Friday, December 19, 2008

Kufi is a font

This picture of 9th century Kufi Archaic on parchment, is a courtesy from Abdel Kadir and Muhammad Sijilmassi (2008), in their book entitled; The Splendour of Islamic Calligraphy. Published by Thames and Hudson: Printed in Italy. 

Natasha is a new friend from the UK, last night she asked: How come there is no explanation about Kufi here? This question came timely as we are in the process of gathering data to write and have it posted. Now that somebody is asking, so here it is.

Arabic scripts have seven major typology, namely Kufi, thuluth, naskh, Andalusia Maghribi, riq’a, diwani and ta’liq (or farisi). Kufi is the earliest Arabic priestly font, which is named after a city of Kufah, in Iraq, established around 641 A.D.  Here the font have been popularly used and went through refinements thus transforming it into an elegant script called Kufic or Kufi.

During the prophecy period of Muhammad (S.A.W.) since his forty years of age, he used to receive revelations from Allah S.W.T. through an angel names Jibrail. Because the prophet S.A.W. was illiterate, they were remembered and had it written down by his companions on animal hides, leaves, wooden pulps or whatever they could reach to write on.  The style of writing then was Kufi.

The kind of Kufi they wrote was not similar to what you see in this site. According to Mamoun Sakkal (, Kufi has five catogaries: 1. Early Kufi. 2. Eastern Kufi. 3. Foliate Kufi. 4. Knotted Kufi. 5. Square Kufi.

In 13 century Baghdad and it surrounding territories were invaded by Kublai Khan and his armies, the population was reduced instantly. Properties were burnt to the ground. Books were thrown into rivers, changed the colour of the flowing river with blood and ink, red and black.

Courtesy of Mamoun Sakkal

According to an Arabic Prof. Thomas  W. Arnold, from the University of London, (2006 ), in his book entitled; The spreading of Islam in the world through peaceful preaching, Published by Goodword Books Publication, printed in India: The destruction caused by the bloody invasion was far worse than the Jews holocaust by the Nazis during the 2nd world war in Germany. But, this aspect of history is never remembered until today.

Courtesy of Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia,
in their book entitled; 
Mightier than the Sword (page 113). 
This coin was inscribed with 'Shahadah' 
in Kufi script by the Monghuls. 
Testifying their conversion to Islam.

By the grace of Allah S.W.T. a century after, the Monghul’s King named Timor Khan converted to Islam. Kufi writing was widely used and developed into Kufi Square. This way of writing was found on their coins and appeared as ornaments on their buildings, plaiting and knotting.

This window is at Richard Abas's house in Sec. 14, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. 
He said, "When we did extensions to the house, we added one floor. 
at the stairs, we had a space which we did a sandblast on glass and stained glass. 
As fa as i know this is the only Kufi on glass that i am aware of! 
If you look from the outside you will get a reverse image, but it is near a roof 
and nobody gets to look in that way, so it was not an issue".

In the late 20th and early 21st century this territory of early civilization experienced more series of invasions by the US and its allies. Many of the remnants of the Monghul Empire and its legacy have perished to the ground by bombs.

Shukor Yahya found the artistic, flexibility and graphic elements in Kufi writing is very interesting yet challenging. He carefully choosed some significant Quranic verses for deliverance using this method of writing. It is something unique worthy of revival, besides the Kufi was not subjected to strict rules. So it gave Shukor Yahya virtually a free hand in the conception and execution of its ornamental forms.

This painting is entitled Al Fatihah (2007). AlFatihah Is the mother of all surahs in the Al Quran. Insofar the Kufi development is concern this is the first surah Al Fatihah written, designed and painted in Kufi - making this painting a mother of all paintings.
Emulsion on canvas. Measures; 150 cm X 78 cm. 
The meaning of surah Al-Fatihah (The Opening)

1. In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 2.Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. 3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful; 4. Master of the Day of Judgement; 5. You do we worship, and your aid we seek. 6. Show me the straight way; 7. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, those whose portion will not wrath, and who not go astray.        

Note: In Surah Al Fatihah there is cure to all illness. These seven ayats represents the Grand Quran. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pre-Kufi Period (Shukor Yahya 0.1)

This decorated Kufi was designed by Firdaus Mahadi, signified his own name.

