Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­phy has deep-rooted his­tory in Turkey

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Ara­bic, or rather, Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­phy, has a long his­tory in Turkey dat­ing back to the days of the Ot­toman Em­pire. In fact, cal­lig­ra­phy is es­pe­cially revered among Is­lamic arts since it was the pri­mary means for the preser­va­tion of the Qu­ran.

There­fore, the Turk­ish peo­ple as­so­ciate the art mainly with re­li­gion, since orig­i­nally Ara­bic is the lan­guage of the Mus­lims’ Holy book. Great works of cal­lig­ra­phy, verses from the Holly Qu­ran, and other Is­lamic say­ings and Hadtish, have been dec­o­rat­ing walls and ceil­ings of most al­most all mosques na­tion­wide. The pro­fes­sion has been pros­per­ing over cen­turies, and cal­lig­ra­phy shops are spread in sev­eral Turk­ish ci­ties; skilled cal­lig­ra­phers have been draw­ing a his­tor­i­cal and her­itage di­men­sion.

“I learnt the Ara­bic/Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­phy decades ago at the hands of Hamid Ay­tas (18911982), a lead­ing cal­lig­ra­pher of the Ot­toman Em­pire,” said Abuzar Ozkan whose cal­lig­ra­phy shop lies in one of the an­cient dis­tricts of the cap­i­tal Ankara. He re­called Ay­tas’s ef­forts for dis­sem­i­nat­ing the art, some­times re­ferred to as Ot­toman cal­lig­ra­phy, na­tion­wide as well as in other coun­tries.

Learn­ing the art is a real hard mis­sion that com­bines the­o­ret­i­cal stud­ies with ap­pli­ca­tion, Ozkan said. It is said “to be a good cal­lig­ra­pher, one needs two lives, one to learn and an­other to ap­ply what he learnt.”

The Is­lamic cal­lig­ra­phy was in­tro­duced in Turkey dur­ing the 15th cen­tury, at the hands of Sheikh Hamidul­lah, a fa­mous cal­ligraphist from the pe­riod of Sul­tan Mehmet the Con­queror, based on the ori­en­tal ori­gin of the Umayyad and Ab­basid Caliphates the her­itage. Sheikh Hamidul­lah in­tro­duced ma­jor changes in the tra­di­tional seven writ­ing styles and put the mark of the Turk­ish na­tional char­ac­ter on Is­lamic writ­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Ozkan, many styles of Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy found their way to Turkey a long time ago and were well-es­tab­lished there; Kufi is the most spread and used, then came Nash or Naskhi, Tu­lut, Tawqi, and Al-Di­wani. This last one was not al­lowed to be used out­side the Ot­toman palaces. There is also the Kanon­ian cal­lig­ra­phy, named af­ter Sul­tan Su­ley­man Kanoni. The ‘Bas­malah’ is usu­ally writ­ten in Kanon­ian.

Over the past cen­turies, Turk­ish cal­ligraphists have pre­served the art, and even taught it to nu­mer­ous schol­ars in other coun­tries, Ozkan said. Is­tan­bul is the strong­hold of Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy in Turkey, draw­ing huge in­ter­est from peo­ple of the city, he said. Mosques and other reli­gious, his­tor­i­cal, and cul­tural sites of the city are or­na­mented with var­i­ous Is­lamic cal­ligra­phies. The city of Bursa ranks sec­ond af­ter Is­tan­bul.

Ozkan stressed the need for us­ing high qual­ity sup­plies in cal­lig­ra­phy, es­pe­cially ink, so that they can sur­vive for cen­turies, as bright as ever. Most of these sup­plies come from Iran, In­dia, the Philip­pines, to­gether with lo­cal prod­ucts.

It takes from one month to a year to pro­duce a good work of cal­lig­ra­phy, ac­cord­ing to the size and the ma­te­ri­als used, he said. Price dif­fer, start­ing from $100, to thou­sands. They in­clude verses from the Holy Qu­ran and Prophet Mo­ham­mad’s (PBUH) Ha­dith, as well as im­mor­tal wise say­ings that have passed down through gen­er­a­tions.

Ozkan ex­pects the art to fur­ther pros­per Turkey in the fu­ture, since many Turk­ish peo­ple are keen on learn­ing it. The lead­ing cal­ligraphist gives lessons at the Sharia Col­lege, and stu­dents come to his work­shop for prac­tice.

He lauded the high in­ter­est of the state and or­ga­ni­za­tions of the civil so­ci­ety in cal­lig­ra­phy, hold­ing sev­eral lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional con­tests. Ozkan him­self has taken part in many gal­leries at home and over­seas.

He re­called some of the big names of the art of cal­lig­ra­phy in Turkey through his­tory, Hamid Ay­tas, Sheikh Hamidul­lah, Hafiz Os­man, Me­hemt Esad Esari, Kadi Efendi, Sami Efendi, Ne­cemed­din Okyay, and Is­mail Al­tun­bezer.

Fa­mous ones at present in­clude Huseyin Kutlu, Mustafa Celebi, Huseyin Ok­suz, Fuad Basar, Davut Bektas, Os­man Ol­gay, Mehmet Ol­gay. “I have been in or­na­ment­ing of Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy for 15 years,” said Emine Su­soy. This dec­o­ra­tion art dates back to the 8th cen­tury, the era of the Uighur Turks. She added.

Su­soy uses 18, 21 and 24 carat gold in her work. It is re­ally a fan­tas­tic job where pre­ci­sion and pa­tience are a must, she said. One of the great works of the art has been Sul­tan Mehmet Al-Fatih’s ‘Di­wan Al-Muhib’, 740 pages.

Su­soy ex­plained the ‘the­ory’ of col­ors used in dec­o­ra­tion and well cho­sen; for in­stance gold sym­bol­izes sun­set, the sun is go­ing home to shine once more the next morn­ing, which “more com­pre­hen­sively rep­re­sents the ‘lim­it­less’ world we live in.”

Most peo­ple in the art of dec­o­ra­tion of cal­lig­ra­phy are not af­ter money, this is why many of them are pen­sion­ers. It might also be sur­pris­ing that few of the ‘Ara­bic’ or ‘Is­lamic’ cal­lig­ra­phy speak Ara­bic. —KUNA

Cal­lig­ra­pher of the Ot­toman Em­pire Abuzar Ozkan.

Ac­cu­racy is a must in cal­lig­ra­phy.

Cal­lig­ra­phy ex­pert Emine Su­soy.

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