"And (remember) when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter's clay of black mud altered." (the Qur'an)
Monday, February 25, 2008
The Singapore Quran
The mushaf Singapura is on display at Masjid Kampong Siglap, the Darul Quran Centre of Singapore. A few years ago I went to Shah Alam, where there is a Centre for Quran Calligraphy, called Yayasan Restu. It was the most wonderful place in Malaysia I have ever been to. Apparently it began because one day the former PM of Malaysia, Dr M, was in another Muslim country and he discovered that except for a few very old fogies, nobody is left with the discipline of writing Qurans anymore, especially since printing has become more feasible. Also, he was perturbed that the Saudi mushaf had become ubiquitous in the Muslim world, and that it was becoming mistaken for THE mushaf Uthmani (which to my surprise and consternation, a great majority of Muslims I know believe to be true). So he came back to Malaysia and ordered that, as the Melayu boleh apa-apa saja, his countrymen will reclaim this almost-lost art of calligraphy and Quran manuscript. So they embarked on the exercise of designing and writing the mushaf Malaysia. The thought and spirituality that went into the exercise was so inspiring - they really took it to heart that this is the Divine Word and had to be treated with utmost reverence and thought at every step. They used only natural dyes from nature, like different types of wood and spices, to mix into ink, so as not to use artificial chemicals to write, as they believed that to write the word of God it is befitting to use products from nature, which we know, glorifies God. The paper used was of the highest possible quality, and there were commissioned pieces which were made of paper guaranteed to last 700 years! And the artistic design that went into the decoration of the side margins and symbols - all of them were based on existing artistic motifs found in ancient Malay woodwork or craftsmanship, or using stylised representations of local flowers. Beautiful. Then came the actual khat - calligraphy - itself. They set out to use the Jawi style of writing, with large, circular strokes with a natural reed stick pen. There was a team of writers just writing away page after page, dipping their reed pen into natural ink. The whole thing was beautiful. I could never look at the mushaf Madinah the same anymore. Somehow the barakah was with the Malaysian one. Not to mention the Malaysian one contains bright colours instead of sombre dark green and beige. I bought several of the mushaf Malaysia, and my sons, who are undergoing the tahfiz programme, prefer it to the Madinah version, for some reason. I myself prefer it because it is bright and good to the eye, and gives off the impression of nur. When Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad came to Singapore the previous time, he talked excitedly about 2 things in Malaysia - ISTAC and this place. I can understand why. Now it seems that we have commissioned them to design a mushaf Singapura. I think it is a great idea.