This is a page from a famous manuscript of the Quran currently in Dublin, Ireland. The source of its fame is the calligrapher who wrote it. Ibn al-Bawwāb (d. 413 Hijri) is the single most reputable calligrapher in the history of Islam. Al-Dhahabī says about him, ❝In calligraphy, [we have] conceded to Ibn Al-Bawwāb, just as the ablest of the ummah in recitation is Ubay ibn Kaʿb (ra), the best of them in judgment is ʿAlī (ra), the most knowledgeable in inheritance law is Zayd (ra), the most knowledgeable in tafsīr is Ibn ʿAbbās (ra)…❞
Ibn al-Bawwāb learned Arabic from one of the main authorities in Naḥw during his times and in fact all times, Ibn Jinnī (d. 392 Hijri). He learned calligraphy from Ibn Asad and spent his early life decorating walls and ceilings, then carving seals, and later focused on calligraphy where he truly showed his potential. He took the writing style of another great calligrapher named Ibn Muqlah (r) and revolutionized it into his own style. In medieval times, people would often praise scribes for their adoption of Ibn al-Bawwāb’s style.
Not only did Ibn al-Bawwāb leave behind the timeless beauty of his calligraphy, he also left some short poems including a Rāʾiyyah in which he describes how to make a pen and how to prepare an ink pot. Though an expert of the highest caliber in calligraphy, during his lifetime Ibn Al-Bawwāb didn’t gain the deserved acclaim. After his lifetime he gained so much acclaim that historians record, highlighting the irony in the story, that he wrote to an official asking him to finance a friend for something that cost less than two gold coins. Later, that same page because of his handwriting was sold for 17 gold coins!
I reflect today that if the aforesaid and more was said about Ibn al-Bawwāb (r), what will people have to say about ʿUthmān Ṭahā who wrote the world famous Muṣḥaf al-Madīnah and whose writing style has become the global standard for perfection in our times and for the foreseeable future? Very often do many great people remain unnoticed during their lifetimes, only to be deemed great after their demise. However, those who have cleansed themselves of biases, jealousy, hatred, envy, and contempt can discover these great people who will make history and benefit from them.
Remember that Allah’s grace is infinite and that He grants a share of His grace to people in every era. Benefit from the stories of the predecessors, but don’t allow them to be a reason for pessimism about the present.