A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Power of the Word...|
|12/24/02 at 03:01:29|
POWER OF THE WORD
Dedication drives the implanting of a muslim artistic tradition in america
BY DENIZ OKTEM
The gold-on-blue Eid stamp-the first such issue by the United States I'ostal Service1 ~ecame a national celebrity in its own right even before its issue at the 38th ISNA convention, september 200. Its designer, Mohamed Zakariya, is the only American to receive the icazet diploma or license) from Hasan Celebi of Turkey, one of the greatest Islamic calligraphers. It brought a smile when I mentioned that Celebi's daughter was a close high-school friend. This event is an important landmark for Muslims in the U.S., as well as an official recognition of Islamic calligraphy's Iong history and global reach. Having reached the U.S., it is beginning to be recognized by both Muslims and nonMuslims. The new stamp is based on classical Ottoman calligraphy, the style in which Zakariya was trained. Having worked on its design for more than 18 months, Zakariya reminds us that calligraphy "takes about 10 years at minimum to get good at." "The Eid stamp is the result of my 40 years of study, experimentation, and creation of works of calligraphy. When I began my work as a calligrapher, the Muslim communities in America were small and fragmented. Islam was considered an ethnic cult, practiced only by backward peoples from outlandish places. The stamp represents a change in that attitude; it represents the fact that Islam is now officially recognized as a swelling current in the American mainstream," says Zakariya. Zakariya, who began learning calligraphy in 1961, faced many issues when designing this stamp, such as color combination and composition and which script to use. He settled upon Thuluth, for "when you have to take a series of words and put them into a rather small space, you have to compose those words in such a way that they are still completely legible and they are intermingled and so you make this little shape. The Jeli Thuluth script is the best script for this purpose." He used "Eid; Mubarak" to represent a general greeting, meaning "blessed feast" or "may your Eid be blessed," that would appeal to non-Muslims as well. The beauty of art is its accessibility to everyone, regardless of religion. He calls the use of blue a "spectacular effect" and elaborates: "The idea of using blue and gold is a very classic Ottoman, Turkish type of color scheme for works of this kind. The writing is in gold ... gold looks really good against colored background ... blue in the art of calligraphy has a lot of historical background and everybody likes it..." His artistic training has been dominated by the Ottoman manner, as the Ottomans raised calligraphy to a fine art and honored its best practitioners. Showing this influence, the Eid stamp celebrates this noble and artistic style of visual expression. "For myself, after studying many early styles, I found the greatest relevance in Ottoman calligraphy and illumination of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As a man of the West, I like the way the late Ottomans took European aesthetic concepts and thoroughly Islamized them. I like to think of this as a starting point from which new concepts will, inshallah, be developed by those who come latec These forms feature very classical calligraphy with European-influenced illumination, a kind of simplicity that is very effective. I call it belagat (eloquence) made visual. This is what I try to present in my work," says Zakariya. Calligraphy has a variety of daily usages in Islamic countries. But in the West, it seems to be appreciated only as an art having no practical fixnction. Zakariya says that in countries where calligraphy is widespread, people get used to it: "The people who do it are more like sign painters. They are not great masters of the art. So people get used to calligraphy that is not at the highest level." He considers the Ottoman period as an example of calligraphy's best period, a time when it had many kinds of expressions and reached the peak of perfection in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He compares the status of this art to its conditions in the West: "At the present time in America, it is a very specialized art, and at this point it cannot be anything else because there is no personal usage for any language in any public sense that uses these scripts, like Ottoman or Arabic or Persian. You might see poor examples of it in the stores but that is about it.... I make oneof a-kind works that people buy for their mosques, offices, and homes." Analyzing the Turkish example, he points out that "in a country like Turkey, which has abandoned the script for all practical uses, it still has the highest available teaching and practice. And so what in a sense has happened is that calligraphy as a fine art has become detached from calligraphy as a practical expression." As for calligraphy's future among Muslim Americans and its mark on American culture: "lslam has come to America, but it has not established itself here as firmly as it did elsewhere in earlier times. The institutions of Islam have not been formed here, so there is no religious establishment to guide and illuminate the growth of calligraphy among Muslims in America. This is, in some ways, a positive thing, as American artists work best as individuals who develop their art and a constituency for it. This is the case for Muslim artists in America, as well. We cannot rely on caliphs, sultans, rich patrons, or dictators to support our art. We have to compete in the marketplace of ideas, to participate in the artistic and cultural life of our country, in order to develop our art and bring it to public attention. It could be said, therefore, that Muslim artists in America are entering a completely new phase in the development of Islamic art. We are still few, and few know of us, but by the grace of God, that can change." He believes that we need relief from our worldly activities. One way to feed our inherent spirituality appears to be offered by Islamic civilization's beautiful calligraphy. Under its majestic effect, people may want to learn about the religion and civilization that produced such great visual art. However, as Zakariya points out, Muslim Americans who wish to spread Islam here have a long way to go: "One little step is a nice beginning. Of course, we have to be able to follow through. There are a lot of things of this kind to be done in the future." According to Zakariya, "Art is important-it has a real function, a real impact on its audience. Calligraphy needs to be in our mosques, to help illuminate our minds and hearts. Empty, white mosque interiors, festooned with fans and clocks, cannot do this. Only calligraphy-developed by Muslim artists for a Muslim audience-can do it. Calligraphy's special kind of beauty is not accidental; it is one of the most profound spiritual expressions of humankind.
2000 Islamic Horizons, ISNA
|Re: Power of the Word...|
|12/24/02 at 04:13:26|
|That would be really something! Islamic caligraphy on the bare walls of our Masjids!!!|
|Re: Power of the Word...|
|12/27/02 at 07:09:15|
|[quote]Calligraphy needs to be in our mosques, to help illuminate our minds and hearts. Empty, white mosque interiors, festooned with fans and clocks, cannot do this. Only calligraphy-developed by Muslim artists for a Muslim audience-can do it. [/quote]|
I agree that calligraphy is a very important part of our Islamic heritage and is a valuabe asset in dawah but I don't know about the above.
I watched a show put on by the dawah group in Alberta and one of the reverts he said one of the things that really struck him when he entered the musalla part of the masjid how pure and clean and empty it was in comparison with the over-stimulating images and nicknacks of a church. He said it felt like this is truely a place for worship nothing is distracting.
Here is my translation of a hadeeth it means that the Hour will not come till people begin to showing off their masjids.
حدثنا عبد الصمد وعفان قالا حدثنا حماد عن أيوب عن أبي قلابة عن أنس
أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: لا تقوم الساعة حتى يتباهى الناس في المساجد
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board