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Sufi Infographics: Reintroducing a Prophetic Teaching Method


1. What is Infographics?


Information graphics or infographics in short, are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge.

Visualization plays a strong role in human communication and is any technique for creating images, diagrams, or animations to communicate a message.Visualization through visual imagery has been an effective way to communicate both abstract and concrete ideas. Examples from history include cave paintings, maps, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greek geometry, and Leonardo da Vinci's drawings. There are many kinds of visualization such as Scientific, Educational, Information, Knowledge, Product and Systems visualization (ref 1).

The area of Infographic is overlapped by number of related areas such Visualization, Visual Communication, Graphic Design (ref 2) and Information Design (ref 3). Visual communication is the communication of ideas through the visual display of information. Information design is the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. Where the data is complex or unstructured, a visual representation can express its meaning more clearly to the viewer.

The word 'Communication' - origin being Latin word communis means to share - is the activity of conveying information or knowledge through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior. Infographic is a kind of visual communication which has the ability to present complex information or knowledge quickly and clearly.

Presently due to rise in technology driven mass-media communication and the necessity of communicating at a very short span of time with all the necessary information, Infographics have gained popularity  We find them across newspapers, magazines and web media. The ability of Infographics to communicate data, information and knowledge at a glance, visually and symbolically has made it a useful tool for state-of-the-art communication.


2. The Critical Task of Communication


About Inayat Khan, the Sufi Teacher who brought the Message of Sufism in the west in the beginning of Twentieth Century, one of his pupil, Samcher Beorse wrote, "He called himself a mystic. He fondled this word. He said it simply means a communicator, one who always communicates, either through or beyond words." So for some deep thinkers, the word 'mystic' means one who communicate, one who receives communication in communion with the Sole Communicator, Who is the Great Mystery, Who is God, Who is Allah of Muhammad, Who is Alaha of Jesus, Who is Elohim of Moses and Abraham and with every other Beauteous Names of the Divine Who is Indivisibly One.


Indeed, We, the Divine Authority have made the communications clear to you O humanity, if you will use reason. - The Final Divine Revelation, 3:118 
The command of Allah has come, therefore you need not seek to expedite it before its appointed time; and He is beyond and far above (all the things) they associate (with Him). He sends down the angels, the archetype of Divine Communication, with the revelation by His command to such of His servants as He will, 'Warn the people that there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but I, therefore take only Me as shield.
'He has created the heavens and the earth to suit the requirements of truth and wisdom. He is beyond and far above (al) the things they associate (with Him).'
~ The Qur'an, Opening verses of the Chapter of the Bees
And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals. ~ The Qur'an 16:101
When they are told: “Follow what God has sent down as communication of revelation,” they say: “No, we will follow what we found our fathers doing.” What! Even if satan is calling them to the punishment of the Blazing Fire? ~ 31: 21


The task of Communication at it's highest is a Divine Task. God Communicates with the entire creation in infinite modes and since Man is the locus of creation, hence Man is the best medium of communication. For this reason in various ages, God sent Guides and Teachers of Humanity, the illuminated ones who were given the primary role of communicating with the rest of his or her community and by extension to the rest of humanity. They were the Message bearers, the Message transmitters. This critical task of communication is a never ending one until the end of the world of appearances.

Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided. ~ The Qur'an, Surat an-Nahl: 125
Prophet Solomon said, "Take this letter of mine, deliver it to them (people of Queen Sheba), and then withdraw for a little and see how they respond.” ~ 27: 28
[Prophet Hud said:] “If you turn your backs, I have transmitted to you what I was sent to you with, and my Lord will replace you with another people, and you will not harm Him at all. My Lord is the Preserver of everything.” ~ 11: 57

Now the question arises, in this time what are the most important aspects that need communicating with higher priorities? In this age of all embracing materialism and atheistic secularism where greed and consumerism of few triumph at the price of suffering of the majority of humanity, the need of effectively communicating truth, values, human rights, morality, dignity of man over all else and the Highest Ideal of Truth, Beauty and Unity has never been greater. It is because despite advancing greatly in technology and civilization, we are inwardly / spiritually mostly bankrupt. Even those who are not so materially greedy and who convince themselves to be spiritual, many of them are also engaged in spiritual materialism, selfishly pursuing a path of selfishness with no concern for others.

