Tauheed Faheem is an emerging self-taught Arabic calligraphy artist in Surrey, British Columbia. A 2nd year Accounting student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Tauheed has always had a passion for creating art. His first encounters with Arabic calligraphy were during his childhood when he began to teach himself to write by tracing the outlines of letters and shapes that his teacher printed from the Internet. Now he boasts the title “professional calligrapher”, but he was not always good at it.

“I hated writing English cursive as a kid,” He laughs. “My hold on the pencil was terrible. My dad used to make me write out a page of my alphabets every day,” But over time, he began to see it less as a chore and more of a form of art. He continued to practice, and when he began to practice calligraphy, practicing English letters kicked it.

Tauheed sees Arabic calligraphy as a monumental part of Islamic art history that is often overlooked or disregarded. Some of the greatest and oldest Masjids around the world, such as the Mosque of Córdoba in Spain, the Suleymaniye Mosque in Turkey, the Badshahi Mosque in Pakistan, are adorned with calligraphy. Furthermore, a remarkable fact is that none of the Qurans we use today are computer generated; they are written by hand by a family who does calligraphy, and then scanned in high resolution and mass printed. You can tell by the endings of some of the letters, and the spaces between the words which aren’t consistent, that it is not all generic, there’s variation – the words have life in them. The art of calligraphy has an inherent spiritual connection to Islam, and Tauheed sees calligraphy as a means to connect with his deen; whenever he makes a new piece of a Quranic verse, he always takes time to understand its meaning and significance.

From this passion stemmed the idea to create a workbook to pass on his love for art and Arabic calligraphy to others. Tauheed created Grey Lines, a four-volume Arabic calligraphy workbook which leads total beginners to building the foundation needed to start learning fluent Arabic writing, brick by brick. The workbooks are designed to be practical and cost-efficient for a beginner student, and all the exercises are created by hand and can be completed with an accessible marker that can be purchased at the Dollar Store.

“There’s a misconception that calligraphy needs to be expensive, and that puts people off,” says Tauheed. “If a young child ruins a pen while using these books in their classroom, the teacher doesn’t have to worry about the replacement cost, so that cost barrier is removed.”

The purpose of these workbooks is to teach the beginner pen control and the varied angles in Arabic calligraphy, and the four volumes are built to serve this goal. The first volume focuses on basic shapes and angles; the second on Arabic letters; the third on beginning, connecting and ending letters; and the fourth ties it all together.

The workbook is not meant to make the student a calligrapher. Arabic calligraphy is not just a pastime, it’s difficult discipline that requires knowledge of different font styles, pens, paper, and scripts. This book is meant to teach the student that one does not have to become a calligrapher, but one can still be an artist; one can still connect with their deen and learn the Quran through it.

Tauheed always had an interest in business and entrepreneurship, and created the workbook because he saw it as a challenge. He put the entire book together from scratch, and wrote, designed, photographed and published it independently with the help of a supportive team. However, he didn’t always receive support or motivation; it took him two years to put together volumes one and two, and throughout the journey, people regularly told him that he was wasting his time. He persevered regardless, because in his own words, “If you want to create anything, you have to believe in it, even if no one else will, and Allah will help you through it.”

Tauheed’s advice for someone who uses the workbooks is to read the introduction and really study the shapes before diving in. The exercises may seem trivial, but they are more difficult than they look. He advises students to let the book be a means to discover the relationship between art and Islam, and if they are non-Muslim, to learn more about Islam. He also recommends that the student experiment with different pens and markers, because part of learning is to get the hang of different sizes and tips. The student can even use a highlighter the first time, which has a chisel tip, and go over the shapes a second time with marker.

What’s next? As of November 20th, Tauheed has launched a campaign on LaunchGood in order to raise money for the next two volumes which will be published late 2018. He is currently taking bookings for calligraphy workshops in the Vancouver and Greater Toronto Area. To learn more about the workbook or to book a workshop visit his website: http://tauheedfaheem.com/greylines/

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