The Alif-Ba: A Manuscript of the Arabic Alphabet

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The piece below is just one small way in which Muslims endeavored to adorn and perfume their adoration for th e language in which the Qur’an was revealed.

This piece fits beautifully anywhere, whether it be a living room, nursery, office, or school.

Lavishly illuminated, this Ottoman manuscript was designed for a student to learn to read Arabic, It’s illumination is in the Ottoman Baroque style, which mixes European and traditional Islamic influences. Purposefully and creatively assimilated, the style’s cross-cultural borrowings were combined with Byzantine references that asserted the Ottomans’ entitlement to the Classical artistic heritage of Europe.

The original manuscript was inaccessible, so we worked with an artist to recreate and recolor the alphabet. We are happy to remaster this piece for all to enjoy and dwell on this beautiful and sacred alphabet.

The top du’a, ‘rabbi yassirli wa la tu'assir’ meaning ‘Oh Lord, ease [my task] and make it not difficult’ was customarily written on many reading and calligraphy manuals from the time.

May Allah allow us to appreciate the Arabic language and its secrets.

Paper: Archival Quality Giclee Print

Size: 11" x 14"

Illumination: Alena Samorodova

Calligraphy: Josh Berer

Art Direction: Nushmia Khan

More about the Alif-Ba:

Muslim civilization has always deeply revered the mighty stature of the Arabic alphabet and language. God states unequivocally in His Book: “Indeed, We have sent it down as a Qur'an in Arabic in order that you understand.” (12:2)

What is less known though is that each letter of the Arabic alphabet has abstract and esoteric meanings in and of itself—so much so, in fact, that when recited with intentionality and presence, they yield Divine gifts and pleasures. In a hadith, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever recites a letter from the Book of Allah, he will receive one good deed as ten good deeds like it. I do not say that Alif Lam Mim is one “letter”, but rather Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter, and Mim is a letter.” (at-Tirmidhi)

Arabic grammarians and linguists over the centuries have written volumes on the individual letters from various angles in fields such as exegesis, tajwid, calligraphy, numerology, lettrism, and more. One famous book in the ishtiqaq genre is Ibn Jinni’s al-Khasa’is, or “Defining Characteristics” in which the author dives deep into how the letters of the Arabic language come together in trilateral root patterns to form a thick semantic web of complex and overwhelming meaning.

In several cultures, the Arabic alphabet is called the Alefbe, or Alifbasi, which is why we named this piece the Alif-Ba.

By the pen, and what they write [68:1]

The science behind Islamic calligraphy

When done properly, Islamic calligraphy is a science as much as it is an art form. Each letter in each script has been mastered over for generations so that it is in the most perfect proportions determined by sacred geometry. After a few hours of viewing calligraphy, it is easy to differentiate the self-taught calligrapher versus the calligrapher who has perfected the artform under a master.

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