Telling stories via comics

Being able to tell a story in drawing (and writing) is a remarkable skill. I see a lot of talented artists tell memorable stories in the comics medium which is a unique art form. It combines drawings & writings in a coherent way to tell stories in a way that writing alone could not accomplish. I have so many stories to tell. I can imagine telling them in my head. But I want to make them available in drawn (and written) format for my readers to enjoy.

My drawing skills are next to nothing. I know almost nothing about drawing. I did take drawing classes in school but they were rudimentary and I didn’t seem to have a natural inclination toward drawing. I still don’t think I have any drawing skills to speak of. Yet I find drawings fascinating. I particularly enjoy comic strips and graphic novels and the skill with which the artists sometimes are able to convey almost anything through their drawings.

The comics medium is a fascinating one because one can actually tell stories way more effectively than with writing alone. I don’t really want to draw people or animals in a realistic manner because I believe that that is not allowed in the religion. But I want to be able to tell a story in a comic strip or a graphic novel without having to draw elaborate facial features on comic characters.

I have always been fond of writing. I kept almost a regular journal throughout my school years growing up. I used to love to write and found it to be soothing and calming exercise to put my feelings into written words. Later in life, I started blogging. I’ve been blogging on and off for almost twenty years now.

There was a time I used to blog daily, as I do now. But then I stopped because life was happening too fast and furious, I guess. Now I’ve rediscovered writing so to speak and the calming affects that it has on me. I don’t consider myself a writer per se. But I do love to write. I think about writing a lot and want to capture ideas that I like quickly before they are gone from my imagination.

There are a lot of comic strip artists showcasing their amazing artwork on social media such as Instagram and Facebook. Also, there are a lot of accomplished artists who have shown us non-artists how to draw comics on YouTube. Time to learn me some art :p

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How to write effectively about Islamic Topics

As students of knowledge, we are necessarily callers to the deen of Allah. And one of the key techniques for dawah is to write about Islamic topics clearly and concisely. Our writings need to be backed by proper research and authentication. Writing effectively about Islamic topics is one of the more valuable skills for effective Dawah. And it is one of the ways to ensure continuous reward for ourselves until the Day of Judgement for as long as our writings continue to be read and people benefit from them.

Research thoroughly: This goes without saying. You have to make sure what you’re writing about is accurate. When in doubt, consult a scholar. Read and re-read the primary sources directly whenever possible to get the most accurate information.

Provide references: This is often neglected even when there is research to back up the work. It is unacceptable to leave out the references. Do not leave it out. And do not accept work others have written when/if they omit references.

Ask the right questions: This is partly wisdom and partly experience. Asking the wrong questions can lead you down the wrong path and waste time. Asking the right questions can simplify the task greatly.

Avoid writing opinions alone: This cannot be stressed enough. Writing opinion alone is very tempting indeed but since we are writing about the religion of Allah, we must be vigilant and not write whatever we feel like writing rather it must have its sources in either the Quran or the Sunnah.

Do not be apologetic: Writing about Islam in an age when the religion of Allah under the wrong kind of spotlight, writers may feel the need to be somewhat apologetic. This is unacceptable and does not serve any good purpose.

Do not feel the need to explain: When writing about Islam, writers may feel the need to explain away miracles or try to justify an event or belief so it aligns better with people’s thinking nowadays. This is wrong on so many levels.

Do not criticize others: It never benefits anyone to criticize the beliefs of others. We may not agree with them, but we don’t need to talk badly about anyone.

Do put forth the Islamic way: The best Dawah is to present Islam as-is. Do not compare and contrast with other beliefs.

Make Istighfar: This goes without saying. We all make mistakes. And we will make mistakes when writing about Islam as well. Seek forgiveness daily for our shortcomings.

Check and Re-check intentions: Our intentions for writing about Islam need to be purely for Allah alone. We should not be doing this for any worldly benefit such as recognition or wealth or the like.

Stay humble if you succeed: If our writings are successful and become popular and influence many others, stay humble, it is from Allah alone. Do not feel proud or be boastful.

Don’t despair if you don’t succeed: If our writings are not successful and no matter how hard we worked, nobody seems to be benefiting from them, do not despair. After all, we are doing this to please Allah. Do our best and leave the rest to Allah.

Make Duaa for acceptance: Making Dawah in any form is a great way to worship. If we call people toward Allah with our writings and people turn toward Allah, it will benefit our akhirah. Therefore, make dua for Allah to cleanse our intentions and to accept this work in our scale of good deeds.

And Allah knows best.

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Dictating On Voice Activated Devices

Dictating to a voice activated device is a novel experience for me. Sometimes you just don’t want to type your ideas but want to speak them out loud. The technology these days empowers authors like myself who are too lazy to type or just want to try out the technology for the sake of it. So I’m trying this out to see how it goes. I haven’t figured out everything yet. But I am pleasantly surprised that my voice is recognizable to the iOS software and without too many corrections I can get this thing done. The built-in software within iOS is pretty good at translating voice to text. It is far more challenging for me to get accustomed to dictating what I want to write to software. I have yet to Google how to delete my mistakes when I see them typed by voice commands. I would like this experience to be completely hands-free and smooth flowing. And it should not take too long to get to that stage.

