Categories: InterviewsLifestyle

Reviving Calligraphy as a lucrative art form

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful handwriting, and Islamic calligraphy, also known as Khat in Arabic, is even more meaningful for Muslims. This is because Islamic calligraphy writings are based on verses of the Quran and are used as decorative art in Muslim buildings, whether in mosques, official buildings, or homes. 

Islamic traditions have prohibited the drawings of humans and animals and their displays for decorative purposes. Hence, Islamic artistic means have been channeled into beautiful writings of the Quran as decorations (the calligraphy) as well as geometric designs.  

Unlike Western art where the creation (humans, animals) are depicted beautifully and viewers marvel at God’s creations, Islamic calligraphy serves the purpose of having beautiful art and as a reminder to viewers to remember the Creator (Allah s.w.t). 

Sadly. calligraphy is not a mainstream art that is popular among the younger generation. Perhaps its closed association with the Quran creates the wrong impression. It is not seen as a viable career option. This is a misconception that needs to be corrected.

The picture below is proof that calligraphy can be a lucrative investment and career. “The Night Journey and Ascension” by Ahmed Moustafa fetch a hefty sum of $842 500,00.

Qatar Sotheby Calligraphy auction 2010

Chinese Islamic Calligraphy Artist – Kareema (Han Rui)

Halalop Editor, Shahfizal Musa, spoke with Kareema (Han Rui) who is a calligraphy artist specializing in the Chinese Islamic calligraphy style. Kareema is from China, from the Hui ethnic group, a Muslim-minority ethnic group in China. 

Kareema learned Arabic in primary school where she studied in Kuwait where her father worked in the da’wah field.  Her father worked on translating the Quran into Mandarin, which included making dawah for Chinese people living in Kuwait.

Her father is considered an expert in the language of the Quran, and whose advice is sought after around the world, especially when translating the Quran into Mandarin

After five years, she moved back to China to continue high school to learn her own culture, and language.  Her father became an imam in Henan where he opened an Arabic Islamic high school. 

She is relatively still undiscovered so her artwork is still significantly underpriced, thus making them a good investment for a high net-worth individual who does not know what to do with their money.

Why should you pay attention to Kareema’s work?

Although Kareema has not really made her name as a Calligraphic artist she is heading in that direction. They are people who are interested in launching an exhibition of her best work. The thing is Kareema is not just anybody, her father is Haji Ibrahim Han is an expert in the Quran, which is the very core of her artwork.

Kareema and her artwork

Secondly, she is mentored by one of the best in the field of Chinese Arabic Calligraphy Haji Noor Deen. It does not far fetch if she has her first international exhibition, Haji Noor Deen himself would endorse her work.

A Student of the Renowned Chinese Calligrapher Haji Noor Deen

She started calligraphy when she was in high school in China. 

“I like drawing and painting. Then my father hoped that I can do painting with Islamic art. At that time, my father’s friend, Haji Noor Deen was with him.”

“So I started learning with Haji Noor Deen. “I started with Chinese calligraphy because he was famous with Chinese calligraphy.”

Haji Noor Deen (Chinese name: Mi Guangjiang) is a Chinese Muslim from China who is an expert in the Chinese style of Islamic calligraphy which originated from the Chinese Muslim tradition.

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Featured Image credit: Farrukh

“Then I started to take up an interest in painting and I feel that calligraphy is like painting with the use of the brush and so on.”

Haji Noor deen Mi then suggested Kareema further her studies in the arts field in Malaysia where she could learn art, calligraphy, and design together. Her first degree was in Interface Design at the Multimedia University in Cyberjaya and her Master’s degree in Applied Art and Design from the International Islamic University, where she researched calligraphy on buildings, especially on Sino-Arabic calligraphy.  

Kareema still studies Islamic calligraphy with Haji Noor Deen, who lives in China, online.

The Sino-Islamic Calligraphy

According to Kareema, Chinese calligraphy with Arabic script but with Chinese traditional method. For example, the paper used to write in Arabic script is rice paper, with a Chinese brush and Chinese ink which is combined with silk. 

Kareema further explained that the movement of the writing stroke is different, as well as how to control the pen and ink usage are different. While other methods of Arabic calligraphy have a fixed technique, Sino-Islamic Calligraphy has a lot of flexibility and freedom.

The Purpose of Islamic Calligraphy

“Islamic calligraphy is meant to always remember Allah s.w.t.. Especial

ly for the artist, when they repeat it in writing, of course, they will remember Allah s.w.t. At the same time, we practice and read the Quran,” Kareema explained more about Islamic calligraphy.

“Islamic calligraphy is not just an art form. It is art plus the Quran.”

It is a reminder of the words of the creator presented in an elegant manner. It is an art form that should be revived to complete a halal lifestyle.

Kareema’s works have been commissioned by Museums and corporate organizations. It is envisaged that Kareema will be renowned Sino-Islamic calligraphy. With the advent of blockchain and NFTs, the future looks bright for someone like her.

Most important of all it can be considered as an ‘Ayah’ or sign that makes us reflect on our creator and the purpose of life

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