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Animating the Quran – The Sublimely Beautiful work of M for Moon.

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Alchemiya is privileged to be able to host the animated work of M for Moon, a creative enterprise that emerged over the past year as a way of introducing children to the Quran and encouraging adults to engage with the beauty of the Arabic language.

Interview: Valerie Grove

MforMoon’s work is a unique and exquisite way of combining recitation, story, meaning, image, movement, sound and colour. As well as helping children engage with the stories and wisdom of the Quran, each animation is also a prayer, a meditation and a joy for adults as well. A way to take a little time out from the stresses of the day 

We were able to talk to MforMoon and ask her some questions about how it all started.

Who are you? Please introduce yourself and MforMoon to Alchemiya. 

Salam, I’m MforMoon, I’m just a normal Muslim, wife and mum from the UK. I attempt to make illustrations and animations for littles (and not so littles) to connect with the Quran. 

How and when did you decide to start creating these beautiful animations? And why did you start?

How do you share these most beautiful Quranic narratives, each one a linguistic miracle, with someone who doesn’t have the language to understand what you are trying to tell them? This was my dilemma about a year ago but using craft and play – the only languages that my child and I truly shared – I translated them. That is how MforMoon was born. 

The more I illustrate and animate the more I realise this is not just an issue for children but for most of us. In reality only a small number in the Muslim world actually understand the language of the Quran. The Quran is filled with the most sublime imagery, which many people miss because of a disconnection with Arabic. It is such a rich and beautiful language, and sadly many of us lack the linguistic skill to absorb all of its richness. I am trying to create a link that helps those who cannot understand the words, feel them when listening in Arabic. 

I also found that I was connecting with the Quran much more deeply than when listening or reading. I started imagining all the details.

I cried throughout the entire process of animating a few verses about Nuh (Noah) and his son. I had read it, I had heard it, but animating it hit me hard. For the first time I was thinking about how Nuh may have felt seeing his son being washed away in the flood, what his body language may have been.

MforMoon also started partly as a result of COVID and being stuck at home. The pandemic has offered both joy and deep sorrow for my family. However, a huge blessing has been having extra time, which allowed me to rekindle a long forgotten love of illustration. 

Did you study art or animation or another creative subject? Or is it just something that you loved to do anyway?

Alhamdulillah I studied Fine Art at a very prestigious university here in the UK. I had considered illustration for a while but was taken in a different direction. I also studied Arabic, a language that I had fallen in love with. After I graduated I kind of put art behind me, however, last Ramadan I decided to make a Quran-inspired alphabet for my little one, and it somehow rekindled the creative spark inside. 

I love that through MforMoon I have been able to intertwine my educational background (two loves of mine) and find a new way to share these passions with my family and, through social media, a few more lovely souls who have kindly decided to follow and join in with my creative journey. 

What is the process of making one of your animations in terms of materials and other people involved? And (roughly!) how long does it take from start to completion of each animation?

My little one M is very creative, we do lots of painting and ripping up. In addition I have always loved origami and somehow these things all combine really nicely. I document and photo everything, upload to my computer and manipulate it a bit. I love that M is an integral contributor to the process, each painted page, each rip is a result of M’s little hands. 

After lots of trial and error, I learned how to build Islamic-inspired geometric designs and then just fused everything together. I love building the illustrations layer by layer.  The animations take a long time, at this stage everything is totally manual. Each slide is edited and, depending upon the complexity, can take a very long time. Roughly it takes about an hour for four seconds of animation (each twinkling star is individually switched on and off). 

A hugely important part of the process is finding the right recitation. I have been incredibly fortunate to connect with some spectacularly gifted reciters who have honoured me by allowing me to animate to their beautiful voices. It’s also been wonderful to work with women. We have amazing male reciters but we don’t get to hear women enough. There is something very different about hearing a woman recite the Quran. It’s so strange that people still question if it’s ok for women to be heard reciting the Quran or not, and it’s so interesting how each reciter can make you feel the verse in a totally different way. 

As well as the animations, you create images and educational materials. How would you like this lovely creative enterprise that is M for Moon to develop in the future? 

As I make educational materials for my child, it makes sense for me to share this with others too, but really, what I would love to do is illustrate books (I am illustrating and semi writing a book about the journey of a lone camel shepherd who is looking for connection with God) and create a huge library of Islamic-inspired animations to help people connect with the most beautiful book ever written. It would also be incredible if I could grow a successful animation company insha’Allah. Who knows what He has planned for me or for MforMoon.

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