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Gold Medalist
IRSHAD HUSSAIN FAROOQI
India’s First National Award and Shilp Guru Award Winner on
“Calligraphy in Wood Carving”

Irshad Hussain Farooqi, Islamic Calligraphy, Wood Carving Calligraphy, Calligraphy by Wood Carving

Irshad Hussain Farooqi is a self taught, self disciplined and self dependent practitioner of one of the rarest crafts in India, artist Irshad Farooqi is arguably the one and only calligrapher in India who produces Islamic Calligraphy on Wood.

Pertaining to a family background of Hakeems (Unani Medicine Practitioners) and renowned Sufi Saints, Irshad Farooqi was never destined to become a Calligrapher. Born in Sikar, Rajasthan Irshad Farooqi belongs to the dynasty of ‘Sultanut-tarikeen Sufi Hameeduddeen Nagauri Farooqi (R.A.)’ (Second khalifa of khwaja Moinuddin Chisti Ajmeri (R.A.). During his childhood days Irshad Farooqi always saw one of his relatives – ‘Mastan Baba’ doing calligraphy. He was so brilliant with his work that made not only Irshad Farooqi awestruck but also the on-lookers who stood by to witness an expeditious calligraphic writing displayed by ‘Mastan Baba’. This was Irshad’s first input which he received and this immediately made him fall in love with the art form. The growing age and academic pressure somewhere somehow diluted and diverted his wish to practice calligraphy. He completed his B.A. in 1981, M.A. in 1983 from the University of Rajasthan. He then pursued P.G. Diploma in Journalism and completed it in 1984. Always medically fit Irshad Farooqi then got enrolled in The Rajasthan State Flying School Jaipur. After completing the first two levels of his flying training and obtaining a student and a Private Pilot License Irshad farooqi was unable to continue with his further flying lessons due to financial constraints that left his dream of becoming a pilot unrealized. But, always filled with feelings of Positivity and Hope, Irshad Farooqi decided to move to Delhi and look for alternatives. Continuously coping with financial problems and challenges Irshad Farooqi joined newspaper publication house ‘Nayi Duniya’ and Daily Awam’ as a sub-editor on a meager salary. Experiencing sleepless nights and days, when he would not have a penny in his pocket, Irshad Farooqi never lost hope and his faith in Allah.

During an exhibition in Delhi which Irshad Farooqi happened to visit, graphically displayed he saw some samples on calligraphy which influenced him and rekindled the desire in him to practice this art, from years ago when he used to see Mastan Baba as a child. Seeing the samples, he proposed a unique style of calligraphy to himself, the art of doing calligraphy on wood. But to practice that form of craft a prior knowledge in writing calligraphy was necessarily needed. He decided to enroll into a two year program at Ghalib Academy, Hazrat Nizammudin, New Delhi to learn the nuances of Urdu Calligraphy. Slowly and gradually he began to realize his innovative concept on calligraphy. Irshad Farooqi learnt Islamic Calligraphy Writing at the Ghalib Academy New Delhi. Without looking back Irshad Farooqi started to excel in his long lost love of calligraphy and touch new heights. The enthusiasm of Irshad Farooqi to transfer the art to an entirely new medium kept his spirits up even in difficult times. He never forgets to mention that Allah has been very kind to him and has always sent somebody as an angel in disguise to purchase his pieces. His dedication and devotion to this art form can be seen in the modeled pieces which he had made with constant hard work and patience.

The very first design which was modeled out of his hands was the name of Allah in the shape of a ‘Surahi’ (A water Urn). Conceptualization from basic and simple designs he further expanded into more complicated and complex designs. In general Calligraphy is two dimensional; however, efforts to produce it on wood have made it three dimensional, of which the only and the most unique style of work has been shown by Irshad Farooqi. Farooqi honored by National Award by the Government of India, he says, “This National Award is the sign of recognition of my talent. Insha Allah I will make history one day. Although these are sinful hands yet God has granted me talent for making wood calligraphy.”

