Discovering a new Sunnah

I'm sure it's no surprise that I'm convinced of the power of visual language. My shelves are lined with books by the likes of Dan Roam, Sunni Brown, Mike Rhode, Christina Merkley & Brandy Agerbeck and I've read plenty of online articles about the power of images to convey a message and improve memory. So while I understood, from an academic perspective, why sketch noting was a powerful learning tool, what I was missing was any evidence of this in the Sunnah or among the pious predecessors. UNTIL, a recent lecture by Shaykh Omar Sulieman in which he talked about the Prophet's (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) drawings.

The Sunnah of Visual Aids

"... the Prophet [drew] in the sand at times, and what we can take from that is using visual aids is Sunnah. ...the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) used visual aid to engage the people he was teaching in every way possible." 

- Shaykh Omar Sulieman
It can be said then that drawing was used:

1. As a supplement to words
2. As a way to make a complex concept clear/digestible
3. As a means to transmit religious knowledge
4. I cannot say with any certainty that it was the intention of Rasullulah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) to use pictures as a way to aid memory, as it is clear from the ahadith and all of the details that were preserved that the Sahabah had impeccable memories. However science suggests that when words are combined with pictures people are 6x more likely to remember the information.

I'm the first to admit that I seriously need to brush up on my seerah, however to my knowledge the Prophet (salla Allahu alahyi wa salaam) wasn't known to be a spectacular artist, or an artist at all for that matter. However, this didn't stop him from using a simple drawing (literally a few lines) to illustrate a point he was making. Actions are rewarded by their intentions, so move past the fear of "I can't draw", and make your intention not to draw a pretty picture, but to follow a Sunnah by using simple pictures to help convey and clarify knowledge.

One such instance is the hadith below:

Photo credit: Screenshot from the Prophetic Musings presentation given by Shaykh Omar Sulieman

To be clear, I'm not trying to assert that "sketchnoting is Sunnah", but rather that it can be bi idhnillah,  and with the correct intentions,  be a means of acting upon a Sunnah. You can see the difference between the original drawing, and my attempt to take notes on the lecture regarding the original drawing. While the delivery is definitely different, the intent to use words and pictures in conjunction in order to clarify and convey knowledge remains the same.


Prophetic Musings

This course was a little bit different in that the focus wasn't on a particular Surah or topic, but rather an exploration of a variety of parables and analogies that  the Prophet (alayhi wa salatu wa salaam) used. For this class, I didn't take super detailed notes, but instead chose to sketch out a few of the amthal (parables), that really jumped out at me. There were of course many more gems throughout the course,  which covered about 55 different ahadith, and I encourage you to check it out on ILMFLIX (all courses are available for free you just need to register).

The great thing about parables and analogies is that (even if the Prophet {salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam} didn't actually draw anything out, the language he used was so colorful and descriptive that it lends itself to pictures. The Shaykh also mentioned that the benefit of using proverbs/analogies as a literary tool is that it ties mundane things we see/encounter in the world with spiritual matters, inciting constant reflection and contemplation.

I've included a few of the sketches that I did do below, along with the associated ahadith:

This first sketch isn't of a particular hadith, rather it is a combination of commentary and ayat from the Qur'an which were used to expound upon the previous hadith. 

Narrated by Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari: The parable of a believer who recites the Qur'an is that of a citron, its fragrance is nice and its taste is nice. The parable of the believe who does not recite the Qur'an is that of a date, it has no smell but its taste is sweet. The parable of a hypocrite who recites the Qur'an is that of basil it's fragrance is nice but its taste is bitter. The parable of the hypocrite who does not recite the Qur'an is that of the colocynth, its smell is bitter and its taste is bitter. (Bukhari)

Narrated by Abu Saeed Al Khudri: " The heart are four (types): polished as shiny as the radiating lamp, a sealed heart with a knot tied around its seal, a heart that is turned upside down and a wrapped heart. As for the polished heart, it is the heart of the believer and the lamp is the light of faith. The sealed heart is the heart of a disbeliever. The heart that is turned upside down is the heart of the pure hypocrite, because he had knowledge but denied it. As for the wrapped heart, it is a heart that contains belief and hypocrisy. The example of faith in this heart is the example of the herb that is sustained by pure water. The example of hypocrisy in it is the example of an ulcer that thrives on puss and blood. Whichever of the two substances has the upper hand, it will have the upper head on that heart." (Ahmad) 

Narrated by An-Nu'man bin Bashir: "The example of a person abiding Allah's orders and limits (ore the one who abides by the limits and regulations prescribed by Allah) in comparison to the one who does worn and violates Allah's limits and orders is like the example of people drawing lots for seats on a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part while the others in the lower parer; those in the lower part have to pass by those in the upper one to get water, and that troubled the latter. One of them (i.e. people in the lower part) took an axe and started making a whole in the bottom of the boat. The people of the upper part came and asked him, (saying) 'What is wrong with you?' He replied, 'You have been troubled much by my (coming up to you), and I have to get water.' Now if they prevent him from doing that they will save him and themselves, but if they leave him (to do what he wants), they will destroy him and themselves" (Bukhari)

'Abdulla bin 'Amr said, "I saw the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) circumambulating the Ka'bah and saying: 'How good you are and how good your fragrance; how great you are and how great your sanctity. By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of the believer is greater before Allah than your sanctity, his blood and his wealth, and to thing anything but good of him." (Targheeb)


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