Thoufeek Zakriya: Indian Calligrapher Bridges Religious Communities Through His Art
In the heart of Kerala, an Indian Muslim calligrapher is using his skills in calligraphic arts to bridge Jewish and Muslim communities.
Down in the heart of Kerala (God’s Own Country), an Indian Muslim calligrapher is using his skills in the art of the ink flourishes to bridge Jewish and Muslim communities.
Thoufeek Zakriya is an Indian Muslim from Cochin who does does calligraphy in a number of languages, including Arabic, Samaritan, Syriac and Sanskrit. More interestingly, he is a Muslim who does masterful Hebrew calligraphy.
While study in madrasa, he learned that the Jewish people were considered by Islam to be ahl al-kitab(“People of the Book”), which sparked a curiosity in him to learn more about this religious community. His curiosity led him to find a copy of the Gideon’s Bible, which had a page with prayers in in 23 different languages. He decided to find what encompassed the Hebrew word for God, so using the page as his “Rosetta Stone” he was able to decipher what letters entailed the Hebrew name for the Lord.
He became more interested in Judaism and Hebrew calligraphy, and reached out to the tiny yet historicJewish community in Cochin. Thoufeek purchased some Hebrew texts he found at a streetside book shop and he went about learning the Hebrew alphabet. His studies in Hebrew led him to begin crafting calligraphy of Jewish prayers such as the birkat habayit (prayer for the home) in golden resplendent brilliance. He also began creating replicas of the Hebrew bible, the Torah.
More importantly, Thoufeek does something very unique: he has crafted Hebrew calligraphy in the ancientKufic Arabic script. Such work is a rarity in the calligraphic world, and his innovations in the Kufic/Hebrew calligraphy has brought Thoufeek accolades from admirers from all over the world.
Thoufeek’s work and his dedication to study Jewish history and culture led to a close and intimate friendship between him and Cochin’s Jewish community including his warm friendship with the community’s matriarch Sarah Cohen, who considers him to be like her own grandson.
Thoufeek Zakriya is a wonderful symbol of India’s legendary tolerance for all religious communities. Thoufeek features his calligraphic work on his blog, you can find his art at http://thoufeekzak.blogspot.com.