In this Muslim-majority country, in addition to calligraphy, the previously forbidden pictorial works have started to enliven the Islamic art. A rearrangement of framework is needed to let the Islamic art join the progress of art.
To draw calligraphy with verses from the holy Quran is probably the safest, and even blessed, thing to do in this certain art lane. In Indonesia, the development of calligraphy art of has grown and charmed, especially among the young people. Besides fulfilling the aesthetic needs and being a manifestation of religious spirit, it is also an economy tool for the household.
Poets and companions of the Prophet Muhammad had advised calligraphy artists to hone their skills in the art of calligraphy to perfection. For calligraphy was a source of sustenance besides a source of beauty and ethics. “To the prince, calligraphy is beauty, to the wealthy is perfection, and to the fakir it is money,” said Ibnu al-Muqaffa. While Ali r.a. (May God Be Pleased With Him) underlined, “You should decorate your writings because they are keys of sustenance.”
History has it that when the Prophet Muhammad was still alive, he once saw Abdullah wrote calligraphy. Having watched closely, he said, “Abdullah, make some space between letters, and arrange them in a composition, keep the proportion of their forms, and give each letter its rights.”
His advice contained two essential things. First, it reflected that calligraphy was not a perfunctory past time. Unlike other writings, the Arabic script embodies various decorative elements and illumination within. To manifest the Islamic ethics and aesthetics, the artist should pay close attention on the spacing, letter proportion, composition, and the styles—tsuluts, naskhi, farisi, diwani, and others—and to give each letter their right as counseled by the Prophet.
Secondly, it showed that the Prophet Muhammad was a critic (with a capital C), because there are other sides of his advice. What he suggested was not merely a philosophy of beauty through Islamic perspective, but also morality. Just imagine, even “the right of letters”—not to mention human rights—became the center of his attention. True, a small mistake of letters in calligraphy would change its meaning.
Sadly, although the art of calligraphy is rising, yet it is “a minority” in the map of Indonesian visual arts. One of the causes is the Muslim visual art communities have not spend decent amount of time to explore the art of calligraphy, let alone the concept and develop strategies for short-term, intermediate, or long-term for the interest of Indonesia and wider audience. Thus, calligraphy works stay only as decoration for the mosques, for competition of Musabaqah Tilawatil Quran – Quran recitation, to adorn the walls in the houses of the elite, and for the Bait Al Quran Museum. (WI/Yusuf Susilo Hartono)