Let’s Talk: Episode 8
Have you heard of the language of love?
Yes, we’re talking about Arabic Calligraphy.
“Arabic Calligraphy to me is the language of love because, the fact that Arabic calligraphy exists is to emphasise more on the beauty of Allah s.w.t’s words, which is the Quran. Without the Quran, Arabic Calligraphy would not have existed. It is the reason why our ancestors, the early calligraphers, have sought to beautify the system of writing until eventually it becomes an artform. Muslims learn the word of God and it is an innate need in us to express ourselves through some kind of artform,” explained Ustaz Muhammad Alawi, the founder of Alawiartworx.
Alawiartworx is a one-man local business that serves as a platform for Ustaz Alawi to share his love for the craft as well as to continuously hone his skills at the same time.
Just by sight alone, it is clear that this artform - as do other artforms - takes years and years of practise for an individual to master it.
“When you look at this one piece of artform, it looks nice to everybody but in order for me to get this one piece of paper, it took me hours and sometimes years of my time to perfect the how slanted certain words should be, the curve of certain letters and the details.”
“One of my teachers said she spends 8 hours a day to train, just to get to where she is now. A lot of calligraphers are the same. We put in a lot of hours to really perfect our craft in order for us to create an artform that would probably take about one or two days to create.”
Contrary to modern calligraphy, arabic calligraphers begin their journey by ‘mastering the dot’
“In traditional Arabic Calligraphy, we are all trained not to write the letter Alif, but we are all trained to write a dot first. Because if we cannot write a dot properly in a perfect manner, then we would not be able to write the other complex letters.”
"When you are interested in something, it makes you want to know more about something, and that’s when people would sign up for classes. But when they are passionate, that’s the driving force that would sustain themselves in this class till the point where they get to.”
Ustaz Alawi’s journey in Arabic Calligraphy started back when he was a young student in Madrasah Aljunied. Under the teachings of his Ustaz during their day-to-day calligraphy lessons, that was when his interest to delve into this artform was sparked.
“After self-learning and writing from textbooks or copying lines, I feel that it did not push me towards the level that I wanted to. I discovered that for me to push myself to get to a certain level which is considered a professional level, we will have to learn from a master calligrapher. So alhamdulillah I had the opportunity to learn from my first Ustaz - Ustaz Nasrullah - from a place called Bustan Khat for about 6 months. And alhamdulillah I had the opportunity to pursue my studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. So alhamdulillah Ustaz Nasrullah connected me to his own teacher, a royal Moroccan calligrapher who went to Cairo and taught students there.”
When we asked what would be his best tip for beginners, Ustaz Alawi stresses the importance of having the guidance of a teacher for this art form.
“It is not just a mentor and mentee relationship, it is also a form of imparting knowledge that has been inherited for thousands of years. It's always important for us to find somebody to show us the way, for anything that we do in life. And the barakah of having a teacher is celebrated in this artform because a teacher imparts what we call, the secrets of the art. And these secrets of the art are not something that the teacher knows even, it is something that has been blessed by Allah s.w.t.”
He added: “I’m very glad and happy that I have the opportunity to share this knowledge and also the beauty of this art to my fellow Singaporeans.”
To learn more about Arabic Calligraphy and Ustaz Alawi’s journey and other tips, be sure to tune in to Episode 8 of Let’s Talk! You can also learn more about Alawiartworx by checking out their instagram page.