychological findings suggest, happiness is the effect of behaviours we choose to make a part of our lives. By adopting these behaviours, happiness becomes a natural state we live in.
It is truly reassuring to see how the Holy Qur’an advocates these principles. Here are 7 principles from the Qur’an that will help you lead a life of lasting Happiness. Read more
Most if not all of us strive to attain meaning and contentment in our lives.
Yet in the fast paced society we live in, we can find ourselves faced with many distractions in our pursuit of spiritual fulfilment. Do you ever find yourself wanting to acquire some knowledge or inspiration, but the books and texts you dig into are too complex or confusing to understand? If like me, you are an avid seeker of knowledge, but have had this dilemma, let me tell you about RainDrop.
RainDrop creates short, simple, animated videos of Imam Al Ghazali’s key works. The founder of RainDrop aims to inspire others to seek useful knowledge and increase their closeness to God. He says that is what Al Ghazali calls the path to spiritual happiness emphasized by the title of his book “The Alchemy of Happiness”.
He aims to do this through easy-to-understand media that appeals to people of all faiths and walks of life. What’s more, Al Ghazali’s work personally transformed his view on religion, spiritual happiness, and knowing God, and this inspired him to start RainDrop.
I talk with its founder on the importance of a project like this, why Ghazali’s works are relevant today, and how he overcomes the challenge of turning complex texts into simple animated videos.
Why did you choose to turn Imam Al Ghazali’s works into animated videos? What is it about him you find important or inspirational?
I have been a seeker of knowledge every since my late teenage years when I started learning about God. I only discovered Ghazali’s work many years after starting down the path and I was struck by the powerful simplicity in his writings.
However, when I learned of his masterpiece, the Revival of Religious Sciences, I was intimidated by its over 1,000 pages. Ghazali’s works are very relevant in today’s environment where sectarianism is on the rise. I wanted to find a way to share his message of spiritual happiness with the world and knowing how short the average attention span is lead to the idea of short, animated videos.
What is the process of creating an animated video?
The process is quite simple: read the book, summarize the book, turn the summary into a script, build a storyboard from the script, share the script/storyboard with people who have no knowledge of the topic, incorporate their feedback, send to the animator and voiceover artist, and voila.
“As a disciple myself, I had to first understand the work anew, then explain it to people who are unfamiliar with it.”
Tell us about your educational/professional background. How has this helped you in starting Raindrop Academy?
I believe my weakness and deficiency in traditional Islamic education was turned into a strength through RainDrop. In reality, the purpose of RainDrop is to introduce such powerful and inspirational works to the layperson – those without formal training. As a disciple myself, I had to first understand the work anew, then explain it to people who are unfamiliar with it.
In reflection, I believe my educational background in engineering helped me create structure and my MBA and professional experience gave me the visualization and verbal skills needed to create the short, simple videos.
Meet Umaar Ejaz: the founder and artist of I.Calligraphy. Having completed a degree in Engineering at Brunel University (London) and a Masters in Education and Philosophy, Umaar pursued work for various blue chip companies before deciding to embark upon his passions of education, faith and social justice in his current work and projects.
He is now a full time teacher, runs an engineering business, and has recently launched his calligraphy project, creating bespoke artwork on wood and donating the pieces and funds to various charitable causes.
Umaar was inspired to start I.Calligraphy six months ago due to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Palestine and other countries, and feeling a sense hopelessness initially. “I wanted to do more to help, no matter how insignificant it may be. I must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. From this pretext, I have seen I.Calligraphy flourish from strength to strength because of this intention.”
Read my interview with Umaar as he explains how he learnt the art of calligraphy, what makes his style different to others, and some valuable insights and advice for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs. Also, view some of his personalized calligraphy pieces below, they are stunning!
Who and what inspires you?
If I had a flower for each moment my mother showed me kindness and love, I could forever walk in the garden of eternity. My mother was my first teacher, my first friend, my first mentor, everything that I have accomplished in life both personally, academically and professionally is because of foundation that she lay at home for me to be nurtured and grow as a human being. I cannot emphasise the pivotal importance of a mother; she is the root of a family and the foundation from which any husband, child can truly prosper.
There is no faith without humility. My faith inspires me, thus I strive daily to improve my self. Through this seed being at the core of my roots. To develop my understanding of faith through meaning, this compromises of reading the Quran through tafsir and study of the Prophetic traditions.
I cannot express enough gratitude to every single person, who has shown me kindness and supported me the past six months since the first conception of I.Calligraphy. Working with countless individuals, organisations and charities that Interpal, Amirah Foundation, Penny Appeal, Human Relief Foundation, Muslim Aid, Palestinian International Medical Aid, Human Care Syria, CARE Pakistan, Pearl Education Foundation, and Save the Children. All of whom that have attained and retained the pivotal role of making I.Calligraphy into what it has become today.
What is the story and inspiration behind I.Calligraphy?
Art is a universal language and as medium of expression, it allows us to understand a story without words. If there is a profound narrative that reflects the human condition but still retains a personal meaning. I would like to believe that the core of my work is a means to bring myself closer to God and convey the beauty of my faith. Morally, ethically and spiritually speaking, the story behind each canvas resides in reflecting my own akhlaq (practice of virtue, morality and manners in Islamic theology and philosophy) in meaning.
For example one of the calligraphy canvases ‘One Essence. One Soul’ (below) begins with Arabic calligraphy with words that depict a family, consisting of a mother, baby and father. The words are a poem by Saadi and have been written exactly 14 times, the meaning translates to:
Human beings are members of a whole, In creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, Other members uneasy will remain. If you have no sympathy for human pain, The name of human you cannot retain.