The Quran’s Powerful Storytelling

Nouman Ali Khan


Channel: Nouman Ali Khan

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he'll start. So tell us what got you into storytelling in the first place. watching cartoons. I watched a lot of cartoons. I was a huge fan of Spider Man way when I was a kid. And

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I think that for any child storytelling is absolutely crucial. But as you grow older, it is you realize how big apart storytelling is in everything around your life.

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In a sense, psychologists will tell you, you tell yourself a story about your own life.

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But even if it's not cartoons, if it's movies, if it's TV shows, but even beyond that, even journalism, effective journalism is about crafting a news event in the form of a story. So there's a timeline, there's a sequencing, there's a buildup.

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And this is actually a fundamental part of human communication, like without stories. I don't know where I don't know how knowledge could be passed down. You know, even with kids education, like, you know, poems and songs and things like that capture a story inside them. Right. So I think I got into it since childhood. But I became I used to make up a lot of stories in my head when I was younger, and write stories and things like that. Make up characters and imaginary worlds and things. So yeah, storytelling and being fascinated with stories has always been a big part of my inside world.

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And how big of a role does storytelling play within the Quran itself? I would say it's one of the fundamental modes of Quran is communication.

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Any large Surah

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has to include a number of stories and you can divide the stories in the Quran and to be broadly two categories, stories of the past and stories of the ongoings of the Prophet himself. So I said, I'm so like, Allah is recapturing moments that he's lived, or that he's living in the form of Allah telling the story of what's going on with him. Right. And if you count those two together, that's a huge chunk, maybe even the majority chunk of what's being discussed in the Quran. So the Quran is actually accidental causes the best way of telling a story. And, you know, men and by labor law says, we're telling you stories from the unseen meaning history that was lost, or history that never

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got recorded, or things you would never have known otherwise, right. Like Musa and Hadera local miners and stuff we could never have known ourselves. You are Lima, Comala Takota Allah moon, so it is a huge part of the Quran owns real estate, if you divide the amount of debt tax dedicated to different subjects, stories would be a huge chunk, but not only is it a huge chunk, many of the core values of the Quran are taught explicitly, like Allah will state them like honesty, truthfulness, etc, etc, right? There'll be core values. And then those core values are reinforced by way of storytelling. Like as if you can get the theory and then you get the application. So the story also

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gives you the applied version of so much of the wisdom that is in theory, right? So that's how the Quran works between those two.

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What is it that makes the Quran storytelling so compelling? And how do we use that as inspiration to tell our own?

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So a story

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isn't really truly a story unless it's compelling. We all have friends that have very long winded descriptions of something that happened to them and 30 seconds, you're like, please stop. This is too boring, because they don't have a compelling way of getting to the point. Can you please tell me what the point was? Right?

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The first thing you notice about Quran storytelling is that it's deliberately brief. It admits things you would expect to be there. So there's a there's a mission that's deliberate all the time in the stories of the Quran. So Allah will skip things like dates, times, specific geographical locations, full names, full character descriptions, background information, is just not present. Like we we all know, we celebrate so that Youssef has like the pinnacle story in the Quran. And we're not given any backdrop of here's we use of his and he's, by the way, he's the son of Jaco When Yahoo was the son of his heart and this is the son of your brain. So you can put it all together in

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context now, when use have said to his father, like you just go right into the story with no background, so there's a bit of a shock value

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The way the Quran tells the story, that's one component. Another thing that makes the Quranic stories very telling very, very compelling is that very, very little of the story is told.

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But it contains enormous amounts of depth. Like, one of the things I use as a guiding principle is like Ibrahim Ali Sudan, lived well over a century. And he had,

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I mean, every day of his life must be an incredible story. But the Quran captures his entire story, or what Allah wants to tell us of this story in just a handful of pages, not even more, probably wouldn't even amount to two or three pages. And that's the entire story of Ibrahim alayhis. Salam and the Quran. That's it.

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Two or three pages, if you read them, it will take you maybe 10 minutes. Right. So 100 year life, and we get 10 minutes, and even within those 10 minutes, they're repetitions. And even within those 10 minutes, they are digressions like he is talking about the angels talking to his wife, not him. And that entire dialogue is there, like it's what's inside yet, right? So what we're learning from that is Allah is extremely selective in which scene is going to make it to the final cut. Let me put it that way. Right. Like, the scene selection from Allah is driven by something like a director nowadays in film. There's lots of footage, and then they cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, and they say this

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is going to make it to the final cut, right? Well, Allah directed the entire lifetimes of every prophet and every person that ever lived. And he then decided, here are the scenes from all of human history that will make it to final revelation. So there's a there's a cutting process, right? And with that mindset, when you when you study the Quran, you're like, Well, why did this make the final cut? Why was other stuff not in the final cut? And this must be really significant. And then it makes you want to probe and dive into whatever did make the final cut. Right? And then you realize, whoa, there's a lot here that that didn't meet the eye at first at first it felt like why is this so

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brief? And then you realize, oh, this brief one little thing is like a bunch of pebbles and one diamond. So Allah chose the diamond. Right by comparison to everything else, right? So

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in fact, my philosophy even on the story of the Prophet himself, so Allah Allah Salam, people typically study like sila timidness, ha they've been a sham, right? Famous biographies of the prophets I'm now there's many available in English also. My philosophy and even studying the biography of our prophets Isola is which scenes of his life make make it into the Quran as Allah commenting on them. Like, I'd like to know that first because clearly, he did that with every other prophet. He's definitely doing that with our Prophet to several hours. So that's, it's selectiveness.

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Another, I'd say one more thing, because there's tons of things we can talk about one more thing that I think makes the Quran storytelling very compelling is that it probes the viewer, the listener, the one who's experiencing the story, it if they immerse themselves enough, it becomes their story.

