South African-born and now based in Turkey, master calligrapher, MUHAMMAD HOBE, pays tribute to Mufti Taha Karaan who inspired him to choose this vocation.
I am a former Waterval Islamic Institute student of the 90s.
As a student at what is popularly referred to as Mia’s Farm, I had heard a lot about Moulana Taha Karaan, who was my senior and had been a student at the institute many years before me.
He was one of the most successful students ever at the institute. He was often used as an example and we were told of his genius mind and of his accomplishments in both secular and Islamic studies.
He and his brother, the late Professor Abdussalaam Karaan, used to visit the institute from time to time. I remember vividly that Moulana Taha often wore a grey kurtah. Whenever any of the Karaan brothers came to the farm, the late Moulana Ibrahim Mia used to let them lead the prayers; usually the Maghrib or Fajr prayers.
I never had any direct interaction with either of the brothers as I was a student and I was way too young.
I was introduced to calligraphy while I was still a student at the farm in the early 2000s and that was when I became aware that Moulana Taha was the first calligrapher at the institute many years before me.
He always had his calligraphy pen with him whenever he came to the institute, and he had written the names of many of the Mia family on their Qurans.
I was also shown some of his calligraphy writings while he was a student there. I used to admire his writing and would gaze at it for hours. I used it as an example and motivation.
He was one of my sources of inspiration and I wanted to be able to write just as well.
In 2018, I was told by a friend of mine, Naeem Mubarak, that Moulana Taha would be visiting Istanbul, and my friend gave me his contact details and I decided to meet him.
I thought the meeting would be short and brief, the usual ‘how are you doing’ and then we would part ways.
I told him who I was and how, as students, we had heard stories of him and how I had always liked his work.
That night, I showed him my works and we connected. His face lit up and we talked about our passion for calligraphy for a long time. It felt as if we had known each other for a long time. When I told him how I always looked up to him, he brushed it aside and said that the tables had turned and that I was now the master and he a student.
We spoke about plans for the future and he said that he would be my first student if and when I returned to South Africa. During our talk, I realised how much foresight he had when I told him of my future plans. He listened intently and then gently and firmly told me of a better way of doing it.
He spoke to me about the darul uloom that he was planning on building and decided there and then that he wanted me to do the calligraphy for it when the time came. He used to call me from time to time to ask how the writing was going.
He was such a busy man and had so much work but he always made time to call and enquire about certain things we had discussed.
It was indeed a very sad day and a great loss for me, here in Istanbul, when I got news of his demise. May Allah grant him the highest place in the hereafter and may the seeds that he has planted grow and spread all over the world until the end of time.
Ustaad Muhammad Hobe started studies under the Turkish master of calligraphy, Hasan Celebi, in 2009. On completing his tuition, he obtained the ijaazah in the Thuluth and Naskh scripts in 2013. In March 2017, he was awarded citizenship by the Turkish government due to his dedication to his work in the Islamic arts. Hobe has since continued to work as a professional calligrapher, participating in numerous exhibitions both in Turkey and internationally as well as passing on his knowledge by teaching his own students.
This article was first published in the July 9, 2021 print edition of Muslim Views.