While the traditional Islamic arts have been experiencing a revival of late, some artists have been turning to more modern media to communicate their faith. Erfian Asafat is a young Indonesian who applies his talent as an artist to depicting the Qur'an as a graphic illustration - otherwise known as a comic. Erfian talked with LastProphet.info about how 21st century media led to his spritual reawakening, and creates new possibilties to make dawah - inviting others to learn about the message brought by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
- How did you decide to draw Qur'an ayahs?
Over the 20 years of my life I might just have memorized a couple of short surahs from the Qur’an. I think I knew very little about Islam, about the Prophet (pbuh), and about the Qur’an.
I just accepted the idea that I'm already a Muslim and I'm already good. But my best friend introduced me to a few convert videos. Many converts become Muslim and then have this huge desire to learn about Islam and the Qur’an, and it can make them memorize the entire Qur’an! Now they are doing dawah for the sake of Allah. It really amazes me when I see their spirit and their love of this Deen. Something about this just made me guilty and made me question, Why is their love is so great? Why do I not have that relationship with the Qur’an? Why don’t I have that? This just pushed me to learn everything again from the beginning, about the Qur’an and Islam.
I learn a lot about Islam and the Qur’an through YouTube, so many new things that I didn’t know about before, and it just amazes me! The more I learn about the Quran the more I'm sure it is the real miracle from Allah!
One of the speakers who opened my eyes about this miracle and who I really love is Ustad Nouman Ali Khan. He just makes Qur’an easy for me to understand. He has this Juz Amma podcast that explains short surahs, and just by hearing this it completely changes my life, and completely changes my relationship with the Qur’an. I feel there is this awesome thing and I really want to share it with all my friends, I want everybody to see the beauty of the Qur’an.
Just like me, many people are more receptive to information with the help of visual illustration. I began to think maybe I can use my skills as an illustrator to introduce the Qur'an and introduce the work of Ustad Nouman Ali Khan. Maybe this is a way I can use my skill for dawah. That’s how I started to make illustrations of the Qur’an .
- How do you illustrate ayahs that include the Prophet Muhammad?
I do not draw the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but indirect symbolization is something that I can do. What I do is write his name Muhammad (pbuh) with a letter that is more beautiful than the other letters in the illustration, as the depiction of the excellent character of our Prophet. In other instances when Ustad Nouman Ali Khan talks about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), I just need to draw a scene of the sun shining on the Earth which is a symbol we see that makes us think about "Rahmatan lil alamin " , i.e. "the Light".
- Do you think that technological changes in illustrations and fine arts make it easier to present the Qur'an and the Prophet's life?
Yes, I think it's easier for people to absorb information and remember it. I think all media should and can be used to present the Qur’an and the Prophet (pbuh). It is important for us to be able to incorporate every medium to make the Qur’an more appealing and encourage people to learn about it.
We should create a fine art about the Qur’an, a comic about the Qur’an, or maybe a film because each medium has its own market for dawah.
- What do you think about the disconnect between graphic arts and Muslims? I mean why do so many Muslims turn towards traditional arts and not graphic arts and illustrations?
To be honest I am not an expert on art in general, and so I do not know much about it. But I will try to share my view of the world of Islamic design and illustration in Indonesia in relation to dawah. One of the most preferred media for dawah today is probably the Islamic comic, because the message becomes lighter and easy for many people from children to adults. So there is a trend in Indonesia of publishers requesting more production of Islamic comic books. And most of my creative friends in Indonesia, I think they focus on graphic design and posters for dawah media, distributed on the internet as a short reminder of Hadith and the Qur’an. Sharing things on the internet is I think also one of the dawah methods that is really effective.