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Calligraphy, as sacred text, commands an exalted status in the Muslim world. Originally revered because it was the medium in which the Prophet’s teachings were recorded, the written word soon became esteemed in its own right as a highly sophisticated discipline. It is still pious inscription but in the art world it is also a painterly idiom. However, unlike other genres of art, its spiritual aura accords it another level of respect and admiration.

As an art medium, calligraphy paintings are broadly divided into two categories: some artists favour the use of traditional scripts supported by design elements while others prefer to invent their own style of writing as an independent technical pattern. Likewise, legibility and readability is of primary importance to some while others distort at will. There are also trained ‘khatats’ who paint with the zest of an artist and painters who have improvised on ‘khatati’ as their motif.

Honored with a pride of performance by the Government of Pakistan in 2009, Ruheena’s outstanding calligraphic masterpieces have been presented to many head of states such as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain.


The field of calligraphy in Pakistan is dominated largely by men and the emergence of Ruheena Malik as a female calligrapher with an individual approach is something of a novelty. Entirely unlettered in the art of calligraphy, yet writing with the fluency of a ‘khatat’, Malik’s rendering of Quranic text defies both categories.

Completely readable and free from avant garde stylisations, her scripts resemble but are not exact duplications of any of the established forms of Islamic calligraphy like Kufic, Thulth, Naskhi or Nastaliq. Formerly ungiven to writing, she now creates contemporary compositions of Arabic ‘ayets’ (verses) often inspired by the calligraphic art of Quranic illumination.
Making elaborate use of ornamental panels, seals, stamps, dividers, ascenders and other embellished patterns of the illuminated pages, she gives the written word a rich decorative look in modern formats.

Her intricate, balanced and accurate writings of such lengthy passages as Surahs Rehman and Baqara (completed in a sequence of nine panels), as well as the much favoured Qalima’s, Quls, Darood Shareef etc in vertical, horizontal, and circular formats bespeak of a trained hand — yet her art education has been in the western construct.
Casual attendance of classes at the Pakistan Art Institute, Karachi, during her high schooldays in the mid ’70s familiarised her with the basics of drawing and painting and her understanding, personal expression, and later, a teaching stint at a school, were confined only to the rudiments of western art academics.

Born of mixed parentage, she spent a considerable number of years in Europe and returned to Pakistan just over a decade ago, in 1996, which is when the Arabic script overtook her life.

Afraid of air travel, Malik always carries a small copy of the Quran with her. Recounting the epiphany that transformed her life she says, “Alone in London sitting at a table doing nothing I was staring vacantly at the Quran, and suddenly just began flipping through the pages with the understanding that I wanted to write.” For a year she wrote profusely but randomly with no specific track in mind.

Today Malik, still passionately devoted to the rendering of the Islamic script, is moving in several directions, even though she can barely read or completely comprehend the gravity of the meanings hidden in the verses. Working in the aura of wonder and awe she feels for the written word and is ever desirous of beautifying it and enriching it to a jewelled brilliance. She describes the working experience as a gentle calming exercise that engages her mind for hours on end.

Other than the very act of constructing the Arabic alphabet as per her own design format, it is the sharpness and strength as well as the rhythmic nuances of her lines that are noteworthy. Unlike the static square kufic, her writing veers towards the cursive scripts in Islamic Calligraphy and her self-patterned writing, ‘tughras’ and fancy formations also have flowing contours.

While her calligraphies on paper are in coloured inks she works best in a palette of red, gold and blue. Currently she is experimenting with gold leaf (twenty four carat gold) and lapis for the deep blue so characteristic of the magnificent illuminated pages.

Before she became completely devoted to calligraphy, Malik was giving her time to a venture in antique furniture, at an outlet by the name of ‘Kathi’ in an upscale shopping mall. Many years spent in long drawn trips to areas like Mitthi, Badin and Thatta to forage for authentic antique doors, wooden ceilings, chests, jharokas and other old world bric-a-brac from the havelis of feudal landlords and rural gentry in interior Sindh, has acquainted her with the finer points of the art of woodcraft. Her residence, which doubles as a studio/workshop and warehouse, is almost a trove of wooden artifacts.

At any given time, at least three to four artisans are at work there, restoring and remodeling the pieces as per her instructions. Calligraphy in inks on paper is her primary interest but now she has her scripts carved on antique wood panels, ‘rehels,’ table tops, chests, wall hangings, and in the round on circular objects like vases, urns, bowls and candle stands as well as embroidered in ‘marori and zardozi’ on cloth.

Unlike the current trends of mixed media art like installation and assemblage which purport a western ethos, Malik through an artist/artisan interaction, is bringing about an indigenous art-craft merger. She is utilizing authentic traditional specimens of craftsmanship that speak of a heritage one can take pride in and reinventing them as contemporary objects d’ art. Here she draws inspiration from the rich history of Islamic visual art that contains some of the finest specimens of calligraphy inscribed, chiseled, carved, woven and painted on a host of media like metal, glass, porcelain, fabric, parchment and papyrus.

Keenly attuned to beautifying the written word, Malik is also looking into other arts and crafts as novel sources of ornamentation and embellishment.


The special reason to organize this event at Quaid-i-Azam House Museum was to emphasize the importance of this national heritage and to create awareness among people of Karachi. April 30 2013

Exhibition of calligraphy on paper and wood carving 'Treasures of Islamic art' by Ruheena Malik opened at the Alhamra Art Gallery on July 9 2008.

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer inaugurated the exhibition while Political Officer US Consulate in Lahore Bryan D Hunt was the guest of honour.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Sherry Rehman Thursday inaugurated the calligraphic exhibition comprising as many as 50 calligraphic pieces. A large number of art lovers attended the inaugural ceremony titled ‘Treasures of Islamic Art’ here at National Art Gallery. In her brief talk with journalists, Sherry Rehman highlighted government’s commitment to institutionalizing and promoting Pakistani culture, talent, and creativity September 18, 2008

Ruheena Malik Treasures of Islamic Art
F-65, Block 4
Karachi, Pakistan.
Tel: (92-21) 3-587-0119


Establishment: Art Gallery
Official Website: www.ruheenamalik.com.pk
E-mail: ruheenamalik@yahoo.com

Business Hours: 11am-7pm DAILY

Calligraphy carved on wood and precious stones including Emerald, Rubies, Sapphires or woven into fabric using rich and vibrant colors

Special Services:
Special orders are available and taken by appointment


Plenty of self service parking 

Payments Accepted:

Nearest Landmark or Cross Street:
Next to China kitchen

What to Expect:
A warm, inviting and artistic gallery showcasing the artworks of Ruheena Malik.


Click the pink marker on the map for driving directions




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Ruheena Malik Treasures of Islamic Art Gallery. Karachi, Pakistan. Copyright © KarachiSnob.com


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