Dimensions of Sheet: 28 (w) x 21 (h) cm
Script: thuluth and naskh
This ijazah, or diploma of competency in Arabic calligraphy, was written by 'Ali Ra'if Efendi in 1206/1791. The top and middle panels contain a Saying (Hadith) attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. It reads:
Secret charity quenches the wrath of the Lord. / The best of you is the best for his family. / The best of the followers is Uways.
In the two lowermost panels appear the signed approvals of two master calligraphers, Mustafa al-Halimi and Husayn Hamid ( Selim 1979, 173), dated 1206/1791. Each section of writing appears on a separate piece of differently colored paper, illuminated with gold and dimpled with a stylus for reflection.
The official function of the ijazah consists in giving a student the authority to sign his own calligraphic works with expressions such as katabahu (written by) and hararahu (composed by), thus allowing him to become independent and take on pupils of his own. In order to receive the diploma, the student had to transcribe or copy (taqlid) several lines of calligraphy that had to be approved by one or more co-signatory master calligraphers (Safwat 1996, 40). In some cases, the ijazah may include the calligrapher's chain of teachers (silsilah or sanad) reaching all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad himself (Gacek 1989: 44-55). In the Ottoman tradition especially, the calligraphic diploma (icazetname) was a well established practice linking, in an almost genealogical fashion, a student (talabah) to his teacher (hoca).
Photograph © Abdel Kader Haidara,Bibliotheque Mamma Haidara de Manuscrits et la Documentation. Siège: Tombouctou BP 71 RPp.du Mali
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