By the Pen'!: Spreading 'ilm in Indonesia through Quranic calligraphy

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In the world’s largest Muslim majority nation, mainstream Indonesian Muslims are seeking to deepen their knowledge of Islam. This was initially stimulated by the transnational Islamic revival of the 1970s and strengthened by a concurrent policy of Indonesia’s governing New Order regime. That policy restricted public expressions of Islam to culture and education and forbade any political expression of the religion. In that milieu, activities to spread knowledge of the Quran (ʿilm) proliferated through Quranic study groups, Quranic recitation competitions, and exhibitions of Islam-inspired calligraphic art. Responding to this thirst for ʿilm, Didin Sirojuddin, an internationally recognised Indonesian calligrapher, established the Institute of Quranic Calligraphy (LEMKA) in 1985. The institute is committed to spreading ʿilm through study of the Quran and the practice of Quranic calligraphy or dakwah bi’l-Qalam (teaching Islam through the pen). Its statement of purpose emphasises that when transmitting ʿilm through the process of calligraphy, the calligrapher receives guidance, ethics, aesthetics, and creative inspiration directly from the Quran. Sirojuddin teaches that once students have acquired ʿilm, they must put it into practice in the form of good deeds (ʿamal) for the benefit of the individual and society. In 1998, LEMKA established the only pesantren in Indonesia devoted wholly to teaching Quranic calligraphy. The deliberate siting of the pesantren in the mountains of West Java inspires students to remember the Quranic teaching that Allah created the beauty of the universe as a source of pleasure and enjoyment. To ignore that beauty, Sirojuddin teaches, is to ignore an aspect of Allah’s greatness. To give expression to that beauty through calligraphic art bears witness to His greatness. Sirojuddin believes that beautifully presented Quranic calligraphy makes the themes and meaning of ʿilm even more beautiful and appealing than they already are, so that when Muslims see the calligraphy they will be motivated to apply ʿilm through good deeds in their everyday lives.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication'Ilm: Science, Religion and Art in Islam
    Editors Samer Akkach
    Place of PublicationAdelaide
    PublisherUniversity of Adelaide Press
    ISBN (Print)978-1-925261-76-9
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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