So what is a "Muslim" manga exactly?
Comparing Islamic manga, Muslim manga, and Muslim's manga
From time to time, on social media, we get people writing to us that what we are doing "..is not Muslim, or that our organization is not a Muslim one.
At Muslim Manga, we don't actually claim to limit our content to only "Islamic" educational material. Not all our comics, graphics, etc., are there for Muslims to learn how to be (better) Muslims or even learn Islamic jurisprudence. That is not to say we do not have "Islamic" material at all, but rather that we also have Muslim character-driven stories.
(Muslim Manga Club by Hamed and Zhar is an example of a Muslim character focused story)
With regard to MuslimManga.org's contributions, sometimes people who are just passing by, or glancing through what we have, make some incorrect assessments due to their limited experience with our content. This essay may not correct the underlying flaw that many humans have of making assumptions without proper data or knowledge, but God willing, it will help those who are still confused, and or it will be a good reference that can be shared with people who contact us with concerns in the future.
In this article, I will be addressing some of the confusion some people have and comparing Islamic manga, Muslim manga, and Muslim's manga. However, before getting into the comparison of Islamic vs. Muslim, let's discuss what manga is to different people and what it means to the Muslim Manga organization.
”Manga” for the West vs Japan
Manga is not a rigid media form that allows for no change nor creative alterations to the form itself. Still, instead, it is a form that can be shaped by the storyteller.
Every once in a while, my email inbox presents itself with a passionate manga enthusiast who calls me out for using the term "manga" incorrectly. Such fans tend to believe that only Japanese people can make manga, and the fans tend to be too serious concerning manga terminology. I know, because I have been there before as a younger me. However, as an adult, I think "manga" is more universal than hardcore manga fans may allow for.
In fact, the English use of the term manga is using a Japanese word and adding additional meaning to it. It is ironic because manga fans tend to focus on preserving as much of the Japanese culture and whatnot in translations. If it is anime, they may rather watch it with subtitles to hear the Japanese. Their preferences are not wrong, but it is just ironic that their idea is farther away from the Japanese version than they think it is.
As mentioned above, there is a difference in how a Japanese individual looks at the term "manga" and how people from other parts of the world look at the same term. I can't assume that every individual in every country in the world sees it this way, but I write the following based on my experience talking with different people.
For many western people, when they come across the term "manga" (and even the equivalent term for animation, "anime"), it is associated with a Japanese style. So for people living in a western country, manga means Japanese style comics (and anime, Japanese style animation).
On the other hand, in Japanese, the same exact word "manga" comprised of the kanji 漫(cartoon) and 画(image) simply means comic*. There is no assumption that "manga" belongs to Japan or a Japanese style. It is simply the general term used for this communication artform. Additionally, while there are many unique qualities in much of the Japanese-made manga (and anime since they share styles), there are also less common styles, albeit still Japanese-made. They are all considered manga in Japan; however, I would go off on a limb and say that if an average manga fan living in a western country reads some of the more obscure Japanese comics, they may not recognize it as manga.
*Note: Perhaps the term sequential narrative is more neutral a term, but many people may not be familiar with it. "Comic" also has certain associations or images associated with it, but in this article, I will use the term interchangeably with the more neutral "sequential narrative" term)
Historically, Japanese comics tended to have many good qualities, compared to those that originate in other countries. Much of Japanese manga indeed has stylized drawings. Beyond that, some aspects of the style, such as larger eyes, allow storytellers to illustrate more emotion in their characters. And besides the art, Japanese manga also has a lot of strong storytelling qualities, historically not found in western comics. So there is a lot to learn from the manga form or be inspired by, beyond stylized artworks.
Side-note: Manga & anime characters have large eyes because it is a style that got popular with Osamu Tezuka, who has been called the father of manga. Unfortunately, some people have some incorrect assumptions about this. If you come across such people, you can share this bit of information with them.
(This is an example submission from our recent event, Love for Parents Manga Contest, titled How Mom Says “I Loves You”)
As far as the Muslim Manga organization goes, manga is an art communication medium that can be used to help Muslims have representation in media while also teaching some Islamic messages. It can also be used to offer some halal entertainment for Muslims. Not every aspect of what I just wrote is found in every manga, but different artists and writers in the community have created different stories. Some of them are Islamic manga, some of them are Muslim manga. More on that later.
Building on Cultures of the Past
Of course, it is still possible to generalize particular stylized drawings and storytelling techniques to a Japanese origin. And for many westerners, this may all be defined as "manga" and assumed or viewed as Japanese only.
Nowadays, though, many non-Japanese people make comics that look just like Japanese comics, which blurs the definition of what "manga" is further. Some hardcore manga fans may find it uncomfortable that their understanding of what manga is could be changing. Still, in reality, many of the things we accept today as belonging to one culture may have come through cultural exchange. Today, Shougi (Japanese chess) is seen as being related to Japanese culture, but it comes from an Indian game. Karuta, a game that encompasses Japanese poetry, originally was introduced to Japan via Portuguese traders. Over time, the Japanese people further developed these parts of culture and made them their own. I think "manga" is in a similar situation but in reverse. Japanese people developed the craft of manga considerably. Still, the style and the storytelling techniques can be and will be picked up by more authors worldwide to start telling their own stories.
