Dear Imaan, please tell us how you became interested in drawing illustrations?
Through my father. Since childhood, I have always been interested in my father’s illustrations for books and magazines, well before the Ahmad Family comics.
As a child, I always wanted him to draw me something, not because I really enjoy colouring, but because I always admired his skill, and never got tired of asking him to draw a picture for me – only with a pencil and an eraser. But as he was usually busy with work, sometimes he wouldn’t be able to sketch for me. And I myself, being at school and not believing myself capable to go beyond the typical stick figure, did nothing but wait for a chance to ask him.
But when my sisters and I began homeschooling, I began to find interest in things that never really concerned me before. My hunger for books ignited; and so did my love for pencil and paper. I started drawing.
How did you channelize your interest and what steps did you take to learn techniques of drawing and illustration?
When I began illustrating, I drew things from my imagination and I still do. No still-life, no flowers, no vases. It was my thing, so I did it my way. Horses and princesses, animals and girls, who did fantastic things. I love horses, and as a child, always wanted to own one. I made it up by drawing them. And when I started horseback riding, it only increased my passion.
Of course, the Hadeeths on Allah’s (swt) and the Prophet’s (sa) prohibition on complete drawings is clear, so I always left the eyes out. Some people found it odd, but I was certain of my reasons and did what I knew was right.
I would draw, but like every artist, I wanted opinion on my art. I consulted my family and my childhood friends, but my father was the expert, and his criticisms and appreciations were what I focused on.
So I began noticing stuff. I scrutinized my father’s drawings. I looked at pictures in books. I watched cartoons and noticed where the legs should be and how the hands should look. I copied illustrations from the encyclopaedia and off book covers.
Who is your role model?
From the past, Prophet Muhammad (sa). After him, his wives Aishah (rtaf) and Khadeejah (rtaf) and his daughter, Fatimah (rtaf). After them, Umar ibn al-Khattab (rtam).
As for the present, my parents: for their patience and their wisdom, and their steadfastness to do what is right, no matter what anyone says.
Are your parents, friends and siblings cooperative?
My family is extremely supportive and encouraging – my parents especially. So far, I have worked on five projects, one of them with my father (Ahmad Family Colouring Book 3: Mariam and Jamal go to the Zoo), and I’ve been paid for the rest. My siblings enjoy my ability as a fact that I can illustrate for them, and sometimes even come to me for advice and criticism on their drawings, just as I used to do with my father.
How do you manage your time?
As a homeschooler and a student of Quran, I am able to give more time to Quran than many. This means waking up early, getting dressed before Fajr, having breakfast at 6 am, then out the door and at Madrassah by about 7 am. Two hours there for revision and reciting my daily lesson, and then back home again for more revision and memorization.
That stage has passed now, Alhumdulillah, and I’m now on my period of revision as a Hafidhah – which includes training for the certificate from Saudi Arabia in reciting exactly as the Prophet (sa) did himself, which would also show just how many teachers are there between him and you. Other than the Quran, my time is spent with studies and reading, and the occasional illustration, if I get the time.
What are your future plans?
I plan to study deeper into Islamic law, strengthen my command over the Arabic language, teach Quran, and, Insha Allah, raise a family of Hufadh.
Can you give a friendly advice to our readers?
Remember your identity. You can only remember if you know, and you can only know if you learn. Your history is your identity: it makes you who you are. As a Muslim, your history starts with the prophets, down to Prophet Muhammad (sa), and then down to you.
“To destroy a people you must first sever their roots.” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)
Our youth today are more concerned with actors and sports heroes than our own history, our own heroes. The Ummah is in dire need of us. If we do not want to be destroyed, we must not lose our roots. British history is not ours. European history is not ours; true, it is important to learn about the world around you, but that is not our priority. Our priority is our nation, and we can only be a nation if we know our roots and history, follow our own role models, and learn from our mistakes.