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They start seeing themselves reflected in that story. And I don't mean this in the sense of main character syndrome. Like, you know, look, man was giving wisdom to his son, so I feel like I have wisdom I must give to my son. No, no, I start feeling like the son who needs wisdom.

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Right, so you become kind of a recipient of the the story and how it's being crafted.

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And so those elements are what kind of

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compelled me to, to highlight because translation seemed to just kind of not be able to capture that right. So story night, for example, was one avenue one vehicle by which I could say, you know, what, there's a lot going on in the story, let me try and unpack that for you. Even if a little bit like the last night I toured with, was what three i art for I art. And it will take three, four hours to unpack, you know, to not even get geeky just to tell the story. But that's what Allah does is really powerful.

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Start tell us about this exciting story writing competition happening this year, and how those watching can apply and get involved. For so let me start with the first thing I think there's lots of really wonderful creative people out there and we're now living in the age of creative content. So content producers are the thing now right? But I we all believe the Quran is the most inspired content there can be

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and beautiful as well as analysis right the best storytelling there can be. What I genuinely believe is that Muslim youth especially but not limited to youth are extremely creative, and they need to channel their creativity

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in a way that captures the world's attention. The Quran

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did not just preach its message it captured the Arab imagination.

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it like they were into horses. Allah told the story of horses and so the idea and captured their imagination the world has their different trends now, right there's like, there's there's manga and anime and sci fi and adventure storytelling and you know, Action, Thriller, suspense, drama, etc, the all these genres of entertainment, short films, mystery films, horror films, etc, etc. And the world is consuming it, you can complain about that, or you can realize the world will always be drawn to stories. Right? So how can we take advantage of that tendency that humanity already has and clearly exhibits? How do we take advantage of that and bring Allah's message to them with that

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vehicle with that tendency, right? Instead of fighting against that tendency, the Quran doesn't fight against storytelling. The Quran leverages storytelling. So my idea is that there is a possibility of creating Quran inspired Creative Media. This is the crazy idea. Right? So

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I've given the examples often before in different lectures and talks, but the stories of the Quran the elements of them are so compelling that you know, major box office, you know, production house warehouses,

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you know, Disney and Pixar and these people, they've taken elements from biblical which are also Quranic stories, and incorporated them, right. Why Why does Poland Kung Fu Panda end up in a basket going down a river?

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It's more sad.

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Right? Straight up. Why is the why is the Eve in Kung Fu Panda two? Why is the peacock seeing a dream that a creature from the species that he oppressed is going to come and overthrow his kingdom was fit on seeing the Israelites like

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there's there's a lot of this in, in Disney and major box office films. And it's not like they told you Oh, by the way, special credit to Moses. Like, they're not going to do that. But they will take these elements, but without the lessons from them, though, they find the element compelling, but not the lesson. What I'm trying to say is that you don't have to just take the stories of prophets and then come up with some creative version of that. But I think even in the lessons of the Quran, like there's an idea that in SOTL insaan, because this year's World Quran conferences, or convention is focused on citizen insight.

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So there's a powerful, powerful idea in Nadina, who's Seville and Masha Quran by Monica flora, I did a small reflection on that you'll see a YouTube link to that also in this in the description.

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Watch that, and then what my invitation to the youth is. Okay, so now you understand what this is talking about a pathway towards gratitude, a pathway towards ingratitude. And now you have a picture of what this is talking about. Can you craft a creative story, a compelling story, based on the lesson and wisdom and desire and I want to see what our creative talent can produce. What I'm hoping to do is some of the best stories, because I'm going to have people that are in the film industry, people that are in the writing industry, kind of review your work and, and critique it. And some of the best ones are going to be actually turned into ebooks. And you know, the top winner, I'm

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actually going to fly them out to Malaysia, to the world Quran convention, because I want to celebrate this kind of creativity. That's divinely inspired. Right? Right now there are creative shows that are inspired by the idea that there is no afterlife, or inspired by the idea that there is no God. And there are many creative shows like that, that are box office hits that are viral that are huge, that have made an impact on the world. Or we can actually have creative media that's not overtly preachy. That's not You're not making it for Muslims. It doesn't have to begin within the sheath, like, and it doesn't have to do that. No, no, you don't have to do any of that you have to

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be creative. So that even someone who is non Muslim or not interested in religion will watch them and say that was amazing. And in between the lines, a powerful message got across to them, right. So a message just like the Quran is discreet, and it's there. It's, it's sometimes it's very subtle in the way it gets a message across, right? In fact, if you study Surah Yusuf, from beginning to end, there's very little preaching. And so

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there's very little, like direct, you know, Dawa. It's actually Dawa through the way the story is told, and it's seamlessly embedded within, right? It's not overtly Islamic, if you will, right. So that's the kind of thing I want to see that real next level of creativity across different genres. And I want to start with kind of short storytelling and really kind of cultivate that talent and inspire that talent and Chawla and see where this

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thing goes because I think the future generation, the future is, of course in, you know, lectures and the rules and reminders and things like that that's part of the Islamic media landscape right now it's going to be there.

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But if we really want to capture that next generation and the world, then we need to be where they're at. And we need to be better than everybody else in what they're doing. And I absolutely believe Creative Media is a part of that. So that's what's going on. I'm really actually excited about what will come out of this. And people that maybe have made may have felt that they don't have a direction to put this talent of theirs in. Hopefully we can kind of channel that energy in something that will be truly inspiring for the world. Who knows maybe the story you write is going to change a million lives.

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Visit Worldcon convention.com To learn more about this exciting story writing competition and submit your creative work before the fifth of November. We can't wait to read your stories and Sharla get started.