So, in order to practice, I decided to test it out by dictating this article. Just to see if I can throw this thing off. So far it doesn’t seem to mind and types whatever I say as long as I say it in English intelligibly enough. I haven’t have to type any tongue twisters or easily misheard or misinterpreted words phrases or sentences. Abracadabra hocus-pocus this is truly magical, the thing ignores my coughing and sneezing and other noises from the background. While I cannot say that this software built into the device will work for everyone but it seems to work for me. So far so good. Now if I can only focus on the writing (dictating) it would greatly increase my writing speed and productivity. I do type pretty fast but naturally I speak faster.

Writing is an artform and it has come a long way since the days of pen and ink on manuscripts to typewriters and desktop PCs to small portable smart devices that support voice recognition so good that the writer can free himself or herself from the medium and focus on the content itself. It will take some time but it will truly be the way writers write in the future. I think. I’m loving this. I think.

I have to learn to use this dictation thingamajig properly before totally adapting it over typing. For instance I still pause, as it eight [hesitate], while I wait for it to type what I just said instead of just saying it because it does take a few seconds to process. I still have to figure out how to delete mistakes using voice commands.

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Finding and reading quality books on Islam

There’s tons of books to read and never enough time to read them all. So how does one decide what to read and what to skip? One of the best ways to choose the best books to read for the biggest value for your time is to ask scholars. Often they will tell you the best book in any given Islamic topic. They might even caution you against certain books that maybe misleading or harmful. There are also book recommendations from booksellers or librarians and these days there are also reader ratings on a bookseller’s web site. There are many ways to choose. The idea is to get a well rounded education on Islamic topics from a wide range of quality books by a variety of recommended authors.

Frequent bookstores and good libraries if you’re lucky enough to have good libraries where you live. Browsing through the many books is a joy in and of itself, but I digress. If you have good book recommendations from scholars, keep a running list of books to read and a record of the books you’ve already read on each topic. Read from a wide range of categories for Islamic topics such as Aqeedah, Quran/Tafseer, Hadith/Sunnah, Seerah, Fiqh etc. Furthermore, try to read from various authors’ works instead and where possible, read the same topic from at least two to three authors to get different perspectives on the topics.

Develop a good reading habit that you’re always reading one or two or more books at a time. Read in a way that you’re distilling the information contained within them to notes that you can actually read and refer to later on. Find a method that works for you for reading and getting the most out of the books you read and keep at it until it becomes a habit. If something is not working out, try an alternate method. If some book is too difficult to read, move on to the next one. There’s likely a better written book on the same topic.

And Allah knows best.

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Writing 300 Words Daily

I love to write and have loved to do so ever since I was a child. But writing is a skill that you have to keep fit by reading and writing a lot or you’ll lose it. Therefore, it is one of my personal goals this year to try and write 300 words daily in an effort to make my writing flow more easily. I used to be able to write easily but since I haven’t been writing as much over the last few years, my writing prowess seems to have dwindled somewhat, but Alhamdulillah not completely deteriorated.

Writing is not for everyone. But I feel that writing works for me. Alhamdulillah. I find that I like writing a lot specially when I use freestyle (like my blog entries). I think this is the same way with everything, not just work.

I have been able to write the required 300 words daily (and sometimes more) by writing about what I have learned and know enough to talk about. I use a couple of tools to help with the writing process. Firstly, I use Workflowy to brainstorm and come up with topics to write. Sometimes I’m very inspired to write, so I’ll write down all the topics I want to write about it in bullet form. Workflowy makes this super easy and non-distracting so I can quickly add a bunch of ideas as fast as I can type without having to open a word document or some other software. Secondly, I use Writer, which is a browser based online writing environment that has a customizable type-writer like interface (complete with the type writer sounds, if you like that) which is very conducive to writing. It maximizes so all the rest of the clutter on my laptop is faded out and out of the way. This way I can focus on the writing without having to get distracted by gazillions of web pages, notifications etc.

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Writing Habit

Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve liked writing. I’ve written in private journals and on my blog posts, on and off over the years. But I don’t get to write nearly as much as I would love to. Often times, the challenge is to come up with something that is interesting enough to write about. I guess you could think of it as a writer’s block. To fix this problem, I’ve brainstormed (into Workflowy) and come up with tons of ideas for articles and blog posts that are things I’ve wanted to write about but haven’t gotten around to doing so. So I should have plenty to write about for a while yet.

I’m trying to start writing regularly. This is to get my writing muscles flexing and to make writing a more natural thing for myself. As is usually the case for most people, I have a tendency to read way more than write. I’m trying to change that a bit and get into the habit of writing about 300 words daily. It seems like a good word count to write something meaningful within one sitting and on a daily basis: not too much and not too little. Other people may find it easy to try a smaller word count first and then build their way up gradually.

I encourage others to write as well, but I understand that it is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to sit down and put their thoughts in print, even if it’s just online. If one genuinely has something worthwhile to share with the world, writing is a pretty rewarding way to get your word out there. Writing online (for a blog or online publication) is a super easy way to write so it becomes available for the millions of readers on the Internet. So if you have stuff to say that you think can benefit others around the world, just set up a quick blog on wordpress.com or blogspot or some other free blog service and start writing.

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