KARACHI: Ten years ago, Khan Shahnawaz Malhi used a unique technique to knit a verse of the Qur’an on a pencil by hand. But he knew he could not stop there.
Over the next decade, the retired policeman painstakingly went on to knit the whole scripture, all 114 chapters and 6,236 verses of the Qur’an on about 8,000 pencils, culminating in a project that is now on display at the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. The exhibition will run through March 19.
Malhi, a longtime cop in the southern Sindh province who retired in 2014, said he is the first artist to have weaved the entire holy book with thread on pencils, a technique he learned from prison inmates during his years as a serving policeman.
Completing the project took up to eight hours of painstaking labor each day over a decade, and 3 million Pakistani rupees ($16,765) in donations from family and friends. Malhi says he even sold his house and moved into a smaller one to use the leftover funds to support the project.
“This is the first Qur’an in the world which has been weaved,” he told Arab News at the opening of his exhibition on Saturday. “It’s the outcome of 3 million rupees and hard work of 10 years.”
Malhi called the technique an “invention” in the calligraphy form: “In it, only thread and pencil are being used and the fingers have weaved it … you neither need an ink, nor a pen, or paper and nor a piece of cloth.”
The former policeman said he had been drawn to art since he was a schoolboy and nurtured the instinct through his life. In 2002, he wrote the names of Allah in calligraphy and exhibited the work at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
He wrote the word “Bismillah,” or “In the Name of Allah,” followed by Al-Fatiha, the first surah of the holy book. When he was a decade later weaving some of the last paragraphs of the Qur’an, he decided he would use the technique to weave the entire book on pencils.
Now, as his labor of love and time is on display in Karachi, Malhi hopes he can get sponsors and show it to the world.
“I wish it should be exhibited in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Turkey and the US as well,” he said.
The exhibition also shows other works by Malhi, including a piece he calls “The Golden Rule,” with passages from scriptures central to 11 other religions, which the former policeman said all teach empathy and brotherhood, like Islam.
“I have gathered the goodness of all faiths in one frame (and) to express solidarity with all religions,” Malhi said. “(We should) highlight their goodness. It’s very essential for peace in the world.”