SEEING THE SACRED WORD
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of mosque decoration in Detroit is calligraphy. Beautiful writing fills the mosques, and most of it represents passages from the Qur’an or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Calligraphy is visible on almost every surface, and on every material, of the mosque. It appears on fabric, as banners, or it is woven into cloth, as embroidery. It is carved into clay and stone, or it is chiseled into wood. Sometimes, it is produced by a skilled artist who has studied calligraphy for years. More often today, it is mass produced, or computer generated, or downloaded. Always, calligraphy is a necessary and living tradition among Muslims. Its importance is taught and learned in the classrooms of Detroit’s Muslim schools, where childish hands learn to shape sacred words in pen, ink, and crayon. The use of English in mosque calligraphy is a growing trend in Detroit, and many key texts are now presented in translation or in English only. Because the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, and most acts of worship require Arabic recitation, the principal calligraphic designs in Detroit mosques feature Arabic script.