NAJAF, Iraq - Agence France-Presse
Iraqi calligrapher Hussein al-Kharsan writes verses from the Koran, Islam's holy book, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. AFP photo
Hussein al-Kharsan kneels, bent over a giant sheet of paper,
laboriously writing the words of Islam's holy book, the Quran, in
beautiful Arabic script with a traditional wood and feather pen.
25-year-old Iraqi aims to take an unusual path to fame: writing the
longest copy of the Quran
in the world. Kharsan says the scroll is to be
between 5,500 and 6,000 meters long.
His aim, he says, is to set a Guinness World Record.
that happens, it will be another entry on the Islamic holy text, which
expressly prohibits the consumption of alcohol, in a record book
conceived by the managing director of a brewery.
The copy of the
Quran was supposed to be shown this year, when Najaf was to be the
Islamic Capital of Culture, but that project has been postponed
indefinitely amid serial delays and allegations of corruption.
has not however stopped Kharsan, who graduated from Baghdad University's
college of fine arts, from continuing his work inside a religious
school in Najaf, despite pains in his neck and back from long hours of
carefully writing out one verse after another.
"At the beginning,
the agreement was to finish the work in six months, on the basis of
writing three pages out of 503 pages of the Quran every day," Kharsan
"I succeeded at the beginning and worked for 16 hours a day for more than two weeks until I started suffering pains," he said.
doctor asked me to stop working for about a month but I refused and
told him that I work with the blessings of the Quran. Now I take
pain-killing pills and work for five hours a day, which means I need
about a year to finish."
Kharsan, who began participating in
Arabic calligraphy competitions when he was just nine years old, writes
on four pieces of white paper that are each 1,500 meters long.
He has succeeded in copying 13 pages of the Quran since he started his work about a month ago.
Arabic calligraphy is one of the most prominent forms of Arab and Islamic art.
are the people of Arabic calligraphy," said Sheikh Ali Merza, the
principal of the school where Kharsan is working on the Quran.
calligraphy [named after Najaf's twin city of Kufa] is well known, and
when we want to do calligraphy, it is not something new for us because
we practised this kind of art historically," Merza said.
He added that Kharsan's work will be displayed in Najaf, even if the Capital of Islamic Culture project does not go ahead.
World Records does not have any entries for the longest Quran, but the
largest printed copy measures two meters high and 1.52 meters wide, and was unveiled in Russia last November.
smallest copy, printed in Cairo in 1982 and owned by a Pakistani man,
is 1.7 by 1.3 centimeters, but still 571 pages
The biggest book in the world, meanwhile, measures five by
eight meters and weighs some 1,500 kilograms. It is on the life and achievements of the Prophet
Mohammed, and was unveiled in Dubai in February.
"It is very nice
to do work that is related to the Quran or [holy] shrines," Kharsan
said. "This is a blessed work. But at the same time, my name will be
part of history, because we compete on an international level."
do not take any salary for my work, although there is an agreement that
I get a percentage of the budget of the project, which is about 100
million dinars [$83,300]."
"I feel proud of what I am accomplishing, and all I want is to leave my mark."