Faqeera Raisa Abdul-Karim


Verse from the Quran
Lamp black ink on handmade lokta paper
78 x 56 cm

Muhammad (pbuh)

Muhammad (pbuh)
Lamp black ink and shell gold on handmade lokta paper
38 x 29 cm


Lamp black ink on handmade lokta paper
38 x 28 cm

Artist statement

“God is beautiful and loves beauty.” This statement was made by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and is the guiding principle of my art practice. My work is centered on Islamic calligraphy within the Ottoman tradition, of which I am a long-term student.

The outward beauty of Islamic Calligraphy can be found in the harmony, balance and flow of each line as well as the unseen geometric proportions of the individual letters and their relation to the composition in which they sit. Calligraphy was developed as a means of preserving the words of the Quran in a manner befitting their majestic nature. Therefore the inner or spiritual beauty of Islamic calligraphy resides in the timeless divine words of the Creator addressing humankind directly.

For my second year, I have chosen to focus on Ottoman-era calligraphic works from the 15th century whose subject matter is apotropaic in their nature. Apotroapaios, from the Greek meaning to “turn away from or ward off evil.” In the context of Islamic calligraphy, apotropaic compositions were used as a means of protecting oneself or one’s property from dangers both physical and spiritual. The most common examples of this usage can be found in verses of the Quran hung in the homes of many Muslims even in contemporary times.

In the early days of the Ottoman school of traditional Islamic calligraphy, a composition called the “Hilye e Serif” was developed. This distinctive composition was widely used as means of protecting homes from earthquakes and other natural disasters as it was believed to contain barakah, or blessings due to its subject matter. The Hilye continues to be written by modern-day calligraphers and is one of the compositions I will be including in my second-year projects.

In my works, I will also be using the traditional materials of an Islamic calligrapher which include hand-cut reed pens, ink ground from soot, and handmade paper which has been sized using natural materials and then burnished to a smooth finish with a stone. Utilising these traditional materials deepens the connection to the roots of Islamic calligraphy and links my work to the chain of those calligraphers who have come before me.

In Islam calligraphy is more than beautiful writing, it is considered the highest form of art and a deeply spiritual practice as well as a religious science. There is a saying in Turkish that when a person is born they have an allotted number of breaths in the body and once those breaths are exhausted, the person expires. But the calligrapher, who holds his breath while writing lives longer. Breath is a form of energy and when a person practises Islamic calligraphy he or she will hold the breath inward. The breath then travels down the arm and into the pen, ink, and finally onto the paper where the writing would manifest itself as having "breath.” Therefore as long as the calligraphy piece is “alive” the calligrapher is alive.


Faqeera Raisa Abdul-Karim

Raisa is an American-born student of Islamic calligraphy studying under the Ottoman tradition. Fascinated by the pedagogical transmission of knowledge in which the secrets of khat are passed from master to student, in 2018 Raisa travelled to Istanbul and began a rigorous, traditional apprenticeship in Islamic calligraphy.

Her journey into studying Islamic calligraphy became a doorway of awareness into other traditional arts which led Raisa to the Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Art.

The MA programme has allowed Raisa to broaden her understanding of a vast array of traditional arts and crafts through both research and practical application. "My studies at the school have given me a much deeper appreciation for the traditional arts and the artisans and craftspeople who produce them."

Raisa's future plans include returning to Istanbul to continue studying Islamic calligraphy with the hope of one day earning an ijazah or diploma from her teacher. With this permission she would like to uphold the traditional method of training future calligraphers.


Instagram: @raisa.radhiya
Email: Raisa.radhiya[at]