Photography Winners

1st Place [3-way tie] : Brevity of Life by Maria Rana (UT)
1st Place [3-way tie] : I Define Myself by Khansaa Ahmad (UTD)

The purpose of this category is to encourage artistic expression of Islamic concepts, teachings, and thoughts through the medium of a camera.


A human’s materialistic pleasures in this dunya are as fragile as the seeds on a dandelion. It takes but a gentle breeze or children blowing their breath making hopeful wishes, to leave just a disrobed and deserted stem behind. Much like the bare dandelion stem, every man and woman will be resurrected on the day of judgment completely stripped and vulnerable, standing naked in front of the Almighty. All of the wealth they built up that lead to status and repute in the this life will all amount to nothing. Only their deeds will send them into either jannah or jahannam. The fully seeded flower represents our false sense of security caused by having everything we need surrounding us, providing us comfort, yet clouding our ultimate goal. The bare stem is man left with nothing, a slave at the mercy of his Master. How even the slightest wind can expose the dandelion stem is a reminder of how easily Allah (SWT) can take back what He has given to us. I took this image before sunset with a DSLR to capture the sun’s slight glow beind the flower, which to me represents Allah (SWT)’s constant presence in our lives.

[Prophet Nuh] said, "My Lord, support me because they have denied me." As a Muslim, I only rely on Allah (s) and I can only expect from Him. In today's society, the Muslim Ummah is constantly being labeled. However, dealing with those preconceptions will always be a part of who we are. As Muslims, it is our test to be able to find the balance. 

The photo represents the struggle we go through to break free from the labels we are associated with. The girl in white is depicted as wearing clothing that is covered with labels that are commonly associated with Muslims (i.e. Anti-Western or strange). Her true self is depicted in black and their holding of hands demonstrates how hard it is to detach ourselves from the labels we are branded with. The strive to define the Muslim identity stems from the ability to break free from this attachment. Breaking free from this attachment empowers us to define who we are.

1st Place [3-way tie] : Ripping Off Labels by Nimrah Riaz (TAMU)

In 1922, Walter Lippmann coined the word stereotyping as a “distorted picture or image in a person’s mind, not based on personal experience, but derived culturally.” Lippmann rationalized that the foundation of these labels is driven by social, political, and economic motivations, passing from one generation to the next, and becoming quite ubiquitous and resistant to change. What is more frightening, is the terrible influence that labeling can have. These words heard on a daily basis fuels the fear of those surrounding us. 

However, recent neurologists have conducted studies to find that the introduction of positive images of out-groups lowers the level of fear of the other, and restructures the hardwired automatic processes. Although the outside world may label Muslims, we have the power to remove these labels through positive actions that others see, such as living by the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (S).

I photographed an image of an ordinary, young, Muslim brother, who despite the stickiness of the label adhered to him as a Muslim, decides to rip the labels off. He wants the outside world to see the real him, the Muslim he has defined on his terms, not what society has labeled him.

2nd Place : Rooted by Nawal Rahman (UTA)

“My name is Ismail. My dad converted to Islam and my mom was raised a Muslim but all my childhood life was surrounded by Christianity. My cousins, aunts, and uncles were devout Christians. They preached the Bible and went to Church every Sunday. I did not grow up in an Islamic environment, not like most of the Muslims here on campus. My sister and I were the only two Muslims at our school. That was hard. It was difficult for me to represent a religion I didn’t know that much about. I learned Islam more from books and lectures rather than by watching people around me. Though in a way, it has made me a better Muslim. Maybe not the best, but through all the struggles trying to identify myself and trying to balance everything in life, I think I’ve come a long way. Where am I now? I guess I would say still somewhere in the middle.” (True Story)

3rd Place : Post it on Instagram! by Zainab Murwat (UTA)

The true muslim identity is defined by our relationship with Allah (swt), as long as we as muslims please him, we do not need to please anyone else. The struggle to find ones identity as a muslim becomes difficult as we believe that it is society we should be pleasing, not Allah (swt). Posting pictures of yourself praying, or following any other five pillars of Islam does lead to the difficulty of defining yourself as you are conflicted. You are a true muslim praying, but at the same time you are confused on who you are trying to please.