Razwan Ul-Haq uses classical Arabic Calligraphy techniques to create contemporary pieces.  His work embodies the minimalist tradition in Islamic Art.   Razwan Ul-Haq’s work cuts across many themes and has featured in the national press including the Times, BBC, Channel 4 as well as internationally. He was commissioned by Leeds City Art Gallery to celebrate the birthday of the Queen of England, do note however, that he is not related to any member of the Royal family.  

Above. 100 minus 1 (2008) Early work, Ink and Acrylic on reclaimed handmade paper


Razwan’s work is rooted in the tradition, he cuts his own reed pens, yet for him, the post-modern art scene is exciting, “…though abstractly otherworldly,  it oozes human energy.”    Indeed, it could be said that many contemporary movements dovetail the traditions.  The conceptual Art movement for example, on a certain level, shares a parallel with early Arabic Calligraphic Art, in that the surge of thought takes precedence over form –in contrast to later Arabic Calligraphy that sought for absolute mathematic perfection.  


Above: Razwan's Art features in diverse publications -here his Calligraphic figure is used to encourage debate within leadership training

Yet the harmonics laid by the early Arab, Indian and particularly Persian and  Osmanli Calligraphers have such a powerful resonance for the contemporary Art Scene.  Razwan Ul-Haq says: “Proportions in classical Arabic calligraphy create a prettiness. And like a beautiful face, they draw you in.  My dilemma is in extending traditional calligraphy into new directions without losing this timelessness.” 


Razwan was trained classically.  His first experience was when as a boy, he saw his Uncle, the Professional Calligrapher Maulvi Fazal Azeem, compose calligraphy. To him it seemed like magic and he was helped by his father to mimic his Uncle’s calligraphy.   He is particularly drawn to Nastaliq, that most subtle of scripts.

The techniques of harmony are essential, yet conventional lettering does not take the central axis of his calligraphy:  the concept, the meaning and the breath are the essential ingredients.  Razwan’s use of calligraphy has widened in variety over time, in this early work, below, Blue Sea Planet, 2004, Razwan uses calligraphy pens. You can clearly see the impact of his calligraphy training, with the proportioned script, in the writing of the Ayatul-Kursi in a blue planet.   In later work, Bismillah Life, 2014, and particularly in Metamorphosis, 2014, the words are morphed to such a degree that the words do not, on the surface, follow traditional calligraphic rules.  Yet, this work is is more readable than his early work and Razwan insists the essence of proportion is retained.  “Wonderful indeed is the plasticity of Arabic calligraphy,” he says.

Razwan Ul-Haq Islamic Sci-FI Art

Above: Blue Sea Planet, 2008, contrasted with later work below, Metamorphosis and Bismillah Life 2014. The tools have virtually remained the same, but the calligraphy and intended effect has changed over time, with Razwan adding to his repertoire of calligraphy

Razwan Ul-Haq Islamic Art and Calligraphy

He also acknowledges the movement of expressionism in Chinese and Japanese calligraphy and has used many of his calligraphy skills in re-imagining Arabic, Urdu and Farsi through today's idiom: 

Razwan Ul-Haq Art

When the Tour De France came to England in 2014, Razwan was commissioned to create Arabic Land Art.  His installation entitled "Finite Cycle of Time", a morphing of the Arabic word "Al-Asr" is possibly the largest Arabic Word in Europe and during Le Tour, watched by around a hundred million viewers on television. Below: The installation at night time, captured by photographer John Sargent:

Razwan Ul-Haq Art Commission

Islamic minimalism has its inception in the empty Kaba.  The desert around Mecca is spartan, and just like the beauty of the Japanese aesthetic, the openness of space provides the perfect backdrop for the elaboration of concepts.  Minimalism then, returns the Art to the star filled Arabian night, where there is no distracting golden frame but just the flourish of visual letters.  Unfettered.  And unhindered.  There is no frenzy of redundant form here.  Simply the evocation.  And the hushed touch.  Stone and rock frame Mecca, and Razwan reflected on this unreal reality during his first visit to the city.  This is fundamental to a return to the minimalist method.  


Razwan Ul-Haq Islamic Art Installation


With generous support from the Arts Council and MHA, in conjunction with the local community, Razwan Ul-Haq created a permanent installation in the shadow of Bradford's iconic Manningham Mill.  The "Bradford Boogie Woogie" takes a Mondrian, post-modern interpretation of Bradford's city life through the medium of Arabic Calligraphy.  In this project, the question was, can we blend traditional Islamic Art and Modern Art, from a practical perspective? 




Razwan Ul-Haq is a UMIST graduate and after completing postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester, he taught in schools, introducing Islamic Art through a variety of subjects.  He experienced Headship at a comparatively young age, and left, to pursue a career in Art full-time.  He still contributes to education projects with a focus on Islamic Art and Creativity.


