Ilm Arts Festival: World’s First & Largest Faith-Inspired Creative Festival

The inaugural event was held in Shah Alam, Malaysia.

The audience stood up for applause. Photo taken by Nur Safiah Alias.
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These are artists who are so different in expression but coming from the same faith. Stand up comedians, Nasheed singers, poets, skateboarders, grafitti artists, rappers, beatboxers, writers, Quran reciters, photographers, boxers and spoken word artists from all over the world came together at Ilm Arts on August 30th 2015, Sunday in Stadium Malawati, Shah Alam. Though their genres were varied, one thing united them. Their craft was used as a way to make sense of the confusion of world, to get closer to Allah.


Local and international artists come together

The Ilm Arts Festival is the world’s first international festival, celebrating faith-inspired creativity. It gathered some of the best Muslim artists from across the world including two-time world boxing champion Amir Khan, Hollywood actor and comedian Omar Regan, the UAE’s Ahmed Bukhatir and South Africa’s Zain Bhikha, National Geographic photographer Peter Sanders. The festival meant to inspire Muslims to allow their faith to meet creativity, as long as it does not go against the syariah.
More familiar to the locals were also Malaysian artists like designer and motivational speaker Mizz Nina, nasyid singer Muadz Dzulkefly, hip hop singer Altimet,  and beat-boxer Shahzet.

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The two guys on the right are the artists for Ilm Arts Festival. The one wearing the space tee, and sporting a goatee is the really cool, really talented Shazet, and the one on the far right is the Moslem cook, Syafiq Zane, owner of restaurant Fiqs Gastronomy in Shah Alam, Malaysia.


The action is not just on stage

Just outside the stadium, was a marketplace. You could get t-shirts and stationery with Islamic designs, modest wear like abayas and scarves, and paintings. There were also social projects like New Muslim Care, Charity Right.


There were also activities to keep the younger ones occupied. There was a skate park, climbing wall, and a bouncy castle. However, it was too hot, and not many wanted to be outside for long. Which is where the drinks came in handy. Thai green tea, lime juice, pomegranate juice was all within reach. When we were hungry, we grabbed kebab, and briyani from Yemen restaurant, Hadramawt.

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All the artists on stage or at the booth had something unique and amazing to share. I even managed to speak some of the artists personally on how should we balance spirituality and faith.


It takes a lot of courage to produce art, for it puts ourselves at a vulnerable state. Here are some tidbits from the festival I gathered.



Amir Sulaiman: Courage to Create Good Art

Amir Sulaiman is a gentle but powerful poet. His words cut through your soul. Photo taken by Nur Safiah Alias.

Amir Sulaiman is a gentle but powerful poet. His words cut through your soul. Photo taken by Nur Safiah Alias.

Amir Sulaiman, is such a gentle person and he speaks with such grace. This is not something you would expect if you see how intense his performance can get

He places whatever dark side he has within, in all his poetry. When I asked him where he finds courage to produce his work, he said that it comes from Allah, “Good art comes from a strong spiritual foundation.”



Peter Gould: Creativity can Change the World

Peter Gould's Presentation. Photo Taken by Nur Safiah Alias

Peter Gould’s presentation his creative works to the audience. Photo Taken by Nur Safiah Alias

Gould believes that we can change the world through creativity. He showed the audience his works, one of them is our favourite- the Iqra bookshelf.

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He also launched Islam Imagined. It’s a mystery for now what it is, but it promises something futuristic, judging by the creative. This initiative is a design for us Muslims to start looking at the future of our Deen with hope and optimism.

Technologies such as Google Glasses and Occulus Rifts, paving its way into the world, the possibilities are limitless. Studying Quran through Augmented Realities is definitely a fun prospect to think about.

“It’s time to think creatively and optimistically about our future. Islam Imagined is a vision for the bright road ahead, a spark for our imagination, a fresh inspiration. Join me on this journey of discovery,” writes Peter Gould on the site.


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During his presentation he also made the audience promise to commit and complete a project that we can present the next time he visits Malaysia.

I spoke to him before he went up on stage and here are some of his tips for being creative.

  1. Writing clear goals can help you produce good work.
  2. Put your ideas somewhere out there to remind yourself of it, instead of just in your head and heart.



Jordan Richter: Find Your Voice

Jordan Richter skateboarded on stage., and told us about his life. Photo taken by Nur Safiah Alias.

Jordan Richter skateboarded on stage., and told us about his life. Photo taken by Nur Safiah Alias.

A lot of us view a skateboard as just a piece of board that has 4 wheels on it. To Jordan Richter a Skateboard is his voice. It the gift that Allah has given him to share with the world, and he has shared it by teaching it all over the world- to Japan, Europe, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and even Costa Rica.

Jordan said that what he does with his board is more than just some trick. A monkey can do tricks. The point of his skateboarding is what he becomes in the process of getting to that trick. “It teaches me about overcoming obstacles in your life, and to keep on pushing forward when you hit those bumps,” he says.

At the end of the day it is all about character and how kind we are towards others.


Creativity is one of Allah’s greatest gift to us.

It is our unique way of expressing ourselves and connecting the dots of the things we see. One thing that is obvious to us wouldn’t be obvious to somebody else.

So find your voice and use it for the Ummah! What’s your voice given by Allah? Let’s start the discussion and discover awesome things together.



Featured Image taken by Nur Safiah Alias.

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