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[Reflection] Kiran Ashraf on personal responsibility in creating a fair and just society

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Kiran Ashraf presents a personal account of spiritual inspiration on the importance of individual and collective duty in creating a fair and just society. In her piece she presents what inspired her to take action and calls on others to become aware of  their responsibility to help others.

“This country is a failure”

“I don’t know when the poverty around the world is coming to an end”

“It’s the fault of the rulers. Obviously they are the ones to correct things”

Sounds familiar?

Each and every one of us in our lifetime has either come across or ourselves have been caught uttering such hopelessness. We either blame the rulers, the system, some person and many of the times God as well for such misery surrounding us.

By no means I am suggesting that we are wrong in pointing out the faults of the ones responsible but the question remains that have we ever tried to correct the situations ourselves?

Have we ever even tried a little bit to come forward and take this responsibility on our very own shoulders? I don’t think most of us would be nodding their head in agreement right now.

To tell you the truth, I myself at one point in time was the same sort of a person who would just be critical about the circumstances around. I was circled by cruelty, bias, injustice and other malign practices and all I did was to sit at home and cringe about them.

The best I thought I could do on my part was to post about them on the internet because physically getting into the mess to clear it was nowhere near my mind; it was more of impossibility.

Then came the day when I heard a Hadith of Prophet Mohammed where he declared that, “Your leadership will be a reflection of you [the people].”

It literally shook me from inside.
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[Interview] Absar Kazmi on illustrating humorous comics with a thoughtful message and his take on social media

Artist Absar Kasmi
Talented artist Absar Kazmi

Equipped with a life-long passion for drawing, and an advocate for faith, moral and ethical issues, Absar Kazmi is founder and illustrator of a clever comic series: Life with the Ahmad Family. In the series he explores a variety of issues evident in Muslim societies, as well as stories and messages that appeal to people of all faiths, ages and backgrounds.

All this wrapped in an often times humorous package, Absar says he wanted to create something different with the Ahmad family: “I wanted to show that practicing Muslim families live real lives; no doubt prayer, fasting, reading Qur’an are all extremely important, but Muslims families also joke with one another, we play football, we go on picnics and we like reading regular books too!”

Absar was born in Pakistan, but spent lot of his youth traveling (and sketching) from country to country, from the animals in the wilderness safaris of Kenya to drawings of superheroes. However he soon gave this up, only to renew this passion in later years of university and married life. He then found a way he could sketch that was Islamically permissible and wanted to pursue both his passion for drawing and passion for his faith, “With the popularity of conventional comics and cartoons amongst the Muslim youth – it seemed that there was a real need for Islamically acceptable comics and other media for the youth” he says.

After a few creative pursuits, in late 2011 Absar was given a platform from Hiba Magazine to develop a cartoon for them to attract a wider audience, and thus Life with the Ahmad Family was born. Read my exclusive interview with Absar as he shares his interesting journey, his take on issues surrounding social media and technology, and even tips for the upcoming month of Ramadan.

How did ‘Life with the Ahmad Family’ come about? What led you to create this series, and why?

That’s an interesting story… About seven to eight years years ago while lying in bed trying to go to sleep I had an idea for a story about a boy who has a really bad day. Since I couldn’t go to sleep anyway, I began to type it out. His day starts out bad, gets worse; soon becomes awful, then horrible, and finally downright abominable! I called the story ‘A Bad Time Tale’ and I named the boy Jamal.

A short while later I heard about an international story writing competition to be held by a well-known Islamic books publishing company. I thought this is the perfect opportunity to see how my story does, so I fixed it up a bit and sent it in to the competition. Alhumdulillah, it won first place!

“I wanted to show that Muslim families also joke with one another, we play football, we go on picnics and we like reading regular books too!”

Now I really wanted to have my ‘book’ published; however, I thought to myself, ‘Why in the world would anyone want to read a children’s book by a completely unknown author?!’  So, I just sat on the idea for a few years… not really knowing how to take it further.

A few years later, in late 2011, Hiba Magazine approached me asking me to develop a character or cartoon for them in order to help them attract a younger audience. I agreed to help them, but didn’t really know where to begin. Then it dawned on me… This could be THE opportunity to introduce Jamal to the world. So I developed a comic about Jamal and his family and called it ‘Life with the Ahmad Family’. I was hoping that this comic would allow me to get people accustomed to the Ahmad Family and then soon I could also introduce ‘A Bad-Time Tale’ to this new audience.

