Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Heavenly Creature

"I was brought by Al Buraq, which is an animal white and long, larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule, who would place its hoof a distance equal to the range of vision" ~Prophet Muhammad - Al Bukhari, Shahih Al Bukhari

Al Buraq -driven from the Arabic word "Barq" which means lightning referring to its speed- is a fabulous heavenly creature of Islamic mythology, often pictured as an animal with human head, the prophet Muhammad was said to have ridden on its back from Mecca to Jerusalem and ascended to heaven during an event called Al Isra Wa Al Mi'raj or "The Night Journey".

The mythology of The Night Journey tells that prophet Muhammad had been in his home city of Mecca and went to Masjid Al Haram. While he was resting at Kaaba, the angel Gabriel appeared accompanied by Al Buraq, the prophet mounted the beast, and in the company of Gabriel, they traveled to Al-Aqsa Mosque (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem, at this location, he dismounted from Al Buraq, prayed and then once again mounted Al Buraq and was ascended to the various heavens, to meet first the earlier prophets and then to meet God, to instruct Muhammad to tell his followers that they were to offer prayers. The Buraq then transported the prophet Muhammad back to Mecca.

In other stories in Islam Al Buraq was also said to have transported Abraham when he visited his wife Hagar and son Ishmael. Abraham lived with one wife in Syria, but Al Buraq would transport him in the morning to Mecca to see his family there, and take him back in the evening to his Syrian wife.

Al Buraq

Shri Kamadhu - The Wish Fulfilling Cow

Despite the fact that the text didn't describe Al Buraq as human faced- which is believed to be  a probable misinterpretation to the text- you'll find Al Buraq is commonly illustrated as an angelic sphinx-like-being with the body of a horse, the head of a woman, and mostly with a peacock tail which closely compares it to the Indian goddess Shri Kamadhu -The Wish Fulfilling cow- which is often depicted as a mystical winged cow with a peacock tail and the head of a beautiful woman. This Iconography is very similar to that of Al Buraq who is an example of the feminine divine in Islam.

Looking at Al Buraq illustrations from ancient manuscripts, one can easily detect the influence of Far Eastern art, which influenced the modern day's illustrations of the subject.

"Whenever he faced a mountain his hind legs would extend, and whenever he went downhill his front legs would extend. He has two wings on his thighs which lent strength t o his legs." ~Prophet Muhammad - Sahih Al Bukari

Despite the fact the creature has wings, there's no evidence of Al Buraq's ability to fly, the text referred to its movement as "walking", many believe that he was flying during The Night Journey like an angel, which would make sense considering his ascension to Heavens with his Divine Rider.. but it's a miraculous mythical journey we're talking about which makes everything possible, including a walk to Heavens.

In Islam, these caricatures of any person, or creature from Al Quran are simply not permissible and considered blasphemous. Nevertheless that didn't stop some people from putting such pictures like this one at home to bring good fortune. I remember a picture of Al Buraq hanging on the wall in my grandfather's studio which always intrigued me as a child...

When I decided to start a drawing of Al Buraq, I didn't quite have an image in mind like I usually do before I start a drawing, I simply went right to the drawing paper and started scrippling.... until suddenly I was facing a strange faced twisted figure,

with  many faces and a looooong winged tail...

 I usually agonize over the arrangement of characters, but not this time.  It felt as if the mythical creature was creating its own air about him and I simply gave in and let it all flow through my finger tips which made the whole creative process feel like a mystical journey.

I'm delighted to have met this heavenly beast, and more so to have been taken -in a way- to his mystical lair within my imagination.


  1. very great i like it alot,anatomy is more than amazing , and face expretion is so great and i like ur study before works its make u a better artist

  2. beautiful pencil drawing!!
    and I love the story
    about the creation

    thanks for sharing
    and for your sweet comment

  3. Fantastic drawing Hussam!!
    I bid you safe travels on your mystical journey.