The story of this gem is of a magnanimous soul whose presence and charisma lifts me up every time he comes to mind. May God Bless him with more of the spark that lights his spirit and brings light to our eyes and hearts.
I was gifted with this discovery in the most wonderful way, when my beloved auntie Noreen opened her home to us, yet again, for a very special gathering and mini-exhibition with the renowned Muslim Chinese calligrapher, Haji Noor Deen. I LOVE calligraphy and auntie Noreen so I needed no second bidding.
It was something to see Arabic calligraphy on traditional Chinese paper and silk and I was struck by the marvelous influence of the Chinese script and way of writing. There were pieces where you would think at first glance that Hajji Noor Deen had used Chinese script but it was Arabic! Even with easily recognizable text of Al-Shahada or the name of God or Mohammad peace and blessings be upon him.
His intelligence and open confident demeanor is what I picked up on first, then he gave us a presentation that showed agility and a lively wit! I, of course decided to get pieces for me and my siblings and gifts for my friends from his smaller nonetheless lovely pieces.
The second time I saw him was at a panel discussion for the event where he spoke eloquently in Chinese, assisted by his translator Yusuf who later became a friend. He was welcoming and invited us to visit and even to learn from him for free if we took a vow of honor to pass on the teaching! I went and said hello and he remembered me and graciously invited me again to China, which by the way, is on the top of my wish list after I saw the Peter Sanders exhibit on Islam in China. Just a breathtaking confluence of colors, culture and faith.
The next time he was mentioned was by Peter Sanders who said that Hajji Noor Deen hosted him although he knew no English and would travel with him traversing difficult terrain to show him around and make sure he got the photos he wanted. A picture of Adab in hospitality was forming with such beauty and richness of detail. I love encountering examples of people who gained great acclaim that it didn’t affect their welcome of others but rather increased it if anything.
The nudges continued when my sister went to his exhibit in Turkey where he had collaborated with Turkish master Hikmet Barutçugil of the Turkish art of Marbling (ebru). Together, the two artists created some real masterpieces.
Only days after my sister visited the exhibition in Turkey, I attended a book club meeting at Zaytuna college with Imam Zaid Shaker and low and behold the walls of the main hallway in the lower campus were frequented with paintings by none other than Hajji Noor Deen himself. He had donated them to support Zaytuna college and yes you guessed it, there too I picked up some pieces for me and my siblings as my siblings are getting new homes ma sha Allah! I wanted them to have these artworks in particular by Hajji Noor Deen as it’s my prayer for them that their home gives them a haven of warmth and joy and many truly beautiful moments.
MEET Hajji Noor Deen
Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang is a renowned master of Arabic calligraphy.
- He was born in 1963 Yucheng Shandong, Province in China.
- He is a lecturer at the Islamic College at Zhengzhou in the province of Henan, and is also a researcher of Islamic culture at the Henan Academy of Sciences.
- In 1997, Hajji Noor Deen was the first Chinese Muslim to be awarded the Egyptian Certificate of Arabic Calligraphy and to be admitted as a member of the Egyptian calligraphy.
- In 2000 Noor Deen initiated and taught the first regular and systemic Arabic Calligraphy course at the Zheng Denna Islamic College in China.
- In 2005 a piece named The Ninety-Nine names of God was acquired by the British museum to be Displayed in their gallery of Islamic Art.
- In 2017 Noor Deen was honored with an Arabic Calligraphy Certificate, called Ijaza, by Master Calligraphers, Hasan Celebi Hoca, Dawood Bektash, Farhad Kurlu and Ahmed Koral Hoca in Istanbul Turkey.
- He has the first Chinese Calligraphy to be honored by the Ottoman Calligraphy School.
- His work has been displayed around the world often as the first Chinese Arabic Artist, and has been acquired of the permanent collection of many museum including: The British Museum, San Francisco, Asian Museum National Museum of Scotland and Harvard University Arts Museum.
- Hajji Noor Deen’s extraordinary mastery and genius along with his unique ability to spectacularly present his craft to an audience has brought him lecture and workshop invitations from some of the most prestigious institutions across the globe, including: Peking University, Harvard University, Cambridge University, University of California, Berkeley, Boston University and Qatar Islamic Cultural Center (FANAR). He has exhibited his work in the USA. UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia Singapore, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Mauritius, Kuwait, Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Alysia, and Uzbekistan.
- Hajji Noor Deen has spent most of his time educating students in Arabic calligraphy. Over the years, many of his students have become successful calligraphers. In his lifetime, he has written the following books; A Copybook of Arabic Calligraphy, Arabic Calligraphy Correspondence, Appreciation of Arabic Calligraphy -600 Types of Familiar Bismillah, Arabic Calligraphy in the Chinese Tradition, Q & A Islamic Art, and The Study of Arabic Calligraphy in Chinese Tradition.
- He is currently concentrating on searching for manuscripts on the Qur’an and Arabic calligraphy theory.
- He specializes in the Sini style which originated from the Chinese Muslim tradition. His Calligraphy is known for its beauty and it’s complexity.
LEARN about the Ebru master Hikmet Barutçugil
Hikmet Barutçugil moved to England from Turkey following his degree in Textile Design in 1977, and deciding on career in Ebru. In London, he conducted his postgraduate studies in abstract art between 1978 and 1981. Barutçugil transfused progressive methods with the classical manners of Ebru and applied time-tested motives of this decorative art on a multitude of functional media, e.g. interior surfaces, gadgets, and clothes, thus introducing the majestic beauty to the general public. His technical trials resulted in a unique line of Ebru, now known by his name as Barut Ebru.
DISCOVER Peter Sanders
Peter Sanders is an internationally acclaimed photographer renowned for his documentation of the Islamic World. For forty years he has traveled extensively and has amassed a huge archive of over a quarter of a million photographs documenting a traditional Islam that is fast disappearing.
A visitor to one of his most recent exhibitions said: 'I was touched deeply not only by the photos, but by the photographer himself. He gave me an opportunity to reflect on my existence on earth and see the beauty of Islam.'
VISIT Zaytuna College
Zaytuna College, the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States, began in 1996 as Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California. Zaytuna College aims to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.