Firdaus Mahadi is a master in Thuluth and Naskh writing and design. He is from Masjid Tanah Melaka, Malaysia. Currently, he is in a familiarization process about the technique and tricks of designing Kufi. He made a comment and said that the Kufi I have painted is called Kufi Murabba'. Perhaps it is a translation to Kufi Square in Arabic. 

During Pre-Kufi of Shukor Yahya's life, he had also indulged himself in what Firdaus currently is doing . 

This painting is entitled kalimah Shahadah (2003),
is an example of Shukor Yahya's Thuluth writing.
It is a collection of Surau Islamiah at PKNS Flats, Section 17, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

This kalimah means,
 "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and Muhammad S.A.W. is the messenger of Allah".

Emulsion on canvas, measures 76 cm X 76 cm. Priced USD 100 K.

When Shukor Yahya was working in advertising agencies he was frequently tasked to design Eid-il-Fithri greeting cards or write some advertising headlines in Jawi for many clients. He often accomplished the tasks to his clients satisfaction. In fact he is the only one who had the expertise in the agency. Otherwise the task had to be out-sourced. He does not really learn the technique of the writing, except during his primary school days when he started learning to spell and write both in Roman and Jawi.
In 2004 he took part in a first Jawi and Chinese calligraphic competition organized by Islamic Arts Museum, Malaysia by submitting three works. The judges did not give him the first, second or third awards but instead he was the winner of three consolation prices. Perhaps due to his unusual treatment in his paintings which broke out of the norm.

This book can be purchased from Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia or The British Museum.

In 2004 one of his work was chosen to be included in a coffee table book entitled Mightier Than a Sword, jointly published by Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia and the British Museum. The work was placed last (page 221) in the book, which indicated the latest contemporary development in the Arabic script writing in the world, from the past to present.

Dr. Heba Nayel Barakat's (2004), said, "Composed in a plenitude of colors, the Malaysian artist Shukor Yahya created a wonderful and serene composition of phrase from the Islamic tradition; those who seek The Might, it's God that totally encompasses the Might. The artist successfuly created out of sporadic droplets an outstanding composed space, philosophically leading the mind to focus on the origin of everything, in the spirit of Monotheism approach. 

The calligraphy is rendered in a lighter pigment in a three dimensional manner making the word easy to read and understand hence, the artist has combined beauty, philosophy and meaning. Shukor Yahya was a participant of Manifestasi Perdana Seni Khat, Kuala Lumpur, an annual calligraphy competition of Malaysia and was recognized for his innovation and creativity.  

The lesson he learnt from it was not to follow the norm to get noticed. After all he felt tuluth writing is somewhat cliche to him and would only placed him as a me-too artist, albeit the way-out treatments he had tried.

At this juncture he started Square Kufi which he had been toying around with his computer for quite sometimes.

This painting is Shukor Yahya's personal collection since 2003. Painted with emulsion on canvas, measures 90 cm X 60 cm. 
He would only willing to be parted from it for USD 100 K.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How, When and Where Shukor Yahya went Kufi

This photo was captured about a week ago, 
entitled; Hamptie Dumptie I'm all over Kufi.

Mamoun Sakkal is from the University of Washington in Seattle. He is a doctor candidate, who is currently doing research on Kufi. He wrote to me and asked some pertinent questions about myself. So, I thought I should make the answer known to the public as well, as I sensed that there are many more people who are interested to know me - a Contemporary Artist and a Graphic Designer:

Initially I have two blogs about Kufi but now they have been reduced to just only one, at; My manager told me to be careful about flaunting all of my works because someone out there might abuse them. So, I deleted the other but maintaining just one in orderly manner.

Since my main objective in painting is to fulfill the obligation in the effort on dakwah, I themed my work as Monotheism Rhapsody in Kufi.

MS: 1. Where and when you were born? A brief biography?

SY: I was born in Johore (3/4 mile from Singapore), at the most southern state of the Peninsular Malaysia, on 27th April, 1953. I am the youngest in a Malay family of four. My father passed away while I was 5 months old. So I grew up with my struggling mother until I finished my secondary level and religious education, where I also learned Jawi (Arabic way of writing in Malay language) then. 