Image from Jamal's Bad-Time Tale
Image from Jamal’s Bad-Time Tale

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Announcing: Get a Free copy of our next book on Rumi!

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Yes, you’ve heard it right! How will I get a free copy of  Sufi Comics: Rumi book, I hear you ask?

You’ve been enjoying updates on Sufi Comics – Rumi, you’ll know that the journey and process of creating the book has been an exciting and an a fruitful one to say the least!

So far in our updates we’ve revealed to you:

  • Behind the Scene Sketches
  • Process Thumbnails to illustrations
  • Excerpt of a story
  • Interview with the Artists & Authors
  • Designing the cover page illustration

We’ve  completed around 70% of the book, which will go to print this August with the official launch in September.

There is an exciting opportunity for interested readers like yourself to join an “early-bird” Pre Launch list.

Before the book is released to the public, a digital version of the book will be made available to read online exclusively to those on the list.

That’s not all. Get 1 Copy Free!

By joining the Pre-Launch list, not only would you be the first to read the book, as a special gift you could receive 1 signed physical copy of the book anywhere in the World!

This offer is now closed

Thank you to all you who’ve participated! You still view 3 chapters from the book for free.

Click here to view 3 Chapters from the book

 

Making the Cover Page for Rumi Book. What? How? and Why?

So far in our behind the scenes journey you’ve viewed snippets of the final pages, met multi-faceted researcher and member of the team Tanzil Rahman, and explored the process of selecting and illustrating the comics. What to explore now?

Yes the wait is over. It is time now to reveal to you the illustration of the cover page!

For this I delve into the creative mind of Rahil Mohsin to uncover the inspiration, symbolism and process behind the design of the cover page. I ask Rahil to share some of his artistic imagination and talent with us by revealing the illustration, the process of creating it, and the inspiration behind it.

As always, the posts would not be complete without the sneak peeks just for you – so scroll down and enjoy as Rahil reveals all this: what, how and why?

What is the process of creating the illustration? Can you share with us the rough/draft sketches?

Much to the chagrin of a lot of people I know, I am a purist. Most of my artworks, including the ones I’d done for Wise Fool of Baghdad and more recently, Rumi, are done by hand. Which means, the process of making an artwork is slower compared to work on a digital software (with all its fancy tools). That, and a mild doze of OCD. The processes I am talking about are the penciling and the inking stages (inside the book). Ali Bhai and Gaffur bhai bring life into the otherwise mundane and achromatic artwork by adding colours to them.

While I’ve vehemently professed my love to the process that gets my hands stained with graphite and blackened by ink, there are
however a few shortcomings when these hand-made art works are printed.

Even if a small part of the said artwork is neglected (inspite of the OCD) and printed right away, the flaw, however small will stand out and ruin the artwork. I did not want to take such a huge risk while designing the cover page.

I initially made a rough sketch of what I’d in my mind on a sheet of paper. Given below is a scanned copy of the sketch.

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[Interview] Nur Fadhilah shares her top tips on staying productive, overcoming writer’s block, and stories of inspiration

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Sometimes when I’m set to begin a task my mind races with other things and it can be hard to focus. What’s more with the distractions from technology to social media, it can be quite challenging to ensure and maintain the most productive, focussed and even spiritual state of mind.

So when I was introduced to the talented sister Nur Fadhilah Wahid and came across all her creative projects, not only was I impressed with her passion for life and learning, but also her great ability to consistently strive to stay focused, productive and inspired!

Nur is currently at university studying a bachelors degree in Communications (with a minor in Islamic knowledge). From articles on staying productive and focussed, to interesting stories and theories, she finds writing to be the most effective way of expressing her faith: “I read a lot, I think a lot, and I reflect a lot, and I guess writing just becomes a natural way for me to express my faith.”

