Islamic Calligraphy and Quranic Arts

Islamic Calligraphy in Embroidery

Before the war broke out in Syria, Mouhama M. Al Hadri ran a successful embroidery and garments business in his native country. He first discovered his potential for embroidered Islamic calligraphy 14 years ago. This new form of art combines silk embroidery with traditional Islamic calligraphy. Hadri started designing small pieces of art such as wall hangings, scrolls and booklets. He incorporated five popular Islamic calligraphy scripts in his works, scripts that were created for writing Quranic manuscripts. 

Ancient Quranic Arts and Islamic Calligraphy

These Islamic calligraphy scripts are described as below:

• Diwani: This Islamic calligraphy cursive style of writing was first witnessed during the reign of the Ottomans. It derives its name from being solely confined to the Ottoman diwan. No one, save for the calligraphic teachers in the Sultan’s palace, knew of the rules of this Arabic script. Together with the Ottoman seal, the tugrah, any royal paperwork in Diwani calligraphy carried the authority of the Sultan and the Ottoman Empire. Created by Housam Roumi, the script saw great popularity during the reign of Suleyman I the Magnificent (1520-1566). 

• Thuluth: The great painter Mustafa Rakim Efendi raised the bar in Ottoman Islamic calligraphy using this script, something which is yet to be surpassed even to this day. Before the rise of the Naskh script in the 15th century, the Thuluth script predominated the Islamic calligraphy world, with some of the oldest copies of the Quran written in the Thuluth script. Today, the most conspicuous display of the Thuluth script lies in the text “Shahada al Tawhid” borne on the flag of Saudi Arabia.

• Ruqah: Derived from the Thuluth and Naskh styles, the Ruqah script is the most common form of Islamic calligraphy in Arabic. Common in the Ottoman era, the script comprises of clipped letters forming short, straight lines and gentle curves.

• Naskh: Invented by the calligrapher Ibn Muqlah Shirazi, the Naskh script is derived from the Thuluth script, by introducing changes in font size and dexterity. This enables the writer to reproduce text at a faster rate, thus making the Naskh script ideal for producing books like the Quran. It is believed that this Islamic calligraphy style came to be so widely used, that it replaced the older Kufic script in popularity. 

• Uthmani: One of the earliest individuals to embrace Islam, Uthman ibn Affan was an ally of the Prophet Muhammad. He was the third of the Rashidun or the “Rightly Guided Caliphs”, who ruled after the Prophet’s death. He introduced the first standardized Islamic calligraphy script for writing manuscripts of the Quran. The script, Uthmani, is named after him. Since Uthman is called “Osman” in English, Turkish and Persian references, the script is also known as Osmani. 

Today Hadri, the trained calligrapher and embroider, has designed the world’s first Quran in embroidered Islamic calligraphy. Using the Uthmani script, Hadri completed the Herculean project using nothing more than a simple sewing machine. With his skilled hands, he intricately scripted the silk yarn and velvet sheets to recreate the verses from the Quran. He labored for eight years to complete this 12 volume reproduction of the Quran, which consists of 426 pages and weighs over 200 kilograms. Mouhama M. Al Hadri’s embroidered Quran is estimated to be worth 5 million euros.

Ancient Quranic Arts and Islamic Calligraphy

Islamic Calligraphy in Quranic Moon Reflections

Born in 1968, Mattar bin Lahej is an Emirati painter, sculptor and photographer from Dubai. His gallery, Marsam Mattar, is the first art gallery in the United Arab Emirates to be both inaugurated and managed by an artist. He developed his passion over a period of sixteen years, first experimenting with wood and gypsum, and then moving onto metal. 

It was bin Lahej’s mother who had a prophetic dream when he was just a child. She said that he would be touched by gold. The culmination of that prophecy is his artwork Moon Reflections, bin Lahej’s first sculpture made from gold. 

Moon Reflections is a collection of nine sculptures made of pure stainless steel and marble sand. Each sculpture is embellished with around 1,200 Arabic letters in Islamic calligraphy from the Surat Al Ikhlas, a chapter in the Quran. The letters of one short Quranic verse are repeated 10 times, thus creating an imagery of continuous motion. The gold and silver toned discs stand two meters tall, overall signifying the waxing and waning of the moon. 

Ancient Quranic Arts and Islamic Calligraphy

Islamic Calligraphy in One of the Largest Qurans in the World

Made entirely from cloth, this mammoth Quran is displayed in Dubai during the fasting month of Ramadan. Part of the rotating group Book Tours, the exhibition also coincides with the Dubai International Award Holy Quran (DIHQA). The recitation competition involves memorization of the entire Quran, and draws contestants from around 80 countries. 

At the 21st Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA) this year, the AED 250,000 prize went to Mohammad Tariqul Islam from Bangladesh. 

Ancient Quranic Arts and Islamic Calligraphy

Alexandre’s Tribute to Islamic Calligraphy and the Quranic Arts

Over the years, architect and historian Alexandre J. has collected many treasures from the world of Islamic calligraphy and the Quranic arts. He shared one of his personal collection masterpieces: a Mahmal from over 150 years ago that was first commissioned by Sultan Abdulhamid II. It was later renovated in 1311 Hijri by Abbas Helmi II, the son of Tawfik Pasha, the last *khedive of Egypt and Sudan. 

*The equivalent to the word “Viceroy”, Khedive was used as an unofficial title, until its recognition in 1867 by the Ottoman Empire.

Mahmals have been used in caravans undertaking the annual Hajj to Mecca. The Mahmal is a form of traveling tent, an embroidered palanquin fixed on top of a camel. It was specifically designated with the task of transporting the *Kiswa to Mecca. The Mahmal symbolized the power of the rulers of Egypt, Yemen, Syria and the Ottoman Empire, as well as their protection of Islam and the Kaaba. 

*The Kiswa is the black cloth that covers the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building in the courtyard of Islam’s most sacred mosque, Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The Kiswah is draped annually on the 9th day of the month of Zu Al-Hijja, the day pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafa during the Haj.

One of the Kaaba straps exhibited was designed in the 13th Hijri century, and measures 635 cm long and 95 cm wide. It is made of red and green atlantic silk, with gold and silver embroidered threads depicting verses from the Quran, thus bringing Islamic calligraphy to life.

“Allah and His angels send blessings on the prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.”

Ancient Quranic Arts and Islamic Calligraphy

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