Arabic calligraphy: Art between the lines of prayer

A 24-year-old with a global presence and her teacher are among a few keeping the art of Arabic calligraphy alive in India.

Bee Bee Laisa, a final year Engineering student in Bengaluru, has a dream. The 24-year-old wants to transcribe a copy of the Koran in Arabic. “I have always been interested in art and drawing, but it was only when I started learning English calligraphy that I was introduced to the art form in Arabic, which would help me transcribe the holy book,” says Laisa.

And so began her journey in 2016, as a student of the Institute of Indo-Islamic Art and Culture (IIAC) at Richmond Street, Bengaluru, to learn Arabic calligraphy. Also known as khat, this centuries-old art form is held in high regard by Muslims because of its association with the dissemination of the Koran before the era of printing presses.

In the past five years, Laisa has mastered the decorative script thuluth considered one of the most difficult fonts, and naskh (used to write the Koran). Her talent has been recognised on several international and local platforms: her calligraphic artworks of Koranic verses and Islamic phrases have been exhibited in Japan, UAE, and Jaipur since 2017.

It is a huge leap forward for Laisa, whose father works as a banana delivery vehicle driver in Bengaluru. Laisa says calligraphy has helped improve her concentration and also use her drawing skills in her Civil Engineering classes.

“Calligraphers can’t have any dot or line out of place; this has helped me present spotless drawings for my coursework as well,” she says.

The school uses traditional materials to teach the art, including wooden or reed pens (qalam) and inks from plant-based resins. As per tradition, strands of raw silk are placed inside the inkpot (likka), to help regulate the amount of ink on the qalam tip, and also to prevent spills onto the paper.

“We use a paper called muqahar for the final version. Though it is commercially available, calligraphers also learn how to prepare their own muqahar sheets,” says Muqtar Ahmed, the principal and tutor at of the IIAC.

Source: The Hindu

Arabic calligraphy: Art between the lines of prayerArabic calligraphy: Art between the lines of prayer