Ghani Alani (Iraq-France), Untitled, blue and red inks on hand-coloured paper

© 2006 Ghani Alani

This calligraphy, in blue and red ink, is a transcription of a well-known verse from the Qur'an. Unusually, it is in a horizontal scroll format. Ghani Alani has used a script called muhaqqaq, which literally means 'meticulously produced'. It is one of the cursive scripts developed in the medieval period and favoured for ornamental inscriptions.

This Qur'anic verse is regarded as particularly potent and protective and is frequently written on amulets:

'In the Name of God the Merciful the Compassionate
There is no god but He, the
Living, the Everlasting,
Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep;
To Him belongs
All that is in the heavens and the earth.
Who is there that shall intercede with Him
Save by His leave?
He knows what lies before them
And what is after them,
And they comprehend not anything of His knowledge
Save such as He wills.
His Throne comprises the heavens and the earth;
The preserving of them oppresses Him not;
He is the All-high, the All-glorious.'
(Qur'an 2: 255)

The text shown in the illustration is just the Basmala (the phrase 'In the Name of God the Merciful the Compassionate', which introduces every chapter of the Qur'an) and the beginning of the chapter. The whole scroll is 449 cm.

Alani was born in Baghdad and studied both law and art. He practised calligraphy from an early age, studying under the Iraqi master calligrapher Hashem Muhammad al-Baghdadi. Since 1993 he has been in charge of calligraphy at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure, Paris.