Sufi comics try to help people understand Islam
Report by Shweta Sharma,
Comics and graphic novels have come a long way. Once seen in India as a clever ploy to make children read history and mythology, it is now viewed as one of the coolest literary forms there is, with a steady following amongst the old and the young. Taking the form a step ahead, Bangalore based brothers Mohammed Ali Vakil and Mohammed Arif Vakil have complied 40 comic strips, titled 40 Sufi Comics, in the form of a book that visually depicts the teachings of Islam.
“During our childhood and teenage years, we attended a madrasa in Dubai where we were taught the scriptures and traditions of Islam. Our teachers narrated stories of faith, love, sacrifice, bravery and truth. These stories stayed with us and became our moral compass to distinguish right from wrong. In 2009, I started drawing these comics and shared them on our blog (http://www.vakil.org). Since then, we often received feedback from people who wanted these comics in a book format, to share with friends and relatives. So we decided to create 40 Sufi Comics,” says Mohammed Ali.
Priced at Rs 256, the comics have strips titled Where is God’s Treasure that speaks of God’s treasures being the heart of the believer; Mother that talks about the greatness of a mother; and Where Does Wisdom Come From which says that wisdom comes from a humble heart, amongst others. Each comic is accompanied with a verse from the Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad and his family that relate to the topic of the comic.
When asked about the prohibition of clicking/drawing pictures in Muslim scriptures, Ali explains, “The creed of Muslims around the world says that there is only one God for all of mankind. Scriptures teach that God is the creator of the universe and has no form, and therefore prohibits representation of God in any physical form. Though these don’t prohibit drawing images of people in general, traditionally Islamic art has refrained from drawing the faces of holy personalities. And I respect this tradition.”
Drawn and compiled over a span of two years, the comics have been introduced in madrasas and libraries around the world, including the US, Canada, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Australia. “The idea was to help Muslims and people of other faiths understand the teachings of Islam. Putting across the message through comics makes it enjoyable for readers. Islam has a very rich heritage of art — architecture, carpet and calligraphy. Sufi comics expand the scope of Islamic art to newer mediums,” Ali told Guardian20.
Through their work, the brothers also hope to clarify the misconceptions about the religion post 9/11. “By presenting the teachings of Islam from its most authentic sources, the Holy Quran, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, his family (the Ahlul Bayt) and his companions, we are trying to clear popular misconceptions,” Ali sums up.