The degree enlightenment of a human being is directly proportional to the consciousness of our sensitivity to sufferings of other sentient beings. And if we put to test to our Heart's sensitivity to other's suffering and what we have done or doing to address that will reveal the state of bankruptcy of our faith, our spiritual state and station.

In an interview published at Technology of the Heart, Carol Sill, a seeker in the Sufi Path commented, "The message of the heart is more necessary in this age than ever. Informational knowledge is not what we need, it is wisdom. The good news is that there is total access to all the wise words down through the ages, and all so-called secret and esoteric practices are posted somewhere on the internet or published and available. Even the information that was considered most sacred can be accessed and downloaded, like torrents of recent movies. The next step is to make sense of all this, and to heal the heart of humanity, which has been numbed by this social transition."


THIS WONDROUS JOURNEY: a Sufi Infographic by Sadiq Alam for Technology of the Heart

3. Sufi Infographics (SIG) / Sufic Visual Teachings


In our time Infographic can be one of the most useful tool for sensible communication in disseminating some of the most timeless teachings, wisdom, truth and message. This thought and vision has inspired me to work on the area which can be termed as Sufi Infographic (SIG). Through Sufi Infographic we are interested mostly in the visualization of knowledge / message for better communication. Sufi Infographic has the potential to become an effective tool to communicate the living tradition of transmitting message and distilled wisdom of the Sufis in our time.

Sufi Infographics will primarily employ symbol, signs, message and sayings of the blessed teachers of humanity. Since such messages reveal it's inner content in multiple levels, we hope different people will receive according to their levels of understanding and spiritual depth. In a sense Sufi Infographics will employ what is known as 'Ishara' in Sufi terminology.

'Ishara - means indication. By this the teacher implies that for full experience of 'Ishara there must be enlightenment about the knowledge it points to, otherwise it is merely metaphor and concept. Ishara can also mean hint, signs or inkling.  According to Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Murabit who communicates in his book The Hundred Steps, "... indications are means for the refining of the understanding, the sharpening of the eye, the purification of the contemplation, the dissolving the barriers, the refining of the meanings."

He also mentioned, "Our (meaning for the Sufis) science is all indications. When it is stated, it disappears. 'Ishara is the coded language of the lovers used to lure the seeker into the realm of delight and witnessing, used to revive the ruh to return to the homeland of love. It is the language of the great Diwans; it speaks of Layla, of moons, of cups and wine."


4. The Use of Illustration as a Teaching Aid / Tool is Part of Sunnah


There is a precedence of using visual tool in the aid of teaching by Prophet Muhammad, the Grand Master and Mystic for the Sufis and Sufi Inforgraphic is also an attempt of reviving the use of visualization / illustration as teaching tool, may God accept and increase baraka in it.


As Seal (Khatam) and Completion of Prophethood (Nubuwwat) Prophet Muhammad's role was primarily as a Teacher sent to Humanity. He was one of the most successful teacher in human history with excellence in communication, both one to one and one to many, in space-time and beyond space-time. Our salutation of honor to him and may God's peace and blessings be upon his noble soul.

In the sacred tradition of Islam we find examples of how he taught employing visual tool and illustration by him:

We were sitting with the Messenger of God. Then he drew a single line on the ground in front of us. Then he, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, said, 'This is the Path of the Most Exalted Lord, God.' Then he again drew two other lines on the left and the right side of the original line and then he said, 'These are lines of the archetypal deceiver (devil's).'

