Basharat Bashir

The historical signifanc of Calligraphy about Muharram

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Calligraphy is as important art form as Painting or Sculpture and has had a glorious past especially in th Islamic word as well as in Chinese art.  Calligraphy with brushes is believed to be rooted in the Shang dynasty of ancient China which gradually became more common during the Han dynasty. The word ‘calligraphy’ literally means beautiful writing and as the word suggests Calligraphy requires an artistic skill and authority.  The art of Calligraphy evolved through time with its beginning from ancient China this art form reached every corner of the world.  Embedded in different cultures this art form evolved as a significant movement inspiring artists to use their imaginative approaches to further develop this art form.

Art of Calligraphy is a significant feature of Islamic art as well and it has been an amazing medium to present the words of Holy Quran with creativity as well as to decorate mosques and other important religious places. Throughout the history of Islam calligraphy remained an integral part of its sphere representing its versatile sense of decoration combined with spirituality.  In Islam, Calligraphers are seen with great regard and their creativity and genius to express through form the meaning of the words is highly appreciated. Calligraphers with their imaginative thinking have astonishingly employed innovative ways to further enhance the possibilities that calligraphy offers. They have not reserved their unique artistic skill to represent a particular style or medium but utilized different art forms and materials to broaden the spectrum of Calligraphy.

Although in many of the calligraphic art works it is not necessary for the calligrapher to make words readable he/she can use the form of the word in any abstract pattern. But such is not the case with Islamic calligraphy more accurately with Quranic words and ayahs.  Although written with great elegance each word needs to be carefully exercised so as to maintain its readability.  Islamic calligraphy uses many other ways to decorate the words. A calligrapher uses different colors instead of black on white and different background patterns to make the text popup. A combination of different sizes, colours and styles of text are also used and in some cases words are engraved or written with gold.

As the art went global and like all other forms of art, Islamic Calligraphy also intermingled with other styles of text writing and eventually new terms started emerging such as calligraffiti, which is the use of calligraphy in public art to make politico-social messages or to ornament public buildings and spaces. Notable Islamic calligraffiti artists include Yazan Halwani active in Lebanon el Seed working in France and Tunisia, and Caiand A1one in Tehran.

Calligraphy art is now being used in various events which incorporate variety of styles depending upon the motivation of the event. In religious perspective, especially in Islam the most significant event that uses art of calligraphy is during the month of Muharram which is to observe the martyrdom of the grandson of Islamic prophet Imam Hussain (AS) and his family. Muharram, the first month of Islamic calendar is seen by the Muslims as one of the significant months of the year. Large processions are carried out mostly by Shia Muslims to observe the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his family in the battle of Karbala.

One can see huge black banners displayed around with text written on them and kids carrying black flags with written messages and slogans during this month. There is a display of calligraphy to commence an emotional religious event. Written in varied styles and fonts the messages are informative as well as sympathetic mostly to invoke a sense of gratitude. The major procession is held on the 10th of Muharram or Youm Ashoora commemorating martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) and his family.  In Kashmir However major mourning processions were banned by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir since the 1990s. Small processions are however held in some parts, including in the districts of Baramulla, Kulgam, Leh and Kargil.

There are very few Calligraphy artists in Kashmir who work to prepare these Muharram banners and one among them is Tasaduq Hussain. Tasaduq has a Masters Degree in fine Arts Painting and is currently working as an art teacher and is also the founder of Moukam Art and Ideas. It is his love for calligraphy that during the first days of month of Muharram he devotes most of his time to banners. He uses his calligraphic skill and religious motivation to prepare incredible banners for Muharram processions.

“Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar. On The tenth of Muharram or ‘Youm Aashura’ Muslims across world mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain Ibn Ali (as) the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (saw) and his family. People across the world admire him and pay tribute to the martyrs of Karbala in different ways. We raise black banners and flags as a symbol of mourning and pay our tributes to martyrs of Karbala. Calligraphy was not always part of these banners, people used to raise plain banners and flags without writing and designing any information on them. With the passage of time people preferred to write names of martyrs, quotes, sayings of Prophet Mohammad (saw) and ahl-ul-bait (AS)” Said Tasaduq, adding that, “The incident of Karbala was a great tragedy but with a greater lesson for the humankind. it was a battle between truth and falsehood and a precise example was set for the human kind that no matter how terrible situation you are in never accept falsehood no matter how heavy cost you have to pay”.

“We feel very proud and pleased when during Muharram processions we see kids with flags with our calligraphic designs in their hands and people raising our flags and banners with different quotes and messages on Imambargahs, Masjids, Homes and roads.” said Tasaduq, adding that,”From past few years, we have changed the course of banner and flag making by introducing new calligraphic designs. People prefer these calligraphic designs over common banners for their attractiveness.”

“During Muharram we feel more energetic and enthusiastic and work hard to introduce new ways and ideas for calligraphy each year”, said Mushtaq Assad Alavee graphic designer at Moukam Art and Ideas.

The whole idea and the purpose of raising these calligraphic flags and banners is to deliver a message of unity and peace and to encourage people around the world to stand firm and raise their voice against any kind of  injustice, oppression and religious bigotry.







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