In Praise of Allah

Project Name: 99 Names – The Comic (view the comic here)

Medium: Pen and ink

Summary: What’s in a name? To use a stale Shakespeare quote: “A rose by any other name would  be just as sweet”. But what happens when the subject at hand is God, and what happens when He has 99 names?

In this project, I wanted to explores what these names could mean in Islamic spiritual relationships. At first glance, the list is thoroughly overwhelming. There are the obvious names (“The One” – he is, after all, the deity in a monotheistic religion) and the more obscure (“The Appraiser”). It’s apparent that the sheer number of names points to the many roles Allah plays in an individual’s life, but what exactly are these roles? How does one relate to God?

Looking at the names, I eventually concluded that Allah is kind and forgiving, that He creates then demands gratefulness and submission. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that the answer was right there: that Allah is, ultimately, the impossibility of understanding. This is not saying that humans stupid – humans are very independent in their relationship with Allah – but rather an admission that we have limited capacities.

The piece itself was inspired by the Singaporean cassette for children Little Muslims that we listened to in class. Teaching to children has always held a special place in my heart (I tutored throughout high school), and there is something about the presentation of this lesson that struck me as very gentle – it is not attempting to indoctrinate, nor is it relying on very complex, esoteric arguments and words. It is simply trying to tell a story and reminded me of the blogs XKCD and Wait But Why?; these authors have become very popular in the past several years by making teaching their goal, gaining followers by ditching arrogance for straightforwardness. I attempted to capture this environment of inclusiveness and learning with my own analysis, hoping that even a picture of a stick figure can be worth a thousand words.