Sunday, November 17, 2013

ISNA Chronicles: Naseehat

Another important aspect of the convention was the concept of Naseehat roughly translated it means reminding each other to be pious, faithful and to establish good. This is very important to practice within the confines of the Muslim Brotherhood. When we meet and greet our fellow brothers and sisters of Islam we are automatically reminded of the good deeds we must perform, the kind words we must speak, the ibadats (ritual worship) we must perform. Its the old "company you keep" adage in action.

So how can we receive or give other Naseehat without coming off as pompous? After all it's no fun being knocked off your high horse. For me one technique that I have found especially useful is storytelling. The magic of storytelling is that you can convey a message without appearing to be too preachy. Through the voices of your characters you not only entertain but you can also impart an important message to your readers or audience. What's more storytelling need not be limited to just books. There are a variety of mediums including film and photography. All of which were on full display at the ISNA convention. Here are just a few highlights:

I want to start off with a group of people who share my passion for writing, the Ebady brothers. Hailing from Philly these brothers were truly inspiring. They had a booth at the bustling bazaar where they had stacks of books on sale (I even got a poster!). But these were not just any books, these were self published manuscripts of their spellbinding tale, Warrior Saints If you are into mighty warriors doing battle with evil orcs and saving the day be sure to pick up their books. Me personally I see it as a commentary on the current situation of the Mulsim Ummah. Greedy rulers causing mayhem in the lands just to secure their power. Which is causing divisions amongst the people based on nationalities. Topics eluded to in their stories.
At the convention I had a chance to speak to one of the authors, which was really awesome. Perhaps the biggest thing I took from that conversation, was inspiration. I could see that there were others who shared the dream of sadisoft. Muslims telling their own story, using the best words, the best prose. As Instructed by our religion. What's more I could see myself doing what they did.

Which was nothing short of tremendous. They had completed two episodes within the fanciful realm of Warrior Saints. I too am working towards completing my second novel. Plus they are working on a computer animated movie of their story. Although I am not there yet, I am working on a trailer for my smashword page. From time to time my motivation ebbs and flow. But I know it can be done. I've seen it done. If they can do it, so can I!

The next artist chosed film and photography as his medium of storytelling. I have spoken about his talk to all my friends. I am talking about none other than Mustafa Davis. He began by telling his powerful tale of reversion. We were so moved by how he found Islam in the "Eastern Philisophy" section of the local Barnes and Noble. He had picked up a copy of the Holy Quran and randomly opened a page. He had happened to land on the opening verses of Surah Maryam. As a devout christian his heart became soft and his eyes swelled as he read the passage. He felt closer to Hazrat Isa then ever before. This shows how Allah can guide his worthy servant to the straight path.                                                   

He continued and told us how he had to shun his passions of music and photography as it was deemed "unacceptable" by his new found religion. He told of the time he smashed all of his guitars and how painful that was but he did it anyway so that he may immerse himself in the teachings of Islam with as little distractions as possible. As he began to travel to other Muslim countries he saw that his hosts had photographs up on their walls. This got him thinking were photographs completely banned in Islam? As he researched this question he came to know that there were no absolutes, Islam did allow for photography as long as the subject was an inanimate object. To some this may seem as a drain on creativity. Artist are told to express themselves freely and that nothing is off limits. This often results in obscene or vulgar artwork to be produced. Mustafa found beauty and simplicity in being able to focus only on pure and clean subjects. It was a creative liberation he hadn't felt before.

After the talk I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Davis. I was able to share with him my passion for writing. How it stems from my introspective nature, my desire to understand the world. I told him about the works I have produced and he was very impressed. I mentioned how I am struggling with my latest project, I am adding to the complexity of my characters and want to involve them in romantic relationships. Due to my conservative upbringings my creativity always get sapped by thoughts of  "What will my mother think!". He also has that concern in that how will our community receive his work. Even the Ebady brothers shared that concerned, that's why they never use historical figures in their stories as its too much responsibility to represent them accurately and with enough respect. Mustafa continued and explained that you can explore those topics as long as its tasteful and not obscene. Read Rumi he advised, his works on romantic intrigue are well received by Muslims, till this day.                                                                                                                                                                                      
How uplifting this was! I can take my characters in the direction I want to without having to feeling guilty that I am corrupting the masses. Actually the thing is mainstream media is very accessible (its in our phones for crying out loud!) and it has conditioned us to view romantic relationships only in a lustful context. Which actually cheapens this beautiful relationship. Instead of celebrating it we feel guilty and shun it. Which is a terrible loss, a blow to our human nature! Will be making every effort to break away from that mold.

All in all it was great trip MW and I are looking forward to the next one!

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