Preaching in a comical way

SPIRITUAL TEACHINGS

Comics and Sufism. No matter how unusual the combination, Sufi comics based on the teachings of Islam attracted a horde of visitors at the recently concluded second edition of ‘Comic Con India’ held at INA Dilli Haat.

Holy reading: Mohammed Ali Vakil (extreme left).

Created by Bangalore-based brothers Mohammed Arif Vakil and Mohammed Ali Vakil, who grew up in Dubai reading popular comics like Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha and Tintin, the short comic strips illustrate the teachings of Islam. The stories in the comics are influenced by the spiritual and moral stories of Prophet Muhammad and Islamic traditions.

The three-year-old concept was started as an experiment by Ali. The comic strips were complied and published in the form of a book and an iPad application after it created a huge fan base in the cyber space. “I made the comic strips and put them on my blog. The response was very good from countries like Pakistan, the UK, Africa and Switzerland. So my brother and I compiled and brought them out in the form of a book last year,” said Ali.

“The application will not only help young Muslims visualise popular stories in Islamic traditions, but will also help those of other faiths to understand Islamic teachings,” he said after launching the comic strips as iPad application at ‘Comic Con India’. The comics available in colour with sound and motion on iPad application was nominated in the ‘Best Web Comic’ and ‘Best Publication for Children’ during the conference.

The comics have been translated in French, German, Russian and Indonesian languages.

The Vakil brothers, both chartered accountants by profession, deny that the comic strips are relevant only for the people of one faith. “We have focussed on spiritual aspects of Islam. People of other religions can also connect with it very well,” he said and added that more than 2,000 copies of the comic strips were sold in Mumbai ‘Comic Con’ last year and most of the buyers were non Muslim.

 For Arif and Ali, Sufism is not very different from Islam but a part of the religion. The idea was to throw some light on Islamic culture, tradition and lifestyle. “We were influenced by comics like Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle despite studying in a madarsa. We have a very rich tradition of Islam but it is not being highlighted anywhere. For quite sometime, the religion has been associated with negative words like Jehad and violence, but the religion is just not about these things. So we wanted to put the basic teachings of Islam in the form that would appeal both children and adults,” the elder brother Arif expressed.

Some of the chapters in the book include: Mother, Where Does Wisdom Come From, Where is God’s Treasure, No Problem, How Far is Heaven?, A Visit to Hell and Can I See God? “I have read several books on different religions but what attracted me towards the Sufi comics was the compilation of religious teachings in the form of comics,” said a visitor Munish Sharma. And what about creating any controversy? Arif and Vakil replied, “We attended a local madarsa in Dubai and knew it is not going to create any controversy. In fact, some madarsas in Canada have made it a part of their syllabus,” informed Arif.

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