First verse of the Koran in 6,000 different styles

New Delhi, Apr 8 | Updated: Apr 9 2008, 05:46am hrs
His inclination towards calligraphy was realised way back in school, when he frequently labelled the notebooks of his classmates with their names written in beautiful artistic forms.

However, for 60-year old Hashim Akhtar Naqvi, an architect by profession and calligrapher by interest, the inclination became a life-long devotion when he took upon the task of writing the first verse of the Holy Koran in as many stylised forms as possible.

At last count, the Lucknow based artist had already written the verse in over 6000 styles. His innovative faculties are still as enthusiastic as they were when he started the work, ensuring that he can smoothly go on to add more to his stock.

Recognised by the Limca book of records for his unique venture, the collection of the artist was recently displayed in the capital at the Indira Gandhi national centre for arts, as part of the programme, Aqeedat ke Rang, an exhibition of expressions of devotion in Islam.

When I started blending the verse into artistic designs, I felt I would hardly be able to proceed beyond 8 or 10 forms. But the ideas kept coming and the verse kept repeating itself through my fingers until there was a collection of over 6000 styles, and the venture has not yet ended says Naqvi.

The Arabic verse, Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, translated as, In the Name of Allah, most beneficient, most merciful, which is recited by Muslims before performing any major or minor task is also represented by the number 786.

Blending his architectural vision to his innate artistic capacity, Naqvi who has been experimenting with the script of the verse for over 20 years, has produced some genuinely original work of calligraphy.

What makes it even more interesting is the fact that his calligraphic pursuits derive very little influence from the existing Arabic calligraphic forms but is largely innovative and in some cases adopts from the scripts of regional Indian languages. I have tried to include the influence of the script of a number of

Indian languages. including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam and Kannada, he says.