Calligraphy Project


For my calligraphic exercise, I have chosen to superimpose the name of Allah and the shahadah on a taqiyah – the skullcap worn by many Muslims in everyday life or for the purpose of prayer. This specific taqiyah carries special meaning for me as I purchased it at a night market while in Doha, Qatar. It was approximately 2:00 am in late July during the midst of Ramadan. There was much commotion on the streets as those around me enjoyed food and hookah after a long day of fasting. I had just left the Museum of Islamic Art. I sipped Arabic coffee as I sat with the grandfatherly man who owned the shop where I bought the taqiyah as he told me of his life, his family, his perception of the monarchy, and his excitement for Qatar to host the World Cup in 2022.

On the most basic level, to be a Muslim means to submit to God. My concept for this calligraphy is likewise concertedly minimalistic. While there are many debates – sectarian, cultural, and otherwise – amongst Muslims regarding the proper practice of Islam, the idea of submission to God and the shahadah – the proclamation that there is no god but God and Mohammad is his messenger – are universally fundamental to Islam. To me, the taqiyah represents this submission both physically and psychologically. To cover one’s head out of respect for and submission to Allah in one’s everyday life is a symbolic gesture, and the taqiyah is also worn during prayer and prostration. For me, inscribing the name of Allah in silver on top of the taqiyah makes this symbolic act literal. Allah’s name is nestled between the domes of five mosques depicted on the top of the taqiyah – symbolic of the five universal pillars of Islam. Inscribing the shahadah along the border of the taqiyah focuses the gaze inward toward the star formed by the tops of the five domes and toward the name of Allah there inscribed.

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