I have recently returned home from a very special trip to Istanbul, during which, after 12 years of study and practice, I received my ijaza in tezhip (Islamic manuscript illumination). If you would like to read more about the significance of ijaza in classical Islamic art, please take a look at this post I wrote last year on the subject. It has been a very, very long journey. Yet, it really it just the beginning.
Today, I would like to share a few photos from the ijaza ceremony. It was held on the 16th of April, 2018 at the Süleymaniye Kütuphanesi, part of the beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque complex in Istanbul. The ijaza ceremony and exhibition were part of a wider event called Yeditepe Bienali, a two-month long festival comprised of exhibitions and workshops celebrating classical Turkish Islamic arts.
Set within one of the courtyards of the Süleymaniye Mosque complex, the ijaza ceremony and accompanying exhibition could not have been more magical. To give you an idea of the atmosphere, I’ve posted up a short video clip. You can view it by clicking this link.
I felt truly honoured to be in the company of such stars of Islamic art! After the artists, their friends and families had a chance to mingle, the special guests delivered speeches, then presented each of us with our ijaza. We were called to the front, with our artwork, and congratulated by the Master Artists. I was presented my ijaza by Çiçek Derman, my teacher’s teacher.
The artwork Çiçek Derman is presenting to me in the photo above, is my hilye. It is the artwork that authenticates a student’s progression from novice to fully-fledged artist. When a teacher believes their student is ready to receive their ijaza, the student is asked to prepare a hilye. The calligraphic panels of the hilye contain descriptions of the physical and moral characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It is one of the most difficult compositions to illuminate. It is meant to be both an expression of the student’s love of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), and a sign of their dedication to the craft of illumination.
However, a hilye created to authenticate an ijaza has one small difference: there is an extra calligraphic panel written not in Arabic, but in Ottoman Turkish. This contains a few sentences naming the ijaza student, their teacher, and their teacher’s teacher(s). The text confirms the student’s graduation from novice to artist, and contains prayers for the student and teachers. I do not have a translated copy of the exact ijaza text from Ottoman Turkish to English, but once I do, I will post up the details.
You can read more about the significance of the hilye in my previous post.
Now that I am home, I intend to honour the ijaza, exploring the craft in my studio work, and sharing my knowledge and skills though teaching. Keep an eye out for new courses, which I hope to announce over the coming weeks. I will also post up photos of my ijaza hilye, and describe the processes I went through to create it.