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Khate-e-Ra’ana - calligraphy script invented by Ibn-e-Kaleem

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This article appeared in weekly Friday Times

In the past few decades, perhaps no calligrapher has created more waves in the field of calligraphy than Ibn-e-Kaleem – the inventor of new script Khate-e-Ra’ana, which literally means beautiful. Ibn-e-Kaleem already stands above the streams of calligraphers who have come before him. 

Today he works in his father’s studio where he grew up. Experimenting with the styles of Nastaleeq, Kufi, Riqa, Diwani and Naqash, he is churning out master pieces and achieving greater recognition by the day.

While to the layman, all calligraphy may look alike, it is a fine and highly developed art with its own rules and manners. The trained eye can pick up detectable differences between the work of a professional and an armature. But the difference is more than merely the shapes of letters even though some are obviously round while others oval, some upright and some slanted, some bold and yet some light.

To come up with a whole new script is a giant task. It involves designing the form of each letter and laying it down in exact proportions and measurements in terms of qat – the square dot of the pen. That is exactly what Ibn-e-Kaleem has done. Khate-e-Ra’ana is distinct and like no other script in existence.

To understand the magnitude of this discovery, it is important to remember that after creation of ‘Nastaleeq’ by Mir Ali Sultan Tabreezi around 1400 in Persia, no script of Urdu, Persian or Arabic, has ever been invented, with the exception of Mirza Muhammad Hussain who developed the running the running hand version of Nastaleeq called Shakistan in 1616 and Mirza Sultan in Heart who came up with a similar style called Shaffiah in the middle of the seventeenth century. Ibn-e-Kaleem stands alone in the feat.

Throughout Islamic history, calligraphy has been most cherished of the fine arts. It forms the basis of our cultural heritage. It is such a deep source of aesthetic pleasure that it has been used on every occasion and on every artifact; coins and swords, guns and cannons, buildings and graveyards headstones, royal ordinances and even on bed spreads. Muslim rulers have been great admirers and patrons of the ancient art.

Pakistan has produced great calligraphers such as Taj Zareen Raqam, Hafiz Sadeedi, Syed Anwar Hussain Nafees Raqam, Sadeqain, and Ahsan Kamal. Now the work of Ibn-e-Kaleem – Khataat-e-Haft Qalam (master of the seven pens) – has earned him a place in the history of penmanship.

How did he find his métier? Ibn-e-Kaleem, whose real name is Hafiz Mohammad Iqbal Ahsan, was born with a pen in his hand in 1946 in Langha family of Multan. His father Muhammad Khan Kaleem Raqam was an accomplished calligrapher and a founder of a Calligraphy School in Multan while his great grandfather Mulana Qaimuddin Khan Langha was also a renowned master of the art, one of whose master pieces is the Holy Quran on display in the National Museum of Karachi. His son Hamid Iqbal too is a celebrated calligrapher.

Given the linage, iIt is not surprising to see why Ibn-e-Kaleem it is not surprising to see why Ibn-e-Kaleem felt the urge to create a new style of calligraphy, one that reflects his modern mind and sensibilities. And so he came up with a vigorous, jerky, angular, coiling, wriggling and harshly curveting script far removed from the mellifluous and sweetly flowing Nastaleeq we are so familiar with.

Ibn-e-Kalem has held exhibitions of his work in Multan, Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Delhi where his work has been loudly acclaimed. He has won the King Khalid Medal for calligraphy the International Commission for the Preservation of Islamic Heritage in Turkey has conferred upon him the title of Nadir ul Qalam. 

Today, Ibn-e-Kaleem is not only practicing artist but a devoted promoter of the art. He is also actively promoting the understanding of calligraphy among the masses. He has trained thousands of youth including foreign students. He has written three books on the history of the art and many takhtais (tablets) on the mechanics of calligraphy. His book Murraaqa-e-Ra’anae is a huge album in which he has printed variety of his writings showing endless possibilities of his new script. It is the most sumptuous book of the kind published in Pakistan. 

Besides reproducing Quranic verses, Ibn-e-Kaleem has also designed beautiful compositions in the form of in the form of circular, oval and oblong panels. His circular signs are specially striking and the 99 names of Allah Karim written in the form of large modulations with intricate borders are a great achievement. One of his famous canvases displays verses of Sura Al Rehman. But perhaps his most awesome work is in the mosque of Multan Cantonment Railways Station where he has filled the walls with the 99 names of Allah Almighty as well as verses from holy Quran.

Related: Art for Allah, Muraqa-e-Ra'anaee

Hassan Parwana Road, Multan
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 4:20 PM,


At 1:44:00 AM, Blogger Deb Sistrunk said...

What an interesting post! I love this kind of stuff.

At 6:21:00 AM, Blogger jalalHB said...

Thank you for sharing this - calligraphy has always been one of my passions - which took my two brothers to work very closely with the late Sadequain.

At 12:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post Sherazi. It was very educative. Keep up the good work.
Zaffar Iqbal Durrani

At 1:33:00 PM, Blogger Shiirazi said...

@Thanks Deb S, JalalHb and ZID.

At 9:01:00 PM, Blogger Awais said...

Great Post!!

At 1:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


a very nice blog. I want to ask you about rules and measurements of other calligraphy scripts like kufi, thulut(sulus), Nasakh, nastaleeq and others. Can you please give me some links or data about this script. Like a photo which you have uploaded about Nastaleeq Script, can you please add some more images Based on rules about these scripts ? Please reply me on my mailing address if possible.

Muhammad Yahya
Lahore - Pakistan


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