The Qalam (pen) and Lawh (tablet) are important symbols in Fatimi philosophy. Allah Taʿala used a Qalam to transmit knowledge to mankind and to elevate the ranks of His Creation. As evinced in the Quranic verses:
[Allah is the one] who taught by the pen. Taught man that which he knew not (96:4-5).
Rasul Allah SAW has informed us that the Qalam is the first of Allah Taʿala’s Creation, after which he made flow a river that was sweeter than honey, whiter than milk and softer than butter. He then commanded the Qalam to draw ink from the river. Thereafter He created a Lawh and commanded the Qalam to inscribe onto it everything that will happen until the Day of Judgement. This Lawh thus came to be known as the Lawh al-Mahfooz (The Preserved Tablet).
Like the Qalam, the Lawh too is mentioned in the Quran Majeed in the verses:
[T]his is a glorious Quran. [Inscribed] in a Preserved Tablet (85:21-22).
In Arabic, a lawh or tablet is any surface that can be inscribed upon; this could be a slate of wood, bone or stone. However, the Lawh al-Mahfooz is distinct because of the matter it holds; the eternal knowledge within it is radiant emanating far and wide, throughout time and space, and thus it embodies the meaning of the root word of lawh — lāha — which means to radiate.
The relationship between the Qalam and Lawh is one of inscription and reception. The Imam of every age, who is vested with Allah’s authority through divine ordinance, is the Qalam that inscribes celestial knowledge upon his successor, the Lawh al-Mahfooz. The predecessor and successor are thus embodiments of the Qalam and Lawh respectively. When the Aimmat Tahireen AS went into seclusion, they inscribed their divine knowledge upon the Duʿat Mutlaqeen AS who became their alwaah, protecting their intellectual legacy and safeguarding their sacred Dawat.
Figure 1 1444 H Qibla tayzeen
The central theme and main backdrop of this year’s tazyeen have been prepared and inspired by meanings of Qalam and Lawh. Husaini Masjid’s interior has been adorned with various aayaat shareefa from the Quran Majeed and kalimaat nooraniyya and verses from Fatimi literature pertaining to the Qalam and Lawh.
The main backdrop behind al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s TUS takht mubarak comprises three components:
- A qalam: The names of Allah Taʿala, the Khamsat Athaar SA and Aimmat Tahireen SA are fashioned on the qalam and its feather quill in gold leaf and precious metals and stones as an allusion to their role in inscribing divine emanation. Imam Muʿizz li din Allah AS invented the fountain pen in the 4th century hijri, and therefore the model of the qalam incorporates elements of a fountain pen. In addition, the patterns on the nib and midsection are inspired by patterns from al-Jamiʿ al-Azhar which was built by Imam Muʿizz AS.
Figure 2 Quill
Figure 3 Pen’s nib and midsection
- The lawh: During Maulana al-Imam al-Aziz bi Allah’s AS reign, a Fatimi minbar was commissioned for Jamiʿ al-Andaluseen in Fez, Morocco, and was inscribed with Imam Aziz’s AS name. This is one of the only surviving wooden Fatimi minbars in the Maghrib, the western part of the Islamic world. This minbar is the source of inspiration for the lawh represented here, an 8 x 6 ft foldable wooden tablet. The minbar’s arabesque motifs, tear-drop and flower patterns, and unique Kufic script are all employed in the backdrop’s lawh. This year’s ayat shareefa is inscribed in the minbar’s Kufic script on the outer frame of the lawh, while aayat mutabarrika that refer to the lawh are inscribed in glass on the upper section. Similarly, a marble inscription in the British Museum in London which bears the names of Maulana al-Imam al-Mustansir bi Allah SA and Maulana Badr al-Jamali AS, has inspired the Kufic script employed to inscribe the names of the Duʿat Mutlaqeen found in the tear drop motifs as well as eight-petal flowers. When folded, the cover of the lawh bears modified versions of the minbar’s patterns and the aayaat shareefa mentioned above.
Figure 4 Marble Fatimi inscription in the British Museum in London
Figure 5 Plank or lawh from Fatimi minbar from Fez, Morocco
Figure 6 The upper portion of the lawh, with the Fatimi minbar-inspired design motifs and Kufic script
Figure 7 A closeup of the names of the Duʿat AS and the tear-drop and flower motifs
- The Pen-box: The pen-box presented here is inspired by a ‘carved ebony and ivory pen-box with bronze mounts’ dating to the Fatimi period. The pen-box has been decorated with models of reed pens that are typical to this period as well. The historic title of this year’s Ashara Mubaraka is inscribed on the box’s lid.
Figure 8 Pen-box model inspired by prototype from Fatimi period
Figure 9 Fatimid-era penbox
To further emphasise the role of sahib al-zaman in inscribing knowledge, the lawh in the qibla backdrop opens, and the pen rotates to a writing position, when Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS graces the majlis.
Figure 10 The lawh in the closed position
Elucidating the Duʿat Mutlaqeen’s AS formative act of guiding Mumineen, Syedi Abde Ali Imaduddin QR praises al-Dai al-Ajal al-Fatimi Syedna Abde Ali Saifuddin RA in the following poetic verse:
[He is] the Qalam that inscribes lines of haqq, guidance and light upon hearts.
Today, the Husaini daʿi, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, is the Qalam personified who inscribes lines of truth, guidance and ethereal light on the hearts of Mumineen. Particularly during the days of Ashara Mubaraka, he engraves “Ya Husain, Ya Husain” in their hearts with a luminous qalam that enlightens their souls. May Allah bestow Syedna al-Dai al-Ajal TUS a long, healthy life until the Day of Qiyamat.