What is Islamic Manga?
Islamic manga is manga that has Islamic elements/themes in it and or teaches an Islamic message. The Islam part is a fundamental part of what makes Islamic manga. The story needs to abide by Islamic teachings and needs to either educate on Islamic teachings or inform readers about something related to Islam, whether it is Islamic jurisprudence or educating on how someone should behave based on Islamic values. Other stories could include historical stories about Islamic figures. I personally find the responsibility a little too high for me to work on such a genre without heavily consulting Islamic scholars because, in my opinion, a lot of attention must be paid to make sure that the content is Islamically accurate. If someone learns an incorrect message and applies it, assuming that teaching is correct, it would naturally have problematic results.
Furthermore, creating Islamic material may be limited in scope, as there are different Islamic scholarly opinions on many issues.
Of course, making such material is possible, but developing such stories should be done with care and be done so delicately. It can be challenging to do correctly, even for Muslims.
At MuslimManga.org, we do have community comic submissions in this genre such as The Pious Student, a story about a student who wishes to control his temptations, Lovely Layla, the story of a girl who learns the meaning of hijab, and The Reason, the story of a boy who learns about the importance of reading Quran, through a discussion with his grandfather.
(This is an example submission from our recent event, Love for Parents Manga Contest, titled Play or Mom?)
What are we referring to as a Muslim Manga?
When I started the Muslim Manga organization, I knew that what I was trying to make was in-between different categories. Hence, I came up with this in-between term, Muslim manga.
Linguistically speaking, Muslim is a person who practices Islam, and manga, as we already discussed, is a type of sequential narrative. When you put these two words together, you get a meaning that should be close to "person who follows Islam manga." As such, a Muslim manga is a manga that is Muslim character-focused. A Muslim manga tells a story through a Muslim character. The Muslim character may even be a flawed human being, as we all are. However, the message of such manga is not to normalize sinning or bad behavior. Instead, such a manga can show the development of a character from flawed to more spiritually inclined. Or perhaps a Muslim manga can be one in which the audience may be able to subconsciously or subliminally learn things about Muslims or Islam by observing the Muslim character's interactions. Of course, Islamic manga, can also be Muslim manga, but a Muslim manga isn’t always an Islamic manga.
(This is page 1 from our comic Hungry X Hunter, available on amazon for purchase)
Unfortunately, many people often have their guards on when they are faced with "educational material." People don't necessarily think they need to improve themselves. That is why it can be difficult to reach people through Islamic (educational) manga.
However, through some good storytelling and through a Muslim character-focused manga, you can thaw out someone's frozen heart.
Similarly, historically many Americans did not like Japanese people. Still, with the introduction of their media, including anime and manga, Japanese people could subliminally teach things about Japanese culture and beliefs through the media. The hate for Japanese people is also gone. Similarly, Muslims can make manga about Muslims and have similar effects on future generations.
One new Muslim character-focused manga that we published on Amazon is Hana & Love, and the collection of side-stories found on Instagram, which can be controversial for some Muslims, especially if looked out of context.
What is Muslim’s Manga?
Muslim's manga is a manga made by a writer/artist who is Muslim or at least claims to be a Muslim. It doesn't have to be a practicing Muslim, and the content doesn't have to be Islamic based or Muslim character-based.
I need to make this distinction because from time to time, I get comic submissions from people who think that the Muslim Manga organization accepts any art or story just because the contributor is "Muslim", and not because of the content of their comic. This is not accurate.
For someone to have their content on our website, the story and art must fit within one of the above categories of Islamic manga or Muslim character-focused manga. On the other hand, non-Muslims can make a Muslim character-focused manga that is publishable on the website too, assuming it has gone through proper Muslim editors.
Personally, I have difficulty understanding why Muslim writers/artists might choose to make stories that are generic or, worse, unIslamic*, when they have a rich cultural and religious background to create beautiful stories that the world is yearning for.
Here is a message to such for them: Even if you, as a writer or artist, have no moral aspirations of creating a better future for the next generation of Muslims, as I do, just think about consumers. Readers have been receiving the same kind of recycled material over and over again in popular media, with small parts being tweaked here and there. I think consumers are thirsty for something new, and a Muslim writer/artist can deliver on that.
*Note: Filled with content that would be Islamically questionable.
Where can you read more manga by Muslim Manga?
Hana & Love Chapter 1 was just released yesterday on 12/12/20. It has beautifully illustrated drawings on every single page. Don’t believe me? Download a free sample of it to your cellphone or ebook reader and get a feel for how amazing it is. If you like it enough, consider buying it and supporting Muslim Manga in this way. Your contributions will help us make more content like this as well as maintain a community that encourages Muslim representation by Muslims through comics.
In addition to Amazon, you can also buy Hungry X Hunter on Comixology, and can read more of our content on our website, instagram, and webtooms, among other places.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope it helped inform you how we differentiate things, and if you like to read more articles from us, please make sure to subscribe.
And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or @MuslimManga on social media.
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