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Interview: Wales' youngest Arabic calligrapher, Ali Amir

Ali at work

His Instagram description states 'sharing Islam through art', and for the last two years, self taught, twenty year old calligrapher Ali Amir has been donating and selling Arabic calligraphy to charities and individuals in Cardiff and across the UK. Adapting existing designs, responding to commissions and even running popular YouTube tutorials for those who want to learn, he is keeping this ancient Islamic tradition alive in the Welsh capital whilst studying for his dentistry degree at Cardiff University. I spoke to Ali about his art, and its relevance to the lives of British Muslims.

What sparked your initial interest in Arabic calligraphy?

I've always loved art and design and I came across Arabic calligraphy when I was about 18-19. I thought it looked quite good but the meaning behind the words is what truly inspired me to give it a go. So, I picked up a pen one day and never put it down!

How do you go about producing each piece?

Firstly and most importantly, I consider the meaning of what I want to write. I usually write verses from the Quran because these are the words of God, so nothing can be better. Once I find something I like, and something that others can relate to, I see if a design is available online. I tend to work from the designs of others but add different colours and designs to make them unique. Otherwise, I will try and convert the Arabic words into attractive patterns that are still readable! Once I’m done, I share my pictures on social media for others to benefit.

What is the main significance of calligraphy in Islam?

The main aim of calligraphy is trying to portray the words of God in a way that is eye catching and beautiful, in the form of art. Here in Britain, pretty much any mosque you visit will have Arabic calligraphy in them, sometimes painted on walls, sometimes in frames and on fabrics too. There are a few other forms of Islamic art across the globe, for example complex geometric patterns on mosaic walls, mosques with huge domes, marble floors and minarets.

Many people like to keep Arabic calligraphy in their homes as a reminder of God. I have a number of pieces around the house, when I see them I'll subconsciously read them and remember that God is always around me.

Ali's favourite piece, "Ayat Al Kursi" , the verse of the throne.

You have over 5,000 followers on Instagram: why do you think your work is so popular?

It started off as just a few friends following my page, but social media is an amazing thing. With simple hashtags, I've been able to promote my page so easily. Not many people actually do calligraphy in the UK, and I think I am the only man at all in Wales!

I've been practicing pretty much daily for nearly two years; it requires a lot of patience, skill and a very steady hand. I guess I'm better than most, but that's due to my perseverance and hundreds of hours of practice.

One of Ali's YouTube tutorials

For more, follow: @alhamdulillaharts

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