Oct 25 - 31, 2004





MOHAMMED ARFEEN is a calligrapher, he is pioneer of his Islamic Art institution known as 'Fun-e-Islami'. He is innovative by birth and made more than 150 spectacular pieces of Islamic calligraphy on wood, brass leather, copper, silver, glass, plastic and clay. Some of his works virtually take the viewers in the world of illusion. Some of his masterpieces of Islamic art made with simple chemicals give look as they are very heavy antiques, forged of brass, copper, lead, silver or any other metal and are several hundred years old. But in fact they are in light weight, made of light weight metals with some chemical works. Arfeen was born in Sukkur in 1950 when it was a small village of Sindh province, he shifted to Karachi when he was only 10 years old and resumed his early education in Karachi. Simultaneously, he used to help his father who was a small trader by profession. Later he started optical trade in Clifton area but his main attention remained in Islamic calligraphy and used to make different pieces of Islamic calligraphy. Finally he set up an institute under the title of 'Fun-e-Islami' and hired few people for help. Arfeen is an introvert, sensitive artist. He remained associated with many professions but common thing in all was 'innovation'.

PAGE: How did you start art work and did you learn from any one?

ARFEEN: Like some other people, my total attention also remained focused on 'something extraordinary' but nobody noticed any special quality within me. But once when my father was doing optical business I took a big clay pot (matka) which is used for drinking water and painted an eye on the bottom with different colours, I fixed that on the front elevation of the optical showroom. People used to see that, and the work attracted every passerby like a magnet. That was nothing but a small art work on the bottom of a clay pot. I started getting dozens of comments from the people and from that I realized that I should increase work on different more things. Later, I crafted All Mighty Allah's name Al-Rehman on wood that was more attractive and one of our relatives took it for his home and I could not refuse.

PAGE: Your are very innovative with lot of qualities why did you select only 'Islamic calligraphy'?

ARFEEN: Yes, there are religious restrictions in other art work. People do not realize, I could have adopted sculpturing and oil painting but no one can create a copy of human body the way the God has created countless natural faces and natural scenes. I write only Qura'nic verses and the names of Allah in different style and with the different materials. I think that could be and should be the best piece for homes and other places.



PAGE: Apart from your spiritual satisfaction in the Islamic calligraphy what else gives you more happiness and satisfaction?

ARFEEN: Some ten years ago when I saw one of my art work which was taken by one of my relatives, hung up very prominently in the chief executive office of a big businessman that gave me so much happiness and spiritual motivation that I can never express. That day I realized that was the proof of some of my good qualities. After that I redoubled my efforts in the art work and started making pieces of art work which was in my mind. Here is another example, I had made a watch which looked like a heavy rock stone carved with a lot of labor. Instead of numbers from 1 to 12 or from I to XII seen in the regular watches, I had fixed different articles like sun, moon, eyes, hammer and other instruments on the dial of the watch. A tourist from West very much surprised and appreciated my work but he was reclutant to buy it becasue he assumed that the object is heavy and shy of carrying it. But when I told him that you can take this as the piece was very light in weight and made of plaster of paris with colors, he was stunned and excited and did not leave that piece with me for a single minute and offered me any amount. I gave him that piece free of cost because he deserved that and in fact that would have been dishonesty if I had charged some amount for a cheap cost of piece.

PAGE: What do you think the present and future of Islamic calligraphy?

ARFEEN: There is a bright future of Islamic calligraphy not only in Pakistan but abroad also. People like the Islamic art and I think every home should have a piece of Islamic calligraphy. If the work is done on the modern lines there is no doubt about it that every building, every house and every office would have Islamic calligraphic piece.

PAGE: What is your goal in your life?

ARFEEN: This might be a strange for you and for other people but my dream would become true if my work goes all over the country and the world. At present it is slow. Some 150 pieces have gone and about 50 pieces are ready for it now I have hired some labor too for more pieces. I am also training few students this is also one of my dreams that my work should continue after I die.