This architectural image infused with sprawling alphabets was inspired while reading from one of my favorite books “The Secret of Secrets”. The use of just Arabic alphabets instead of sections or complete ayats from the Quran was simply because I felt the need to emphasize what I read earlier … how little we really know or understand of the divine revelations.
The Prophet (s.a.w.s) explains this: “Knowledge is in two sections. One is in man’s tongue, which is the confirmation of Allah’s existence. The other is in man’s heart. That is the one necessary for the realization of man’s goal.” The truly beneficial knowledge is only within the framework of the heart’s activity. As the Prophet (s.a.w.s) says,” The Holy Quran has an outer meaning and an inner meaning.” Allah most High revealed the Holy Quran in ten layers of hidden meaning. Each successive meaning is more beneficial than one before, because it is closer to the source of truth. The twelve divine Names belonging to the Essence of Allah are like the twelve fountains which gushed forth from the stone when the prophet Moses (peace be upon him) hit it with his staff.
The outer knowledge of appearances is like rainwater, which comes and goes, while the inner knowledge is like a fountain whose source never dries up.
“The Secret of Secrets” by Hazrat Abdul Qadir Al Jilani r.a (Rady Allahu ‘Anh) (May Allah sanctify his Secret) interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al Jerrahi al-Halveti
“Alif” a story to remember
Alif Allah ratta dil mera
mainoon ‘bay’ di khabar na kai
‘bay’ parhdian koajah samajh na aaway
lazzat alif di aayee
‘ain’ tay ‘gain’ da faraq na janan
Aahee gal alif samjhayee
bullehya! qaul alif de pooray
jehray dil di karan safai
“Alif” is for Allah, Alif is in my heart,
I dont know what “Beh” means,
I dont understand Beh,
I understood and enjoyed Alif.
Ain and Ghain dont have a difference,
Alif expained this to me
Bullehyah Alif is always truthful
Alif cleans your heart,
In the life of Hazrat Baba Bullah Shah r.a, the great saint of Punjab, one reads a sweet educational account of his early training when he was sent to school with boys of his own age. The teacher taught him the first letter of the Arabic alphabet “Alif”. The other boys in his class finished the whole series of alphabets while he was mastering the same letter. When weeks had passed, and the teacher saw that the child did not advance any further than the first letter Alif, he thought that he must be lacking and sent him home to his parents, saying, ‘Your boy is lacking, I cannot teach him.’
The parents did all in their control for him, placing him under the tuition of various teachers, but he made no improvement. They were disappointed, and the boy in the end escaped from home, so that he should no longer be a burden to his own people. He then lived in the forest and saw the manifestation of Alif which has taken form in the forest as the grass, the leaf, the tree, branch, fruit, and flower; and the same Alif was evident as the mountain and hill, the stones and rocks; and he witnessed the same as a germ, insect, bird and beast, and the same Alif in himself and others. He thought of one, saw one, felt one, realized one, and none else besides.
Oh! friend now quit thy learning,
One Alif is all thou dost need.
By learning thou hast loaded my mind,
With books thou hast filled up thy room.
But the true knowledge was lost by pursuing the false,
So quit now, O friend, the pursuit of thy learning.
Every form seems to be derived from another, all figures being derived from Alif, which is initially derived from a dot and represents zero, nothingness. It is that oblivion which creates the first form Alif. It is natural for everyone when writing to make a dot as soon as the pen touches the paper, and the letters forming the words hide the origin. In like manner the origin of the One Being is hidden in His manifestation. That is why Allah, whose name comes from Alif, is hidden under His own manifestation. The form of Alif reveals its meaning. This meaning in its various forms is seen in all aspects of nature.
Islamic Calligraphy; Calligraphy has an exceptional place in Islam, because it’s strongly entwined with the Quranic revelation in two ways. Firstly, God’s word in the form of the Quran embodies a unique confirmation of divine revelation, which was conveyed to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s), but was then documented in writing by his companions and circulated. Secondly, this revelation is described in the Quran as an “elegantly proportioned script,” which is preserved with God on “spotless sheets of paper,” and which is “beautiful” & “unsurpassable.” “Calligraphy” means “beautiful writing” During the Middle Ages, the Muslims cherished calligraphy as the premier art form because the Qur’an was written in Arabic and it represented the word of God. So calligraphy decorated the mosques and holy books of Islam. Writing was not only an artistic expression; it was a religious expression as well.
Calligraphy was thought of as an expression of man’s spiritual state, and purity of writing comes from a pure heart. Therefore, the calligrapher had to pray and fast before the commencement of his work be it documentation or art. Over the centuries Arabic calligraphy expanded to include different styles of writing. For writing, the Arabic calligrapher employs a reed pen (qalam) with the working point cut on an angle. This feature produces a thick down stroke and a thin upstroke with infinity of shades in between. The line traced by a skilled calligrapher is a true marvel of fluidity and sensitive inflection, communicating the very action of the master’s hand. Arabic calligraphy is the art of beautiful or elegant handwriting as exhibited by the correct formation of characters, the ordering of the various parts, and harmony of proportions. In the Islamic world, calligraphy has traditionally been held in high regard. The high esteem accorded to the copying of the Quran, and the aesthetic energy that was devoted to it, raised Arabic calligraphy to the status of an art. Arabic calligraphy, unlike that of most cultures, influenced the style of monumental inscription.
It was in Ottoman Turkey, however, that calligraphy attained the highest development once the early creative flowering had faded elsewhere in the Middle East. So renowned were Ottoman calligraphers, in fact, that a popular saying was that “The Quran was revealed in Mecca, recited in Egypt, and written in Istanbul.” The Ottomans were not content merely to improve and develop the types of script that they inherited from the Arabs and Persians but also added a number of new styles to the calligrapher’s repertoire.
One important addition by the Ottoman calligraphers was the script called diwani, so called from the word diwan (meaning state council or government office) since it was at first used primarily for documents issued by the Ottoman Council of State. It is an extremely graceful and very decorative script, with strong diagonal flourishes, though less easy to read than some other styles. After its development in Turkey, it spread to the Arab countries and is in use today for formal documents and also as architectural decoration. Islamic calligraphers have experimented endlessly and have been extremely imaginative. Under the Ummayads and Abbasids, court requirements for correspondence and record keeping resulted in many developments to the cursive scripts, and several styles were devised to fulfill these needs.
Despite the abolition of Arabic calligraphy in 1923 by Mustafa Kamal Ata’turk, the first President of The Republic of Turkey, modern Turkish masters still are considered to be among the leading practitioners of Arabic calligraphy in the Islamic world. This is not surprising when one recalls that, from the late Middle Ages onward, Ottoman masters were arguably the finest exponents of all the calligraphic scripts devised by the Arabs, the Persians and the Turkish themselves.