After a long wait the sun has finally started shining on his career. Irshad Farooqi says “In the world of art I want to make India proud as Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shri Ram Vanji Sutar, M.F.Hussain and A.R.Rehman. Irshad Farooqi has been honored with the prestigious “Kala Nidhi Award” by the Governor of Haryana at Suraj Kund Handicrafts Mela in 2009 and the “Moulana Qazi Sajjad Hussain Award” at Ghalib Academy. He was nominated for the prestigious Maharana Mewar Foundation Annual Award. He received “Community Service Award” from renowned Moulana and member of parliament Asrarul Haq Qasmi.

Irshad Hussain Farooqi recently honored with the most prestigious and highest award of handicrafts the SHILP GURU AWARD” with a “GOLD MEDAL” by the Honorable President of India Shri Pranab Mukarjee in a ceremony held in Rashtarapati Bhavan, New Delhi on 09.12.2016.

Irshad Farooqi believes that wood presentation as three dimensional Calligraphy is in itself the creation of a new mode; in which chemical processes in the furnace is used to prepare the high quality of dried solid rubber wood. Traditional design (Thugra) made on paper cannot be replicated on wood; therefore, according to the nature of wood, in order to do calligraphy without violations of the original rules, letters are modified and then carved on wood. All these geometric creations are based on the principles of balance which makes it possible to present a balanced tone in all directions of the wooden calligraphy piece. The process through which he carves Islamic inscriptions on wooden pieces is entirely customized. In the beginning of the process concrete panels of wood of various sizes are cut according to need. With the help of a wooden surfacer medium, the wood is made smooth and even from both sides and the smoother part is glued to the set design. The respective design is cut off with a simple scroll saw which is completely controlled by the artist’s hands; thus the design is made by hands and background wood is removed. The remaining part of the design on the wood is eliminated and the wood is made smooth, flat and even from all sides to ensure that no trace of roughness remains on the surface. To give the wooden piece a shining effect, a white waxy polish is applied to the surface. It is then pasted to a wooden base and is covered with a transparent acrylic case.

A patriot, his love for his country is reflected in his deepest desire to make a design of Surah Al-Faateha, the opening chapter of the Holy Qu’ran (which is now complete and acceptance has been granted from the Royal Court of Dewan office of the Oman to present this design to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, The Sultan of Oman). Now Farooqi is preparing a design of the biggest verse (Aayatul Kursi) and the design of Surah Attiin (now completed) of the Holy Qur’an. He has also prepared a design of zikr of Allah Hoo, Allah Haque, Allah Hai. His artworks will be embedded with precious jewels and gemstones.

Farooqi is practicing all the main styles of the Arabic calligraphy like Thulth, Kufic, Diwani. He is also prepared a design of ‘Aayatul kursi’ in Diwani style of calligraphy and also make an art work of ‘The Gayatri Mantra’ in Sanskrit. He has prepared a design based on interfaith religions in which he has carved ‘Om, Allah, Ek onkar and Cross. These days he is busy in making a series of 99 attributes of Allah; also he is working on various verses and chapters of the Holy Qur’an like Surah Adduha and Surah Muzzamil etc.

Farooqi has exhibited his art works on national level and international level; he participated in Incredible India Handicrafts shows in Muscat (Oman), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Bangkok (Thailand). Aware of the grave situation and an endangered future of this art form he even suggests preventive measures that should be implemented to save the dying art of Calligraphy. His advice to the Government of India is to establish Calligraphic art galleries in the capital’s prime and posh locations which shall enable increased awareness and recognition of the art which is crucial for its revival. Irshad Farooqi now wants to make an institution, an art gallery and a Museum for revival of this sacred art form. He believes that this art can only be mastered with full concentration, dedication and patience. Whoever wishes to learn this art form must have a fundamental knowledge of calligraphy.

The ultimate goal of Irshad Farooqi’s art is to spread peace, harmony, brotherhood and unity. These values, he believes are urgently needed in our times of war, hatred and crisis.

By: Kanika Gupta

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