'I put my soul into it': How Pakistani calligrapher is marking Ramadan with spiritual art

Sundus Muhammad Shoaib honours the holy month with Islamic calligraphy

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A UAE resident is skilfully giving the timeless art of Islamic calligraphy a contemporary twist this Ramadan.

Sundus Muhammad Shoaib, 36, a pharmacist from Pakistan, annually embarks on a spiritual journey by writing Islamic calligraphy during the holy month.

The artistic form of handwriting, which dates back more than 1,400 years, uses Arabic text in several different styles to illustrate Quranic verses.

My love and passion for art and calligraphy has been there since a very young age
Sundus Muhammad Shoaib

People often decorate their homes with such artistically visual writings, especially during Ramadan and Eid, as Islamic calligraphy is written into pieces of decor and fabric.

Ms Shoaib's home in Sharjah is decorated with the artwork she has created over several years.

“By profession, I'm a pharmacist but my love and passion for art and calligraphy has been there since a very young age,” said Ms Shoaib, who was born and raised in the Emirates.

“I was very keen to learn how to write Arabic and used to watch many Islamic calligraphers on how beautifully they conveyed the message of God. This was what inspired me and I started self-teaching.”

She often gifts her artwork to friends and family, but is giving a lot of thought to who should receive her latest piece, as she put her “soul into it”.

She has recreated the Islamic verses that are on the Kiswa, a cloth that covers the Kaaba in Makkah.

“The writings on the Kiswa require a lot of skills, hard work, determination and dedication since it’s very intricate work,” said Ms Shoaib.

“It took me almost two weeks to complete, with three to four hours of working every day.

“The most challenging part was how to correctly design the door with accurate measurements. Then comes the writing part, which I wrote with gold and silver calligraphy markers.”

She used the Thuluth script, one of the six prominent styles of writing Islamic calligraphy, to create the latest piece.

Even though the scripts were created hundreds of years ago, Ms Shoaib sometimes adds a modern twist by creating a 2D or 3D form of artwork using verses from the Quran.

Islamic calligraphy dates back to when the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century.

Its development was closely tied to the spread of the holy book, as calligraphers sought to beautifully transcribe its verses.

Over the centuries, it has evolved into various styles and continues to play a significant role in Islamic culture and art.

Ms Shoaib said she completed the Kiswa piece a few days before Ramadan started but hopes to continue creating more pieces during the holy month.

“The challenge I face during Ramadan is time management because I prioritise myself in worshipping and engaging in responsibilities assigned upon us during this holy month,” she said. “But with my family’s support and motivation, I'm able to balance between the two.”

Updated: March 12, 2024, 9:02 AM