Her passion for inspiring and helping others reach their potential in all aspects of life led her to conduct a ‘Deans List Podcast’ “to inspire students to achieve As in both Dean and Deen (faith).”  These consist of  interviews with top dean’s list students from various schools in the International Islamic University of Malaysia. In these interviews she digs out their stories, finds out what inspires them, what failures they have gone through, and more. Nur says: “One of my best interviews is with a sister from Kyrgyzstan, sis Bermet, who made me cry on air!” To find out why be sure to keep reading.

In my interview with the talented sister Nur she shares her useful tips, everything from overcoming writers block to finding inspiration. You don’t just have to be an (aspiring) writer, blogger, or radio producer to find this interview useful. Continue reading for inspiration on living a productive, healthy and spiritual lifestyle and more!

How do you stay productive & motivated during the day? What tips can you share?

“I live and breathe the simplest and yet most overlooked productivity tip: begin your day with a great morning routine.

The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said in a hadith that the blessings are in the mornings, and nothing can be further from the truth. By beginning your morning a certain way, you are essentially setting the tone of your entire day.

If you are finding it hard to wake up early, in this article, I share 5 tips I implement in my life so that I can begin my day right and be productive and motivated throughout the entire day.”

What’s the secret to balancing your time with your projects?

“I’ve only recently discovered that the secret to balancing time with my different projects is to say “no” to projects that matter less.

By saying “yes” to all the projects that came my way, I drove myself to exhaustion, took longer to complete my daily responsibilities, and lost my heart for each project somewhere along the way. My time for work slowly devoured my time for spiritual activities, relationships, and my personal time to indulge in creative pursuits.

 “My smart phone is silent throughout the day, enabling me to concentrate on the task at hand or situation I am in without any disruptions to my focus – to be in flow and to be mindful.”

So how do I know which projects to say no to? I ask myself these questions, in order:

(i) How many projects do I have on my plate right now? Do I have enough time to take on another project without sacrificing my spiritual/relationships/creative pursuits?

(ii) Will doing the project benefit others, and thus make me happy?

(iii) How do I stand to benefit and grow by taking on this project? Will the experience / knowledge / financial gains be worth investing the time?

If my answer to any of the above question is a “no”, then I say “no” to the project. This way, I get to eliminate lots of projects that come my way, and focus only on those that matter. Balancing my time between projects thus becomes easy when I have only the important, most beneficial projects, to dedicate my time to.”
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[Reflection] Annihilation of the Lower Self: Barrier or Tool?

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This post is by one of our readers, Maya Hussein. Inspired by spiritual readings and the Sufi Comic above, she explores the concept of the lower self and asks these vital questions: what does it mean exactly? How do you master the self? Her reflection leads to an insightful conclusion about using our bodies for a higher purpose and re-examining the actions we do to strive to reach a higher-self. 

I have always been fascinated by the concept of the annihilation of the lower self, or nafs. What does it mean exactly? Does it mean that we don’t follow our desires when they contradict Islamic law? Does it mean that we deny ourselves all enjoyment? How far does it go?

Imam Ali (a) has said many, many things about this subject among his spiritual writings, which is one of the reasons that almost every Sufi school of thought is traced back to him. The mastery of the self is a fundamental part of Islamic spirituality, and a part of every other spiritual tradition. One quote that I feel gives some perspective on the nafs is from his sermon describing the God-conscious: “He killed his nafs and enlivened his heart.” So the heart and nafs also have an inverse relationship. Feeling is enhanced when the lower self is diminished. Our senses are given to us by our Creator, but their purpose doesn’t lie in their fulfillment.

A profound spiritual text suggests:

If we reflect in a rational manner for a moment, we shall realize that the aim of imparting to us all these graces and endowments is something else, superior to and higher than what is visible. This world is a stage of action and its aim is a higher and more sublime sphere of existence. This lower and animal existence is not an end in itself.
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I got angry in a road rage incident

Anger

 

Remember the time when someone’s done wrong to you.  It could be something like facing a verbal / racial attack or someone scratched your car. How did it feel like?

You feel the rush of blood in your body. Your heart beats faster. There’s nothing in your mind other than taking out your anger verbally or even physically.

