This ijazah, or diploma of competency in Arabic calligraphy, was written by 'Ali Ra'if Efendi in 1791 (1206 AH). The top and middle panels contain a saying (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. It reads: "Secret charity quenches the wrath of the Lord. / The best of you is the best for his family. / The best of the followers is Uways." In the two lowermost panels are the signed and dated approvals of two master calligraphers, Mustafa al-Halimi and Husayn Hamid. Each section of writing appears on a separate piece of different-colored paper, illuminated with gold and dimpled with a stylus for reflection. The official function of the ijazah was to give a student the authority to sign his own calligraphic works with expressions such as katabahu (written by) and hararahu (composed by), thus allowing him to become independent and take on pupils of his own. In order to receive the diploma, the student had to transcribe or copy several lines of calligraphy that had to be approved by one or more master calligraphers. In some cases, the ijazah included the calligrapher's chain of teachers reaching all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad himself. In the Ottoman tradition especially, the diploma was a well-established practice linking, in an almost genealogical fashion, a student to his teacher.

Last updated: April 8, 2014