In House Art: Iraq
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Books & Biographies

In conforming with Islamic philosophy, art by Moslem artists concentrated on the spiritual representation of matter rather than its material quality. This in turn gave birth to the stylised and abstract ornamentation of the arabesque.  Given the importance of the word of God as set in the holy Qur'an, particular emphasis on the written word elevated Arabic Calligraphy into peak artistic expression involoving divine and moral representations from which it acquires its sublime reputation.  Throughout the vast geography of the Islamic world, it represents unity, beauty, and power. The aesthetic principles of Arabic calligraphy are a reflection of the cultural values of the Muslim world.  In the words of Taha al-Hiti ''in the Oxford English dictionary, Calligraphy is defined as 'the art of beautiful handwriting'.  Arabic Calligraphy however, is not quiet the same as it is a meticulous artform based on precise proportion and measure, creating unique relationships between letters, words, lines and paragraphs on the one hand and line weights, angles and directions on the other.''  Arabic lettering has achieved a high level of sophistication, and Arabic scripts can vary from flowing cursive styles like Naskh and Thuluth to the angular Kufi achieved through the integration of artistry and scholarship. 
. Taha al-Hiti Indian ink on hemp 61x30cm 1426H/2005

Rasheed Butt was born in Islamabad, Pakistan, 1943.  Since 1961 he has totally devoted himself to the study and practice of Islamic calligraphy.  His work deals not only with the Holy Qur'an but also with the body of sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUS), as well as traditional prayers and pieces of Arabic and Persian poetry.  His precise works of unique penmanship can be admired at the Gate of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Al-Furqan Foundation in London, The Senate of Pakistan, the Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad and other places of importance.  In 1989, Butt received the 'Hightest Civil Award of the Government of Pakistan in Arts and Culture' and more recently in 2000 was a jury member of the 5th International Calligraphy Compitition organised by IRCICA, Istanbul, Turkey.  Dr Annemarie Schimmel said of him 'At a time when many calligraphers strive to create new and unusual forms, Butt has perfected the classical style in an unsurpassable way.  His Naskh is masterly and the combination of Naskh and Kufic in his superb rendering of Surat al-Rahman is unique'.  Rasheed Butt lives and works in Pakistan.

Huwa Allah . Rasheed Butt . Ink and gold on Bhorj Pater 28x21cm 1428h/2007 RB010

About his work, Rasheed Butt reveals 'I am overwhelmed with the charm and captivating language of the holy Quran and the Sunnah.  It gives me much pride to know that my hand is an instrument in creating delightful expressions of this Divine message.  With this, I earnestly desire that viewers may begin to understand the true essence of this Great Message.  My work in Calligraphy is my fate and destiny, to which I have dedicated my life  In many of my artworks I use Bhorj Pater; a rare kind of natural raw paper, not used for more than 400 years due to difficulties in obtaining it as it can only be found at 1500 meters above sea level near the Himalayan Mountains.  I have revived its usage for the unique qualities it posesses particularly rendering it flexible in rectifying mistakes.  I also use decorative features from diverse civilizations which have been unified through Islam.  This is not only an aesthetic attribute but an essential part of calligraphy which brings the work to completion.  I believe that the art of Arabic Calligraphy has decreased over time.  In the past, State patronage of Calligraphers and Calligraphy elevated it to the highest point of artistic expression.  In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Islam.  What better way to enter it than through art!

Wa ma Tawfeeqi illa billah
Arabic ink on special paper    
53x77cm framed
TH 001

Taha Al-Hiti is an architect by profession.  From a very early age however he was enchanted with writing, in particular the way Arabic letters, words and lines joined to form calligraphy.  Touched by the teachings of master calligrapher Abbas Shakir Joody al-Baghdadi, he soon learned to distinguish between the different styles e.g. Turkish, Baghdadi and Egyptian and even learnt to 'guess the calligrapher' who was behind an exquisite pieces of calligraphy!  "It was from calligraphy, I fell in love with Architecture; Calligraphy in its larger scale is linked to Architecture, both being essentially based on proportion and measure."

Am'men Yujeebu al-Muth'tar'ra itha Da'ah wa Yekshif al-Sou
Arabic ink on special paper
26x93cm TH 003

Wa Inneka le'ala Khuluqin Adheem

Ink on paper

Surat al-Hassad
Ink on special paper

Khursheed Alam
known as Gohar Qalam was born in the Khushab district, Pakistan, 1956. His early education took place in the city of Sargodha under Ustad Ismail Dehlevi.  Thereafter he studied under the late Hafiz Yousuf Sadidi who was one of the great masters of calligraphy of the Indian subcontinent.   The title of Gohar Qalam was bestowed on him by the late Nafees Qalam, another master of calligraphy and by Professor Ghulam Nizamuddin of the University of Punjab.   His major works include a copy of the Holy Quran placed in the main State Mosque known as the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad and includes 406 styles of calligraphy. The entire manuscript weighing 1600 kilograms is divided into 30 parts and placed in separate show cases. His calligraphy adorns some of the most important public buildings in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan such as the extension of the Mosque and tomb complex of the premier Saint of South Asia who is buried in Lahore and known as the Data Ganj Baksh shrine.  The Lahore international airport also features his work in its main departure lounge and rendered in ceramics. 

Gohar Qalam

Allah Khairun Hafidhan wa Huwa Arham al-Rahimeen

Ink on Bhuj Putter
2002 GQ009

Wa Huwa ala Kul Shai'n Qadeer
Ink on Buhj Putter

Gohar Qalam was awarded a special award in 1989 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan and in 1992 he was the recipient of Pride of Performance Award by the President of Pakistan. In 2005 he was given a special award by the Japanese foreign minister at the International Calligraphy exhibition held at Tokyo's Metropolitan University.  On numerous occasions the Government of Pakistan have presented his works as State gifts to visiting heads of States.  Apart from numerous public collections in Pakistan, Gohar Qalam is the only Pakistani to have been collected by both the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the British Museum in London where numerous examples of his work form part of their permanent collections.   He is a master of Lahori Nastaliq and also of the six other major scripts as have been practised in South Asia. The present work is either on tree bark known as Bhuj Putter or alternatively on paper specially prepared in the Mughal techniques known as Wasli under the supervision of Professor Bashir Ahmed the head of the fine arts department at the National College of Arts.  The style of calligraphy used is known as Hindustani Thuluth and this is different from the Ottoman school in that it is lighter.  Other examples are Ghubari Naskh and a rare style of calligraphy known as Mufajjar.  Gohar Qalam has been teaching for a number of years as the Professor of calligraphy at the National College of Arts formerly known as the Mayo School of Arts founded in the 19th century by Lockwood Kipling, the father of Rudyard Kipling.

Mohammed Rassoul Allah 
Ink on paper   
circa 1988
KZ 001

Ma Ja'a Faqeer   

Ink on paper