Then he placed his hand on the middle line and recited the verses, "And, [says God], this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow [other] ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous." (6:153)
~ Tradition of the Prophet, narrated by Jabir from Mustad Ahmad collection of Hadith

The Prophet drew a square. Then he drew another line across the middle of it. Then from his side, beginning from the middle of the square he drew many small lines and said, 'This is man, and this is his death which is encompassing him. Whatever outside this (boundary of death) are those hopes and desire of his (which remains out of reach for him). And these smaller lines are his sudden accidents, trials and tribulations. If one of it spares him, the other will strike him and at the end his, her old age will get him. ~ Tradition of the Prophet, narrated by Abdullah ibn Mas'ud from Bukhari collection of Hadith

The Messenger of God drew four lines on the ground and then asked, 'Do you know why I drew these lines?' His companions said, 'God and His Messenger knows the best.' Then he said, 'Among the inhabitant of the Women of Paradise the best are Khadija bint Khuwayelid, Fatima bint Muhammad, Maryam bint Imran and Asiya bint Muzahim, the wife of Pharaoh.' ~ Tradition of the Prophet, narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas from Bukhari collection of Hadith

The above are some of the direct evidences from his method of teaching, but apart from these, the sage of metaphor, examples, ishara, parables are something which has been  used by all illuminating messengers and beings. This is also a method of the Qur'an where imagery and metaphors are intermingled abundantly.

SÅ‚awomir Sztajer said, "The Quran contains an abundance of imagery, Many Quranic images are conveyed literally. These constitute descriptive imagery whereby they clarify or give a vivid picture of something. Then, there is figurative  imagery, which are conveyed by figurative language, such as in metaphors, similes, symbols, etc. How is it possible to comprehend a world which goes beyond human cognitive abilities and which can not be grasped by means of any kind of cognition available? The answer is: thanks to metaphor."

In Sufi Infographics the goal is also sometime to use symbols and hints as well as direct transmission of message from our Masters. There has been some effort before in creating infographics with religious message, but this attempt is leaning more towards Sufic tradition which includes: reflects the need and cry of the time, preserves tradition with proper adab it deserves, offer engaged spirituality which practical and living, embody beauty and communicate the message in the footstep of the Messengers of God.


5. A Service to be Given Freely and Openly




Any one who strives with the intention that
(Banner of) God's Holy Words be raised high -
he, she is a Warrior in God's Path. 

~ Saying of the Prophet, Hadith collection of Muslim, Kitabul Imarah







All Sufi Inforgraphics published at Technology of the Heart site and it's affiliate other Social Media / internet sites (such as Pinterest) will be free of copyrights limitation so that anyone interested could use them in any manners or in any media they want. You may copy and use them freely in your own publications / sites as well. Attribution or formal credit is not necessary, though appreciated and honors the continuity of transmission. The minimal attribution would be credit and a link to Technology of the Heart site (http://www.mysticsaint.info). This unworthy author and designer need not to be mentioned therein.

Anyone who wishes to create Infographic with Sufic Message or with Teachings of their respective Teachers/ Spiritual elders may contract here mysticsaint@gmail.com with your request / ideas and interest or simply your feedback.



# Previous Posts with Sufi Infographics:
Prophet Muhammad's Sermon on Ramadan | an Infographic Edition
Nafee-Esbat Zikr in Naqshbandi Sufi Way | An Infographic Edition
* Medical Benefits of Fasting | Infographic
Principles of Spiritual Wayfaring by Shaykh Najm al-Din Kubra | an Infographic Edition
Realities of Grand Deception of the Present Life
* How the human capacity for connection with superior cognition is practiced and brought to fruition

# References:
1. Wikipedia Article on Visualization (Computer Graphic)
2. Graphic Design
2. Information Design

# Further Resources:
* IslamoGraphic.com
* Communication and Argument in the Qur'an
* Meeting with Murshid Inayat Khan - Shamcher Beorse
QUR’AN ANTHOLOGIES: Illuminating Metaphors

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