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One Word for Words

February 25th, 2014

Calligraphy as explained by Abdelkebir Khatibi and Mohammed Sijelmassi in The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy is seen as a “reading and a writing in the second degree… The actual meaning of the statement here becomes secondary, so that the imagined reader is like a dreamer awakened, whose vision is woven within a context of art.” In my artwork in this blog entry, I am inspired particularly by the calligraphy work of Mohammed Salem Bajunaid, a Saudi calligrapher who in response to those who praise his work says: “I never believe I have achieved anything. It is all Allah’s work.”

Bajunaid uses verses from the Quran as basis for his illustrations, through which he uses a visual manifestation shaping the verses to portray a hidden or a metaphorical meaning. For example, in the following work, he write the verse: “We raise in degrees whom We will, but over every possessor of knowledge is one [more] knowing” “وفوق كل ذي علم عليم” (Yousuf:76). Bajunaid here begins with the word fawq “over” as the basis for his design, through which he concludes with Aleem “one knowing” at the peek of the structure, to portray the Holy God as being Most Knowledgable.

Work of Salim Bajnaid

Based on the connection between the form and content, I have chosen to use the ink on a hand rather than on paper, a medium that becomes temporary when applied to skin, to write the word kalima “word,” however, as we have come to see, one word may carry several things, one word may have a meaning that is thaher and another that is batten, yet alone that in the design I chose, this kalima “word” could also be read as kalimat “words.” In addition, I have portrayed the diversity of metaphorical and literal meanings that could be understood from a single word through the arrows that are used as punctuations.

I find the following narration suitable for this artwork, thus, by it, I conclude.  Ali said: “If I wished I could load seventy camels with the exegesis of the Opening Surah (al-Fatiha) of the Koran.” What is the meaning of this, when the exoteric interpretation [of this surah] is extremely short? Abu al-Darada said, “A man does not truly understand until he attributes [different] perspectives (wujuh) to the Koran.” A certain scholar said, “For every [Koranic] verse there are sixty thousand understandings (fahm), and what remains to be understood is even more.” Others have said, “The Koran contains seventy-seven thousand two hundred sciences (ilm), for every word [in it] is a science, and then that [number] can be quadrupled, since every word has an outward aspect, an inward aspect, an end and a beginning.” (Classical Persian Sufism, from its Origins to Rumi, 239).

Word: Definite or Indefinite – Ink on Skin

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