Exhibitions, Festivals & Speeches:

Universal Paradox Islamic Art, Nationwide, 2004

Commission to celebrate 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, Leeds City Art Gallery 2006

Postmodern Calligraphy, Abbot Beyne Art Gallery, Staffordshire 2006

Conceptual Arabic Art Exhibition, Bury, 2007

 Islamic Art Calligraphy Workshops, Tullie House Museum, Cumbria  2008

Postmodern Calligraphy II, Abbot Beyne Art Gallery, Staffordshire 2011

Breathing Calligraphy, Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland, 2012

Spiritual Calligraphy, Pates Gallery, Cheltenham, 2013

 Bradford Festival, Arabic Calligraphy, 2014, 2015, 2016

Key Note Speech on Islamic Art, RE Conference, Wells Cathedral, 2014

Bradford Boogie Woogie, Permanent installation, Manningham, Bradford, 2014

Arts Council Award, 2014

Al-Khatt Al-Mansoub, Exhibition, Walker House Art Gallery Wakefield, 2014

Sultan Vs Dracula Author Talk, Ilkley Literature Festival, 2014

Islamic Art in the North of England, Panelist, University of Central Lancashire, 2015 

Sultan Vs Dracula Author Presentation, Huddersfield Literature Festival. 2015

Sultan Vs Dracula Author Panelist, Bradford Literature Festival, 2015

Islamic Art & Meditation Workshops, Ilkley Literature Festival, 2014, 2015

Faith in Art Exhibition, Craven Museum, 2016

Asian Voices Exhibition, Leeds City Museum, 2016

Islamic Science-Fiction Panelist, Bradford Literature Festival, 2016

Garden within a Garden Exhibition, Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, 2016

Breathing Calligraphy Exhibition, Kala Sangam Art Gallery, Bradford, 2016

Not Just Hockney, Big Screen Showing, Bradford, 2017

RE Today Teacher’s Conference, Worcester & Hereford, 2017

The Journey of Nastaliq Calligraphy, Peace Museum, Bradford, 2017

Islamic Calligraphy, Minimalism, Panelist, University of Birmingham, 2017

Islamic Calligraphy and Zen, University of Glasgow, 2017

Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust Award, 2018

Arts Council Award, 2018

Lecture, Bootham School, York, 2018

Phobiastan Launch, Bradford M M Mela 2018

Phobiastan Book Launch, Ilkley Literature Festival, 2018

Phobiastan and the Graphic Novel, Holmfirth Library, Phobiastan, 2018

Phobiastan readings and panelist, MACFEST, Manchester, 2018

Arts Council Award, 2019

Burberry Inspired, Arabic Calligraphy Project, Leeds Playhouse, 2019

Arabic Nastaliq Calligraphy Lecture and workshop, Writing: Make Your Mark, various sites, British Library, 2019

Visiting Lecturer, Islamic Arts, Cheltenham Ladies College 2016, 2017,2018, 2019

Visiting Lecturer, Islamic Arts, Ullswater Community College, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

Arabic Art of  Phobiastan workshop, Middlesbrough Library, 2019

Arabic Art of  Phobiastan workshop, North Lincolnshire, 2019

Arabic Art wrokshops, Power of Words Literature Festival, Scunthorpe, 2019

Using Islamic Art as a tool to link diverse school communities, Amal supported Project, Hereford and Bradford. 2019

Phobiastan North of England Libraries Tour, Ripon, Selby, Whitby, Blackburn, Norwich, Halifax, Derby 2019

Phobiastan, Book Talk and Arabic Workshops, Borderlines Book Festival, Carlisle, 2019

Industrialised Heart, Solo Exhibition, Bradford Industrial Museum, 2020

What is a Muslim with Javaad Alipoor, Grand Junction, London, 2020

Nastaliq Calligraphy Workshop video, National Literacy Trust, 2021

Online Arabic Calligraphy workshops and video, Blackburn Library, 2021


 Sultan Vs Dracula


The Last Sufi Series, sci-fi novel,  2004

The Calligraphy Pirate Series, children’s fiction,  2006

Islamic Art: The Teacher’s Book, Teaching Resource, 2007

Teaching Materials, University of Cumbria, 2008

Black Taj Mahal, fantasy novel, fantasy 2010

Sultan Vs. Dracula, sci-fi and fantasy novel, 2012

Viewpoints, Peer Reviewed Paper, JIABR, Emerald Publishing, 2012

Teaching Islamic Art, RE Today, 2016

Sufism, RE Today, 2019


Media Appearances:

Teachers TV, 2008

BBC TV, 2010

BBC Radio, 2012

Asian Eye, 2012

BBC Radio, 2013

Channel 4, 2013

ITV, 2014

CNN, 2014

The Times, 2014

BBC Radio 4, 2014

Asian Express, 2014, 2016

Telegraph & Argus 2016, 2017

Asian Sunday 2016

USA Today 2018

BBC Radio 2021


Get in touch:

Email razwan@ulhaqbrothers.com

Website  http://www.ulhaq.com

Mobile 07773963502