Discover the wonders of Islamic craftsmanship, both old and new.
Each year, over 200 professional artisans spend several months delicately weaving 670 kilograms of pure black silk together. An additional 220 kilograms of gold and silver thread give contrast on the fabric, producing a cloth measuring over 650 square metres. This is no ordinary cloth. For Muslims worldwide this cloth, known as the Kiswah, covers the central point of the Islamic World, the Ka’bah. The annual tradition of covering the Ka’bah preserves a practice dating back over a thousand years to the very earliest days of Islam, when the Prophet Muhammad (sa) draped the Ka’bah in cloth produced from Yemen.
Craftsmanship throughout the history of Islam has focused on evoking the remembrance of Allah and the Oneness of God. It was this aspect – belief in the unity of God – that spurred Muslim artisans to give preference to shapes and patterns in the world around us, rather than figurative art which could lead to idolisation. Thus, the links between arts and sciences treads an intrinsically close line throughout Islam’s history – both artist and scholar would search for symmetry and patterns to understand God’s perfect creation.
The manifestation of such works, works which are obsessed by precision and detail, are well attested in the Muslim World. From the microscopic accuracy of the stone working at Alhambra in Spain, to the mathematical structure of Arabic calligraphy, craftsmanship took inspiration from our surroundings and sought to remind others of God’s presence.
This year’s The Review of Religions annual exhibition, held during the Jalsa Salana (annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community), will have the honour of hosting a magnificent display of craftsmanship from the Muslim World, both old and new. We are fortunate to once again be collaborating with Razwan Baig, one of the largest private collectors of Islamic Art in Europe, to showcase an incredible variety and quantity of outstanding artefacts, demonstrating the exemplary standards that Muslim artisans dedicated to their works.
Rare Kiswah Coming to the Exhibition
One of the highlights of this year’s exhibition features part of a historic Kiswah, used almost 100 years ago, as part of the curtain for the door of the Ka’bah. One of the many incredible pieces on display from Razwan Baig’s collection, this vast piece measures over 2 metres in height and will be on display for the attendees of Jalsa Salana to view up close. This incredible piece provides a glimpse into the period when the Ottoman Empire ruled over Makkah and employed a distinct red, green and gold pattern to the curtain door of the Ka’bah . Produced in Cairo, it was carried along with the Hajj caravan to Makkah and includes a dedication to Sultan Abdulmejid, the Ottoman Ruler of the time. This historic piece will remain on display throughout the three days of the Jalsa Salana.
World Renowned and Award-Winning Muslim Sculptor
Alongside the collection of rare artefacts on display, we are delighted to host Adam Williamson at this year’s event, an award-winning sculptor who has produced works for Prince Charles and the Queen’s Mother. Having travelled the world and learnt traditional methods from different cultures, Adam’s works focus on geometric designs and inspirations from nature. Adam will bring a collection of drawings and host live demonstrations of the craftsmanship to allow visitors to truly understand the dedication of this art form.
Masjid Mubarak Calligraphy, A Special Tribute
Craftsmanship in the Muslim World is not a historic practice but continues to thrive and inspire today. Earlier this year, a new Mosque was constructed at the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Housed in the British countryside, the interior of this Mosque features intricately drawn pieces of calligraphy, each with an attribute of God written in Arabic. Inspired by the vision of Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the 5th Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (aba), visitors will learn the back-story behind this historic project. The entire project took several months to complete and began with the intricate and beautiful hand-drawn calligraphic work of Razwan Baig. A number of the calligraphic pieces will be on display in the exhibition this year for visitors to witness up-close.
A summary of highlights include:
- Largest ever quantity of historic artefacts on display from Razwan Baig’s collection
- Rare and vast kiswah cloth from almost a century ago on display
- Sculpture and works of Adam Williamson to be showcased
- Special feature on the calligraphic pieces of Masjid Mubarak
- Live demonstrations by Razwan Baig and Adam Williamson throughout the three days
Join us this year August 2-4 as we explore the beauty and intricacy of Islamic Craftsmanship. For information on the exhibition please visit http://www.rorexhibition.org
About the Author: Rizwan Safir, Editor of Archaeology and Ancient Religion section, is a Senior Research Consultant specialising in archaeology and museums, with over 10 years experience in the Middle East. He has worked for the British Museum, Humboldt University Berlin, Copenhagen University and other such institutions on excavations and heritage conservation projects in the Middle East region; including Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Qatar. Rizwan currently works for Barker Langham on the development of new museums and exhibitions in the Gulf region.