Project of handwritten Quran in Kazan

07 February


The Quran is the words of the Almighty Allah. The Arabic word "mushaf" is used to refer to the physical binding of a book which includes itself Islamic scripture. For the first time, this name was given to handwritten scrolls of the Quran, collected and written down after the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Nowadays, when even printed publications are replacing by digital media, handwritten books look like artifacts of antiquity, which value can only be as museum exhibits or objects of research. However, despite modern trends, a project to prepare a handwritten Quran began in Kazan at the end of 2021.

The capital of Tatarstan has long been one of the centers of Islamic civilization. Exactly in Kazan, at the beginning of the 19th century, was firstly published printed Mushaf of the Quran, prepared by Muslims. The printed version of the holy book, called “Kazan Basma,” gained wide popularity not only in the Islamic world, but also beyond its borders. However, until now Kazan didn’t have its own handwritten mushaf. This work, which should correct the situation, began in honor of the 1100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria, on the initiative of the Mufti of the Republic of Tatarstan Kamil hazrat Samigullin.

As Kamil hazrat Samigullin noted, that Kazan specialists working on the mushaf, in order to avoid canonical mistakes, will rely on the works of Musa Bigiev “Graphic amendments to editions of the Quran” and Shigabutdin Marjani “Useful and Important” which describes the methodology for creation such projects. So, the experience of preparing the handwritten Quran, which exists in Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, Morocco, and Pakistan, will now appear in Kazan. The result of the work will be a mushaf, written by the work of a local hattat (which means, calligrapher) and with the participation of the local theological community.

In January 2022, many Muslim religious personalities in Russia witnessed how professional calligrapher Artur Pisarenko began writing the first Surah “Fatiha” in the Kul Sharif mosque. Artur Pisarenko is a student of the famous hattat, Ramil Nasibullov founder and director of the center of Arabic calligraphy and Islamic arts “An- Namir al- Muhattat” at the Russian Islamic University. In addition, Artur Pisarenko is the founder of his own online school in Arabic calligraphy and the holder of a rare ijaza for Russia (which means, a diploma giving the right to teach) in Islamic science “al-Hatt”.

“Ilm al-Hatt” is Arabic calligraphy, a deep study of which makes it possible to understand that this is not just art, but a real science. Within Arabic calligraphy there are the foundations of descriptive and analytical geometry, in other words, mathematical formulas by which letters are constructed. Each letter has its own canonical spelling, but different depending on the style - that is, hatta . In one Hatta style, can be one hundred types of spelling of the same letter. Ilm al-Hatt - the science of the properties of letter shapes. Writing letters without using rules is ignorance.

The most initial and fundamental style of calligraphy, "thuluth", containing all the rules of science, was developed by the Islamic hattat scholars through geometric images. The hattat imams were also scholars in geometry and mathematics. For example, Ibn Muqla, a calligrapher of the 10th century, is famous for adding the rule of golden ratio - a proportion that allows to reproduce the most harmonious image - to the thuluth. The mathematical mechanisms underlying "hatta" distinguish Arabic calligraphy from other forms of fine art.

The main implementer of the handwritten Quran project, Artur Pisarenko, considers calligraphy an authentic Islamic art that develops the special thinking of a muslim and his identity. Art from the modern pro-western world carries mostly western values. It may be interesting for Muslims to pay attention to their own fundamental and developed during 14 centuries art. Artur Pisarenko thinks that in theory, you can learn science on your own, but with a teacher it will be much faster.

Involved in “modern” Arabic calligraphy, one way or another, absorb Western trends in art. Therefore, hattat Artur thinks the philosophical approach is the first one, because the point is not in the hatt itself, but in its idea. When studying the formulas for writing letters, a person joins to the Islamic culture, and the psychological aspect plays an important role. In addition, the requirements for ijaza include not only the ability to write well, but also the moral component of a person. If a student does his works only for the sake of worldly affairs, he doesn’t receive ijaza.

In addition to the above-mentioned works of local theologians, specialists of the Commission for the preparation of the handwritten Quran will have to turn to many primary sources and scientific research. Accurate and unmistakable writing requires checking each letter. The scientific secretary of the Council of Ulem of the Religious Board of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan (RBM RT) Rustam Nurgaleev, director of the Center for Hafiz of the Quran Abdurrashit Faizov, specialists of the department on Sharia issues of RBM RT, deputy mufti, head of the publishing house “Huzur” Rishat Khamidullin and others were involved in the work of the Commission.

From the beginning of the project, a Muslim scientist from Dubai, theologian, head of the Commission for the Preparation of the Quran of the Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA), holder of the highest degree in the practice of memorizing the Quran by heart, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ Sheikh Mamun ar-Ravi remotely and in person works in it. To participate in the last meeting of the Commission in December 2023, the sheikh visited Tatarstan at the invitation of Kamil hazrat Samigullin.

Speaking at the meeting, Sheikh Mamun ar-Ravi noted the uniqueness of the mushaf in that it is written based on 11 materials specifically in this area, and a fairly large number of other handwritten and printed mushafs as samples. The handwritten Quran is checked against the most correct and best sources. The Sheikh expressed the hope that, if Almighty Allah wishes, the Kazan Mushaf will become a standard for future Mushafs which can be written leaning on it. In the UAE, a similar project was implemented during eight years.

For now, 320 pages of the Kazan handwritten Quran have been written, that is more than half of the entire text. Writing one page takes two days. Each page is scanned, then the image is converted into vector graphics for maximum accuracy and quality. The handwritten mushaf will become the basis of a new project for Kazan printed copies of the Quran. Preparation and production of circulation will be carried out by the publishing house “Huzur”. The handwritten Quran is a great work of Islamic culture.

Writing the mushaf will be the culminating stage of the systematic activities of the RBM RT in serving the Quran. The project has high scientific value for Russian Quranic studies and domestic Islamic theological thought. A work of calligraphic art should be the first step towards the revival of lost Tatar traditions in Islamic science Ilm al-Hatt. The painstaking and hard work on the implementation of the handwritten Quran project in Kazan is one of the brightest symbols of the development of Islam in the Russian Federation.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: Malik Shibly/Unsplash