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Alif Imran: Breaking taboos with Islamic theatre

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Penang-born Alif Imran bin Mohd Musthafa of Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), Terengganu, is setting the bar for social theatre in his Islamic alma mater.

The Vice President of Kelab Anjung Kreatif recently staged his second production on campus. Selebu takes place in a fishing village, and revolves around a family in which the eldest daughter is an illegitimate child. The play sold 1050 tickets.

“I had the idea of this play from a Facebook post that explained the rules which place a child in the category of illegitimate (anak luar nikah) or not. I myself as a practicing Muslim only learnt about the rules then and there, so I decided to incorporate that lesson with the common gossip culture in our society, and wrote Selebu.”

Selebu also touches on the issue of divorce, which Alif observes commonly happens out of hate, greed, and ego within a family. These topics are proven uncomfortable, based on the reactions he got out of UniSZA’s students.

 

“Selebu showed to 1050 students of Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin last February.”

“One of our marketing activity includes going around with flyers and talking to people about the play. When I asked students’ opinions on illegitimate children, their faces changed. So I told them to come to the show and learn more about it,” he said.

Theatre as a means of “Dakwah”

 

Alif insists on spreading Islamic messages in each script he writes.

As part of his plan to revive Anjung Kreatif, Alif insists on spreading Islamic messages in each script he writes. In Islam, preaching, or dakwah, can be done in many ways such as giving advice, through songs, and the traditional mass speech.

“Kelab Anjung Kreatif has been here for ages – back when UniSZA was called KuSZA – but it died down recently as people had started complaining about how theatre is haram,” Alif explains. ‘Haram’ is anything forbidden in Islam. “You know, you have girls and boys touching each other, and like in Jah Karin, we had cross-dressing boys. There’s also the issue about girls’ voices being their aurat (parts of men and women that is not allowed to be revealed to the public), and shouting on stage and all.”

 

Selebu takes place in a fishing village, and revolves around a family in which the eldest daughter is an illegitimate child. The play sold 1050 tickets.

It is well-known that touching between non-mahram (anyone a Muslim can marry and is not related to) is haram and most Muslims based production houses avoid that. A girl’s voice, if deemed seductive, is also considered haram, especially when it comes to singing.

Jah Karin was Alif’s debut production, which like Selebu, he wrote, directed, and also acted in. This experimental piece, performed for an audience of 150, explored what it is like to be transgender.

“I try to implement a style so that people accept theatre as a mean of dakwah, and not just entertainment,” he says earnestly. “We can use theatre to ajar orang (teach people) especially for things people don’t want to talk about. When I wrote Jah Karin, no one wanted to talk about transgender issues. I want to discover the main problem behind this issue and talk about it.”

“I try to implement a style so that people accept theatre as a mean of dakwah, and not just entertainment.” – Alif Imran

A rough pit of passion and talent, waiting to be polished

With no theatre faculty in the university itself, Alif Imran and other members of Anjung Kreatif were trained by Cik Hazlan Iskandar, an ex-theatre practitioner, who is also an engineer.

“Cik Lan, as we call him, guided us for free. We picked up acting, directing and polished our scripts with him.”

With no theatre faculty in the university itself, Alif Imran and other members of Anjung Kreatif were trained by Cik Hazlan Iskandar, an ex-theatre practitioner, who is also an engineer.

Once a 4th place winner in Penang’s interschool drama competition, Alif is passionate about the arts and writes poetry among other things. He plans to expand Anjung Kreatif and produce more plays with the club till he graduates.

Despite limited resources and support over the provocative themes, Selebu managed to sell out. If this young boy from the conservative, rural part of Terengganu can make it happen, why can’t we?

 

Once a 4th place winner in Penang’s interschool drama competition, Alif is passionate about the arts and writes poetry among other things.
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Mia Sabrina Mahadir
Mia Sabrina Mahadir

A jack of many trades, Mia is a familiar face on TV, in the news, at last night’s company dinner or at the place she calls home: the theatre.