1n 1972, I continue my study at MARA Institute of Technology (ITM) until mid 1976 and passed with a Bachelor in Graphic Design. I was immediately employed by McCann Erickson, Advertising Agency in Kuala Lumpur as a finish artist, visualizer and Junior Art Director. Subsequently, I moved from one agency to another as an Art Director like Idris Lim Associate, Wings BBDO and Merit Design Consultants, to earn better pays.

In 1988, I went to Melbourne on a sponsorship of Rotary International to study etching technique in depth, where I engaged myself as an Artist in Residence at Raja Azhar Gallery at Franklin Street and later moved to Flinders Lane.

In 1989, I came back to Kuala Lumpur to get employed by Ted Bates until 1998. I was the head of Design unit (USP) specializing in Branding and Packaging Design. Until today the brand I have created and designed are still on the shelves, such as Fresh and white, Dobi, Sokubuku for Southern Lion, Mach 5 and Sprinta for Petronas, Flora and Dorina for Levers, Naturel for Lam Soon and many more, until I lost my job due to economic recession caused by George Soros legacy in 1998.

After some brief short journey, I didn't waste much time and enrolled myself into a post graduate study at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, where I earned a MA (Master of Arts in Art and Design Education) in 2002.

I was attached to the University of Malaya in 2004, but the environment doesn’t make me wanting to stay much longer there. So, I traveled to India and Bangladesh to learn the effort of dakwah for four months.

By the grace of Allah, being an artist and Graphic designer, the journey, experience and learnt from it, earned me an inspiration to do something different in painting. I was looking for a way to connect the effort of dakwah and painting then, until I saw kufi pattern which really intrigued me. So worked out a way to combine my spiritual endavour with creativity. The fruits are all the sixtyfour masterpieces in my collection today.

MS: 2. How and where did you learn Square Kufi? Please be as detailed as possible?

SY: I first saw kufi in an inside page cover of Al Qur'an in a hotel room while I was on holiday with my family at Port Dickson. The second time I saw Kufi was when I visited The Islamic Arts Muzium of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur as ornaments to the building. Then, I learnt and made an attempt to construct Kufi typography with computer using Adobe Illustrator software on my own, by copying the surah Al Ikhlas which I first saw in the hotel room.

After a successful attempt I tried to construct more surahs, mainly the last surahs in Al Quran. My wife told me to carry on doing what I was doing because she found it interesting too.

Being a Graphic designer I have worked out a technique to transfer the design onto canvas and started painting them. Alhamdulillah!, today, I am on my 65th work and still going strong.

This sculpture was shown to me by Richard Abas (the man in the picture), on 10th , Dec. at 3.30 pm in front of Guthrie office at Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam, Selangor. He is the author of a blog It has been there for more then a decade ago and showing signs of decaying. Before this, I never realize that there are already some existing Kufi fans in that magnitude of level in my own country. This visit fruited more ideas and have gotten me even more motivated to carry on.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Detail meaning about monotheism by the scholars

This painting is entitled Al Ikhlas (3), painted in 2008 on Linen with emulsion paint, the size is 76 cm X 76 cm.

The meaning of the ayat:
In the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
1. Say (o Muhammad S.A.W.): He is Allah, (the one)
2. Allah-us-Samad (Allah - the Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, (he neither eats nor drinks).
3. "He begets not, nor was He begotten."
4. "And there is none co-equal or comparable onto Him." 

According to Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali from Madinah Al Munawarah, (March, 1999), the authors of "Interpretation of the Meanings of The Noble Qur'an in The English Language" Published by Darussalam Publishers, printed in Italy ; 

Tauhid (Islamic Monotheism) has three aspects:

(A) Oneness of the Lordship of Allah; Tauhid-ar-Rububiyyah: To believe that there is only one Lord for all the universe and He is, the Creator, Organizer, Planner, Sustainer, and the Giver of security, that is Allah.

(B) Oneness of the worship of Allah; Tauhid-al-Uluhiyyah: To believe that none has the right to be worshipped (e.g. praying, invoking, asking for help from the unseen, swearing, slaughtering sacrifices, giving charity, fasting, pilgrimage) but Allah.

