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The Artisans Inlaying Marble with Lapis Quranic Calligraphy

The visually lyrical short documentary From the Hand of Man follows the process of artisans as they inlay marble with calligraphy made from lapis stone for the Haram in Mecca. The inlayed panels placed together contain verses from the Holy Quran extending along 2.5 square kilometres of marble.

Isra Morley

Shining lapis Quranic calligraphy inlaid in marbleThis documentary gifts viewers with a glimpse into the world of modern Islamic artistry and follows the creation of a set of unique marble slabs inlayed with stunning calligraphy. This task is undertaken by a group of specialised artisans in India who through love of their art and respect for its history endeavour to keep these ancient traditions alive.

Inspecting lapis Quranic calligraphy in marble inlay

This short feature follows the crafting of a set of stunning marble slabs inlayed with Quranic calligraphy designed for an extension that was being built to the Haram Sherif in Mecca. The undertaking is great and carries with it enormous responsibility, however Saray Design is no stranger to such pressures. 

Discussion of Quranic calligraphy marble inlay

Based in India and made up of a few select craftsmen (some of whom are descendants of the artisans who worked on the Taj Mahal) Saray Design was founded by Mitchell Abdul Karim Crites who, after seeing the potential their immense talent held, expanded the company to work on large Islamic art commissions from around the world. Crites deems his artists to be the best in the world and sees the preservation of their specific expertise as his personal responsibility. He also aims to foster an appreciation for Islamic material culture in younger artisans in hopes of continuing these beautiful traditions for many generations to come.

Lapis and marble Quranic calligraphy panels laid out

Although all the production of their art is done in India, their work draws on Muslim artistic excellence from all over the world. For this particular piece the calligraphy was designed by a master in Turkey and the company only uses materials from long-established sources, including lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and slabs of marble from south-east Asia, to ensure the expected excellence of quality. These materials have been highly valued and sought after for thousands of years in the Islamic world and beyond, with Saray Design continuing this rich and proud tradition.

Lapis Quranic calligraphy letters

From the art’s conception to its detailed creation through to the finishing gold-leaf touches this film celebrates the unseen labour and unsung artists that have and continue to define Islamic art. Just like their perfected methods, their techniques and devotion have remained unchanged over the centuries. Their work can best be described as a labour of love, with a team numbering over 700 artists and masters to complete just this one project. This short documentary is both aesthetically breathtaking and serves as a reminder of Islam’s rich cultural heritage, aspects that will appeal to all audiences.

Lapis Quranic Calligraphy installed in the Haram in Mecca

Isra Morley is in her final year studying English Literature and Latin at the University of Glasgow. Raised in Cardiff by an Indian mother and a Greek and Welsh convert father, Islam and the pursuit of its understanding have always been central to her life and writing. Having written articles for various Islamic publications, and taken part in assorted creative writing courses, she is currently an intern with the Alchemiya Journal.
'Hajj Stories' interviews Muslims who have made Hajj about their experiences, from making preparations to spending the day on the plain of Arafat.

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