I recently got into a road rage conflict.  The guy in the bike was showering me with his verbal abuses.  My immediate feeling was to respond to him with a piece of my mind. Read more

[Interview] Adil Imtiaz on creating Muslim Superhero ‘Buraaq’ and aim to introduce a new spin in the entertainment industry

Buraaq: The New Muslim Superhero
Buraaq: The New Muslim Superhero

Introduced in January 2011, Buraaq emerged on the scene as the new and unique Muslim superhero, ready to counteract negative perceptions of Muslims and make the world a better place. 

Buraaq is “Yusuf Abdallah” a regular guy who happens to be practicing Muslim. From his mission to tackle injustice in the world, his role as director of a large relief organisation, to his ability to fly, Buraaq does not fall short of incredible abilities and fascinating adventures.

So as the first ever Muslim Superhero by Muslim artists, how is Buraaq making his mark in the entertainment/news industry? 

I talk with talented co-founder and artist Adil Imtiaz, to answer all your burning questions. Adil’s life-long fascination in comic books and art, as well as witnessing negative portrayal of Islam/Muslims in the entertainment industry, triggered his inspiration to create Buraaq. Read on as he reveals the ultimate goal of his work, intriguing insights, plus exclusive secrets about seeing Buraaq on the big screen!

Brothers: Adil and Kamal Imtiaz
Brothers: Adil and Kamal Imtiaz

Tell us a few interesting facts about yourself? What are you passionate about?

“I’ve always enjoyed sketching and drawing. Especially comic book characters. Even as a kid in 5th grade, I used to draw my own stories and characters. Just a natural passion.

As a matter of fact, back then, I had drawn over 20 issues of a superhero series in a period of a few years. These were stories drawn on simple notebooks, and each notebook was an issue/episode.”

What inspired you to create Buraaq and why?

“Over the past few years, Kamil and I began to realize that the Muslim world did not have an alternative to the secular narrative and heroes produced by the entertainment industry.

In addition to that, there was a growing pattern in the mainstream media of portraying Islam and Muslims in a negative light. We thought there was a need to counter this, and the best way was to use our God given skills.”
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[Reflection] Neda Hasni on why a Mothers Love is Undefinable

Neda Hasni reflects on Sufi Comic: Mother

 

Neda Hasni reflects on the high status and role of a mother, explaining why a mother’s love is bar none. Inspired by the above Sufi Comic, Neda brings forth various narrations combined with her own feelings about treating a mother with utmost respect and honour. 

“If you have a mother, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been.”

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) has said: “The look of a child towards his parents out of love for them is an act of worship.”

“Mother” whose love can never be replaced nor compared, Unconditional, filled with sacrifice, far beyond defining, one can never be thankful enough and understand the depth of a mothers love.

One should tremor even at the thought of causing discomfort in any form. Do every good that you can before it’s too late. Thank her by your words and good deeds. Thank Allah for being blessed with the bounty of a mother . The best Shukr one can do is become the person Allah wants us to be. The best form of happiness we can give to our mother is to improve ourselves and take our souls to a higher level of existence where it is satisfied with every decision of Allah.  Never ever lose an opportunity to serve her .

The above Sufi Comic reminds us of how much a mother does for her child and her importance in Islam, Her rights which we easily forget and always think we can recompense which is far beyond our imagination.

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Get Behind the Scenes and View the Final Pages of Sufi Comics Rumi!

It’s an exciting time in our journey of Sufi Comics Rumi. It’s time to reveal some sneak previews of the final pages, and get some exclusive insights from the members of the Sufi Comics team. This month we go behind the scenes on the production of the pages…

So who works on the production of the pages? Well, brother Mohammed Ali Vakil creates the template design of the page and selects the colors of the comics, then brother Abdul Gafur prepares all the pages based on the template designs and colors of the comics. Thereafter, brother Rahil will do the cover and back page of the book. The pages are created with Photoshop and also Corel Draw for the lettering of the text.

I had a chat with brother Ali about the process of production, why this style was selected, and any challenges or changes that may have gone into the process. From this, I learnt a lot about what goes into the process of production, and even learnt some interesting ideas about comics from different regions acquiring their own unique style!

So what inspired the style of Sufi Comics Rumi? How will the final pages look? Read on as we reveal sneak preview of the pages and more!

What is the process of production? How do you develop from each stage and are there any challenges involved? 

“After the thumbnails, pencils & Inks, Rahil sends us the final Inks of the pages via Dropbox.

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