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Haji Noor Deen
Haji Noor Deen

When we talk about calligraphy and Islamic art, it is almost impossible not to mention the contributions of Haji Noor Deen, more precisely known as ‘the renowned master of Arabic Calligraphy’.

“Arabic calligraphy - the crown jewel of Islamic art and a product of history - is one of the most detailed modes of artistic expression among ancient calligraphic styles that exist in the world today,” Noor Deen explained. “The unique beauty of calligraphic works created by our Chinese Muslim ancestors represent the beautiful union of Chinese and Islamic art -- it is the essence of the combined wisdom of our Muslim forefathers.”

Born in China in 1963, Noor Deen is the first Chinese person to be honoured with the Certificate of Arabic Calligrapher in Egypt and was included in the list of the Top 500 Most Influential Muslimsconsecutively from 2009 to 2015.

Noor Deen brings an immense amount of knowledge in Islamic art and traditional thought to a modern audience. The focus of his work is a masterful calligraphic technique, which uniquely fuses both Chinese and Arabic arts. Currently, he is in Lahore as a delegate for the Lahore Literary Festival, scheduled to be held this weekend. Noor Deen will be talking about his work and his unique calligraphy skills.

“This is the first time I am visiting Pakistan and Lahore. Lahore is a cultural and historic city, especially the BadshahiMasjid -- it is so beautiful!” he said.“The people are also very warm and friendly. I am enjoying myself here.”

In 2000, Noor Deen initiated and taught the first regular and systemic Arabic calligraphy course at the Zhengzhou Islamic College in China. His exceptional work has been displayed in galleries and museums around the world, including The British Museum, San Francisco Asian Museum, National Museum of Scotland and Harvard University’s Art Museum. Given Noor Deen’s extraordinary mastery and genius along with his unique ability to spectacularly present his craft, he was invited to give lectures and conduct workshops in some of the most renowned and prestigious institutions around the world.

One of his most iconic pieces is ‘The Ninety Nine Names of God’, which was acquired by The British Museum and has been permanently put up on display in the gallery of Islamic Art.

Commenting on why he uses calligraphy as a medium to express himself as an artist, Noor Deen said: “As a Chinese Muslim calligrapher, I have a deep sense of responsibility in promoting, propagating, and carrying forward this intricate art form and precious cultural heritage. This would enable more Muslim families to own artworks of exquisite beauty and permit more people to perceive and experience this rich and ancient artistic treasure, thereby deepening their understanding of Islam.

“With determination and perseverance, with my hands and with the knowledge and talent bestowed on me by Allah the Almighty, I will seek to continue to craft this majestic and aesthetically pleasing cultural and artistic tradition.”

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2016