Umar Stambuli – Cii News | 18 May 2015/28 Rajab 1436
The art of Islamic calligraphy, which is one fascinating area of Islamic history has transcended boundaries, captured the eyes of many art fanatics from all four corners of the world.
For some, it’s a unique form of art that defines the Islamic olden times and while for others, this valuable art form has preserved the Islamic heritage from the Ottoman Empire, sliding through to the Persian Empire.
Underneath this art which has adorned manuscripts and architecture, lies a vital aspect that has hardly been explored. This is the spiritual breadth which has for many centuries been associated with Islamic art of calligraphy.
A day out with Turkish calligrapher, Refik Carikci, based in South Africa, opened a new understanding on the untold world of Islamic calligraphy which makes it unique not only for the eyes but the heart as well.
Not just art
Master Calligrapher Refik Carikci
Carikci, who began his journey into calligraphy at the age of 12, studying in Germany before moving to his native country for professional art studies said, Islamic calligraphy unlike other forms of writing is deeply spiritual.
“We are not writing Arabic as a form of writing but we have under calligraphy the knowledge. The knowledge is like meaning and the big meaning in Islam actually, so the tutors teach Islam and Sufism which has deep meaning together,” Carikci said.
He explained that many letters within the Arabic alphabet has a very deep meaning which compels a serious student of Islamic calligraphy to develop a deep knowledge of the language. He said with all letters in the Arabic alphabet lay much hidden and deep meanings that bring mankind closer to his creator, which a mind will hardly conceptualise.
“You realise that the Qur’aan is something very special, something we can never tell what it is, but you can fee over calligraphy. There’s no other knowledge that can tell you because you now busy with vocabulary with deep meaning and when you read Qur’aan your understanding is very different,” he said.
Etiquettes of calligraphy
Islamic calligraphy is way different from western writings, and that is undisputable. It comes as no surprise that The National Museum in India has curated a special exhibition of Islamic-style writing on objects of daily use to showcase the art.
The exhibition titled ‘Art of Calligraphy and Beyond: Arabic-Persian Inscriptions on Decorative Arts objects’ has 56 items on display from the museum’s own reserve collection.
The widely travelled and respected calligrapher whose works are scattered in many masaajid and galleries around the world, told Cii News that before a writer begins writing, one has to purify themselves first through ablution.
“Before you start writing you must make ablution, there’s no way not to. Then you make to two rakaats prayer and call to Allah to make this easy. And when you start, you feel Allah making it easy for you. Allah says the Qur’aan is a cure for a believer, so you have to believe this, even in its writing,” he said.
He said etiquettes play the most significant part in the world of Islamic calligraphy whose tradition has been preserved over the years, passed from generation of early tutors to their students who sequentially passed the baton to their apprentices.
Art is not business
Art, in particular, Islamic calligraphy is not a form of business and those undertaking it should not expect any monetary value, Carikci, who is a qualified a civil engineer by profession, told CiiNews. He warned those that think they would get rich through calligraphy, that they were mistaken.
“Art is something different, art is not business. If you start to make business as art then you lose your touch, that’s why you have to practise something else. When they teach us, our tutors, they told us don’t make art a form of business. You can do anything as source of money but not through calligraphy,” he said.
The art of calligraphy, Carikci explained, teaches a lot of patience and perseverance. He said when he started his studies towards this magnificent form of art, his tutor made him write an Arabic letter “Alif” which is the first epistle on the Arabic numerals for six months.
“I spent 6 months only writing Alif, just six months on Alif. Actually the reason why they do is because of patience. If you have patience you can carry on with your work,” he said.
A dot for weeks
Just like he was taught by his teachers in Germany and Turkey, Carikci, has engaged some students to pass the knowledge of calligraphy. Every Tuesday, he drives from his workshop in Pretoria to Johannesburg where he’s initiating students in calligraphy.
The sayings of Prophet Mohammed, “Oh Allah make it easy and not difficult” are the first words aspiring calligraphers are taught. Caricki, who is conducting a ten week calligraphy session which is in its second week, explained.
“This is actually the foundation which is the beginning that every calligrapher has to write, because it was so powerful. Everything that I touch be it tools I start with these words,” he said.
A calligraphy student Jeff Sochen, who had previously read Western writings, said the Islamic calligraphy sessions have introduced him to the culture of Islam.
“It’s difficult to find someone prepared to teach Arabic calligraphy in South Africa because most of the people want to do other forms of calligraphy. Arabic calligraphy also introduces you to the culture of Islam,” said Sochen.
Zakera and Rishda, who are part of the class, said their contact with calligraphy has enhanced their spiritual connection with Allah.
“Spiritual connection between us and Allah is nurtured, and also it brings with it this therapeutic feeling. More so, patience you need when learning calligraphy to go through life,” they said.
Published in C. I. I. broadcasting on May 18, 2015