al-Hajj Ahmed al-Aaraf al-Felbawi

November 1, 2007


Ahmed al-Aaraf Efendi was born in the year 1246H, 1830G, in the city of Felba, today located on the Bulgarian border. During his education he was the top student of calligraphy, and learned Naskh and Thuluth from a calligrapher from Felba by the name of Ismail Saabur. He received his Ijaza from him and in the year 1293/1876 Aaraf Efendi left Felba and headed first for the Hijaz lands to fulfill the duty of Hajj, then returned to Istanbul and there he opened a corner grocery to bring in enough of an income to live on. During that time he met Showqi Efendi, and he showed him his calligraphy he had done before that, and [Showqi] encouraged him to continue. Aaraf then started up learning in the unique method of that teacher, and started writing in that method. He then left the grocery business and started teaching students at the School of Ottoman Light and at his home, until hundreds of calligraphers had graduated under his tutelage, most prominent among them Sheikh Muhammad Abd al-Aziz Rifa’i.

Al-Hajj Aaraf Efendi was stricken in the last years of his life with paralysis, and died in the year 1327H 1909G, and was buried in the cemetery of Edirne Qabi, next to the famous calligrapher Ismail al-Zahadi.

To al-Hajj Aarif Efendi many works in Naskh and Thuluth are attributed, among them patterns [to be copied], sections [of larger pieces], and ornamentations, [as well as] the Bismillah he wrote in Jali Thuluth in 1314H, 1896G outside the door of the Şehzade mosque in Istanbul, which is worthy of great praise.

He wrote a piece with the characteristics of the Prophet (PBUH) in the Turkish language and in Naskh, and the names of the ten messengers of Paradise in Thuluth, and it was printed in the Ottoman printing houses in Istanbul in the year 1304H.

He also wrote a copy of the five-part Qasida written by Abas Fauzi Ibn Muhammad Efendi Al-Dagestani in the year 1310H. It’s divided into five parts over 14 pages, each page with 12 lines. Its length is 30 centimeters, and its width 20. He wrote this copy in the year 1319H in Naskh, with the exception of the Bismillah which is in Thuluth which he engraved and gilded. This copy is a rare achievement, for the beauty of its calligraphy and the superiority of its gold-work.

He wrote a piece with Surah Ya-Sin on it, with blessings on the the Prophet (PBUH), and his honorable names, and the names of some of the Companions, and many of the supplications of God. He wrote it in 1323H and is engraved, gilded, and illuminated with unprecedented illumination.

Taken from the book “Tarikh al-Khat al-Arabi wa Ialaam al-Khatateen” History of Arabic Calligraphy and Information About Calligraphers, by Ahmed Sabry. Translated by Josh Berer.


أفندي – Efendi, honorific in Ottoman

أثناء – During

الثلث – Thuluth/Sulus, a style of calligraphy, often considered the most elegant

النسخ – Naskh/Nesih, the most basic form of calligraphy

إجازة – Icazet, the degree awarded to aspiring calligraphers

أداء – Performance, execution, completion

مورد – Income

رزق – Ones daily needs, basic requirments

أطلع – Show, present to

شرع + مضارع – Start to, begin to

حرفة – Job, work, business

ابرز – بارز Most prominent, superlative of

أصيب – To be stricken with

شلل – Paralysis

مقبرة – Cemetary

أمشاق – Patterns, forms to be copied

لاقت – To be worthy of

لوحة – Lit. Board, often used for artistic pieces

الآستانة – Constantinople

مبشرين – Bearers of glad tidings

ألف – To write a book

نسخة – A copy, a version

ما عدا – With the exception of

منال – Achievement, accomplishment

منقوشة – Engraving

زخرفة – Embellishment, ornamentation


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