(C) Oneness of the Names and the Qualities of Allah: Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat:
(i) One must  not  name  or  qualify  Allah  except  with  what  He  or  His Messenger (s.a.w.) has named or qualified Him;

Painted in 2008, entitled Shahadah. Emulsion on Linen, measures 64 cm X 64 cm

ii) None can be named or qualified with the Names or Qualifications of Allah; e.g. Al-Karim;

(iii) We must believe in all the Qualities of Allah which Allah has stated in His Book (the Qur'an) or mentioned through His Messenger (Muhammad s.a.w.) without changing their meaning or ignoring them completely or twisting the meanings or likening them (giving resemblance) to any of the created things e.g. Allah is present over His Throne as mentioned in the Qur'an (V. 20:5):- 

"The Most Gracious (Allah) rose over (Istawa) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty)," over the seventh heaven; and He comes down over the first (nearest) heaven to us during the last third part of every night and also on the day of 'Arafah (Hajj, i.e. the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah), as mentioned by the Prophets.a.w. , but He is with us by His Knowledge, not by His Personal-Self. Also Allah says:

"There is nothing like unto Him and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer" (V.42:ll). This Noble Verse proves the quality of hearing and the quality of sight for Allah without likening it (or giving resemblance) to any of the created things, and likewise He also says:

"To one whom I have created with Both My Hands," (V.38:75); and He also says: "The Hand of Allah is over their hands." (V.48:10).

This confirms two Hands for Allah, but there is no similarity for them. This is the Belief of all true believers, and was the Belief of all the Prophets of Allah, from Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and 'Isa (Jesus) till the last of the Prophets, Muhammad s.a.w. (It is not as some people think that Allah is present everywhere — here, there and even inside the breasts of men).

Painted in 2004, entitled Al Ikhlas (1).Emulsion on canvas, measures 50 cm X 50 cm.

These three aspects of Tauhid are included in the meaning  of La ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah). It is also essential to follow Allah's Messenger, Muhammad s.a.w.: Wujub al-Ittiba' and it is a part of Tauhld-al-Uluhiyyah. This is included in the meaning, "I testify that Muhammad s.a.w. is Allah's Messenger," and this means, "None has the right to be followed after Allah's Book (the Qur'an), but Allah's Messenger s.a.w."ilaha illallah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah). It is also essential to follow Allah's Messenger, Muhammad s.a.w.: Wujub al-Ittiba' and it is a part of Tauhld-al-Uluhiyyah. This is included in the meaning, "I testify that Muhammad s.a.w. is Allah's Messenger," and this means, "None has the right to be followed after Allah's Book (the Qur'an), but Allah's Messenger s.a.w."

Allah says: "And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad s.a.w.) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it)." (V.59:7) 

And also Allah says: "Say (o Muhammad s.a.w. to mankind), 'If you (really) love Allah then follow me [i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Qur'an and the Sunnah (legal ways of the Prophet s.a.w.)], Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins.' "(V.3:31)

This painting is also entitled Al Ikhlas (2),
was treated with the inclusion of ornaments around the ayat,
formed by arrangement of shapes of Sinar leaves
which I collected during my visit to Greece in 2006.
It was painted on Linen with emulsion in 2007,
the size is 76 cm X 76 cm.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Take a close look at this painting

This painting is Shukor's 64th and the last masterpiece in 2008,
 it is entitled "Luqman : 26", which was completed last week on 2nd Dec.

 It measures 102 cm X 65 cm.

Like the rest of his paintings,
Shukor used emulsion paints on Linen 
as his medium.

Implicitly it carries a deep meaning describing examples of the names and qualities of Allah, "To Allah belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth. Verily, Allah, He is Al Ghani (Rich, Free of all needs), worthy of all praise." 

In Shukor's process of knowing Allah, this particular sentence from the Holy Al Quran struck hime into even deeper understanding, because this ayat explained to us that God is so wealthy and does not need anybody to help Him adding on to his wealth. He is also the most Noble. 

With these names and qualities no men can match, it is only logical that we must admit that no matter how rich a man can be, he is still poor in the eyes of Allah. In addition, no matter how noble a man can be he is still a servant to Allah. So, therefore we are all poor and slaves. So why should we ask from other person when we are in need. Why not we learn to ask from Allah and start praising Him instead of the others?