Journey of an Islamic calligrapher

Rokiah Mahmud

It was a collective effort that contributed to the journey of completing the first fully hand-written Mushaf for Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA).

The Mushaf was written by locals involving various processes. It became the top priority for UNISSA when His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam urged for higher education institutions to have their own locally written Mushaf.

In answering the call, UNISSA set up the Mushaf Publication Unit in 2011.

The journey began with designing the Bruneian identity, Malay and Islamic characteristics as well as the identity of UNISSA that can be reflected as the leading Islamic higher learning institution regionally and internationally.

The project of writing commenced when His Majesty officially launched the Mushaf by writing Basmalah on the Ummul Kitab.

Mushaf UNISSA writer Muhammad Riziman and the completed mushaf. PHOTO: ROKIAH MAHMUD

Initially the writing of Mushaf UNISSA was done by UNISSA lecturer Wan Habib bin Wan Ibrahim. Until his passing on February 8, 2015, Wan Habib was the main writer, calligrapher and designer for Mushaf UNISSA. Before his passing, he completed five Juzuks of Al-Quran and stopped at Verse 57 of the Surah Al-’Ankabut.

The Mushaf was also designed by skilled locals Pengiran Haji Ibrahim bin Pengiran Haji Bakar and Hamdy bin Emran. Mushaf UNISSA Publishing Officer Dayangku Nurfaeizah binti Pengiran Haji Kamaluddin also contributed to the design.

The writing legacy was succeeded by Wan Habib’s student Muhammad Riziman bin Haji Usin who is now an assistant lecturer at UNISSA. Speaking with the Bulletin, Muhammad Riziman shared that he went through a stringent process before being selected to continue Wan Habib’s work.

He shared that before starting the writing process, his team went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for two weeks to learn more about calligraphy from experienced and expert facilitators in the art form.

“During the first three months, it was challenging to maintain consistency in writing. This is crucial as it could lead to a mistake or changes in lines or reading marks.

Alhamdulillah, after six months to one year, we slowly got to the stage where the shapes and sizes of the calligraphy were maintained, and it became easier.

“There was a target on how many pages we could complete or write in one week or a month. However, it was quite difficult to meet the schedule as one needs to be precise and careful in writing the verses of Al-Quran.

“There were several procedures in the process that need to be attained in completing the task.

“Despite running the writing at our office, I also continued the work at home so I could meet the deadlines. Or I would go to the office early and finish late.

“It is a beautiful experience working with Al-Quran when you feel the blessings and guidance from Allah the Almighty,” he said.

In ensuring the Mushaf UNISSA was of high quality and met the requirement of Rasm Uthmani, ‘Nasakh’ khat was used just like other Mushaf in the Sultanate.

Muhammad Riziman said, “Different calligraphers have different styles. We studied the masterpieces from from Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey and tried to follow their styles. But it takes time as calligraphy is an art form. Therefore, one needs the training and practice to improve the quality of writing.”

On the process of writing of Mushaf UNISSA, Muhammad Riziman noted that there were many obstacles and challenges during the project. It took almost nine to not only write the Mushaf, but deal with technical, secretariat and other matters involving outside parties.

“Sometimes the quality of the paper that we received was not up to standards, so we had to wait for the next batch to be designed and printed. Only after that could we work on the verses. There were also committees checking the punctuation, the distance between the verses, inks used, Tashih (verification) and placement of the verses.

“That was why the process took so long. But, Alhamdulillah, we managed to complete the book before His Majesty graced the Hafl Al-Takharruj ceremony recently,” Muhammad Riziman said.

During an appreciation ceremony to mark the completion of the Mushaf UNISSA writing, UNISSA Rector Dr Haji Norarfan bin Haji Zainal said the project was important and sacred, as Al-Quran is a source of knowledge, and highlighted that it is the symbol of Islam’s exalted knowledge and source of guidance in this world and hereafter.

He added that Mushaf UNISSA serves as platform to pioneer efforts towards the first hand-written Al-Quran by Bruneian khat writers.