Pakistani Muslim paints Sikh gurus, spreads their message

November 25th, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Nov 25 (IANS) He is Muslim, but 78-year-old Syed Aftab Ahmed Shah has come from Pakistan with an exhibition of his paintings and calligraphy aimed at spreading the spiritual teachings of Sikh gurus among youth.Shah is an industrialist and painter based in Lahore and is in Chandigarh with a message of harmony. He is displaying 47 of his creations at the show titled “Ruhaniyat” that began last week.

“Our present generation is wasting its time and is gradually drifting away from religion and spiritualism. Their moral values, principles and preferences have drastically changed and are pointing towards mayhem,” Shah told IANS.

“When any generation starts brimming with materialism, hatred and prejudice, then follows its disintegration - like what happened to the USSR and now the US is also following suit,” said Shah.

He has made portraits of Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Gobind Singh, the horse of Guru Gobind Singh, Mia Mir Sahib, Baba Deep Singh, the symbol of ‘Ek Onkar’ circumscribed by Arabic verses, a letter written by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb to Guru Gobind Singh and arms and armour of Sikh leaders.

There are verses of celebrated poets like Hafiz Sherazi, Iqbal, Rumi and Ghalib and the names of Sikh gurus written in Arabic.

“The sole aim of my exhibition is to bring today’s youth closer to god and spirituality through a visual medium. Visuals can certainly create wonders. Keeping this in mind I have created these paintings showing Sikh gurus, their preachings and their values,” said Shah.

He has used various scripts like Mushajar, Sul and Nastaleeq in his creations.

Shah who graduated from reputed Aitchison College in Lahore runs an import and export business there. This is his third visit to India but his first exhibition here. He has exhibited his creations in countries like Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US.

“Here I have focussed only on the Sikh religion but back home in Pakistan I have conducted many such exhibitions zeroing in on the Muslim religion,” said Shah.

“I started learning painting during my school days and pursued it along with my business. At the age of 60, the idea of learning calligraphy struck me. I joined calligraphy classes where my teacher was much younger than me,” said Shah.

He trained in calligraphy for four years and passed the highest level of the subject. He has also won the Pakistan president’s gold medal in calligraphy.

“All religions are one and preach the same kind of teachings. There can be no question of differences among Sikhs and Muslims, as Mia Mir sahib, who laid the foundation stone of the Sikh religious shrine, Golden Temple, in Amritsar was himself a Muslim man.”

“In fact, I have an old bond with Punjab as my ancestors had served at senior positions during the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule. Faqir Azizudin, one of my ancestors, was prime minister during his rule.”

About the response to his exhibitions, Shah said, “I received an overwhelming response here as on the very first day of my exhibition, 17 out of the 47 works that I brought here were sold. It took me over one year to complete these works and their prices range from Rs.5,000 to Rs.200,000.”

Expressing his resentment, Shah said, “The formalities that we have to fulfil before obtaining a visa to India are very cumbersome and that is the only reason many of our artists have not been able to come here.”

“There is a need for healthy exchange of artists and art forms between the two countries and this exchange will certainly act as an effective confidence building measure. We appeal to the governments to make the visa process easy so that we can come here more frequently,” said Shah.

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