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An Introduction to Islamic Papercutting, The Life and Work of Tusif Ahmad

What is Islamic Papercutting? & Who is Tusif Ahmad?

“The art of papercutting involves the artist cutting a whole painting from a single piece of paper resulting in a painstakingly intricate and fragile piece of art.”
Tusif Ahmad’s interest in art began in his teenage years when he started creating pieces of art doing pen and ink work. He was mostly interested in creating landscapes and capturing and preserving the beauty of our world in his work at the time. Throughout his journey around the world, he has used his work to share the beauty of Islam and the stories of the Quran.
Tusif Ahmads Story: I was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and began my visual art learning from Rawalpindi Arts Council. I came to Australia in late 2006. Being a self-taught artist, I have been working on papercutting since 2008. Throughout the year I have been exhibiting my work in many well-known galleries around the world. I have received awards and recognitions throughout the years.
To rejuvenate the ancient tradition of paper cutting, I add elements from Islamic traditions to my own style. My style of papercutting is very unique and different from the traditional cuttings. One must see my original artwork, in order to understand what I create. I am a full time artist and works from my own studio in Kwinana, WA.

Cultural Value of Islamic Papercutting 

Islamic papercutting brings people of all
nationalities together in appreciation of its beauty. It helps to build bridges between the Muslim community and the  communities at large by helping to facilitate crucial conversations about Islamic History and Art, educating its viewers, young and old.
Papercutting can help commemorate a major life event or a milestone.This art form can be appreciated while in display in cultural or religious centers, when for sale at art auctions, when used for fundraising events, and when sent as a gift.  Below are some examples of his work!
‘Hijrah’ is the migration of the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers from Mecca to Medina in a very difficult time. I combined the spider web with the starting verse of ‘Surah Yasin’ as the prophet Muhammed had recited some parts of this chapter of the Quran when he hid in a cave during his journey. The spider web is included because a spider made a web at the entrance of the cave, deterring the enemies from entering. This effectively saved the prophets (PBUH) life.
The artwork shows the historical path on which the Prophet (PBUH) took this journey.
Saraqa ibn Malik attempted to pursue him, but his horse half sank into the ground three times and then he returned back to Makkah.
The sky of Medina is filled with flowers and birds and this represents happiness, peace and its welcoming aura.

Surah Ar-Rahman 3

“He has raised up the sky. He has set the balance so that you may not transgress within the balance: weigh with justice and do not fall short in the balance” (Quran, 55: 7-9)Third in the Surah Ar-Rahman series, the vivid piece displays in winding calligraphy the parts of the surah telling that God created equilibrium in the universe on the principles of fairness and harmony. The concept of Divine balance is here succinctly articulated with symbols that collectively comprise the four classical elements – as fiery fish flitter by, both the winding branches and rippling water have characteristics mirrored in the contrasting other

Translation: Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.
“Shab i Qadr”, the Night of Power, marks the night in which the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah.
Muslims regard this as the most important event in history and the Qur’an says that this night is better than a thousand months (97:3), and that on this night, every year, the angels descend to earth.
This is a time that Muslims spend in reciting the Quran and praying and asking for forgiveness from God.

Surah Fatihah


Translation of Surah Fatihah:
In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. [All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds -The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, Sovereign of the Day of Recompense. It is You we worship and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path – The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favour, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (Surah 1, 1-7 Ayaats)
Surat al-Fatihah is the first chapter (surah) of the Quran. Its seven verses (ayat) are a prayer for the guidance, lordship and mercy of God.
Fatiah is that which opens a subject or a book or any other thing. In other words, a sort of preface.

Bait Ul Mamoor

This artwork is my imagination of Baitul Ma’mur (also called the “Frequented House”)
The Ka’aba on earth is a replica of the Ka’aba in the 7th heaven which is situated directly above the Ka’aba on earth. The angels make hajj (a pilgrimage) to this House just like how we perform hajj to the Ka’aba.
In the 4th heaven, there is a river called Haywaan (River of Life). Each day, the leader of the angels Jibra’eel (alayhi salaam) dips in it and shakes his wings letting off seventy thousand drops. From each of these droplets Almighty Allah creates one angel. These Angels are commanded to perform salaah (pray) in the Bait-ul-Ma’mur. Every single day 70,000 angels visit it. This will continue on until the Day of Resurrection and it takes an individual angel 70 years to complete a full circle around the Baitul Ma’mur.
One Angel from this group is appointed their leader and is given the duty of taking the other Angels to one spot in the Heaven where they will stand reciting the tasbeeh of Allah till the Day of Judgment.

Kiswah of Kabbah Shareef


The Kiswah is the cloth draped over the Kaaba in Mecca, a building prime amongst Islam’s holy sites. Each year a new kiswah is placed on the Kaaba during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Dozens of Saudi caftsmen, including some of the best calligraphers and artists in the world, work in Mecca preparing the elaborate silk and cotton cloth which is embroidered with gold thread. The kiswah has many distinct features, one of which is a specific design for covering the doorway to which this piece is a near replica.

Kiswah of Kabbah is the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is draped annually on the 9th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, the day pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafat during the Hajj. The artwork is a depiction of the Kiswah in papercutting.


Witnessing The Almighty


Witnessing the Almighty is a representation of one of the most important journey’s of Muhammad(PBUH)’s life called Isra and Miraj. It’s a two part, both physical and spiritual, journey.

I have tried to imagine how Al-Buraq, the steed or creature from heavens was used for travel between Mecca and Jerusalem. Then I represent how the seven skies might exist and how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) met with different prophets on those skies, as well as imagination of Sidrat Al-Muntaha


In the Belly of the Whale


Prophet Yunus (AS) was sent to the people of Naynawa, those were accustomed to worshipping idols. When there was something wrong in the society Allah sent His messenger to laid them on the right path.

Prophet Younus (AS) preached them. He explained that Allah is one and only to be worshiped. But they believed in idols. They refused to accept the oneness of Allah. He tied hard but they didn’t want to listen to him. Younis (AS) got angry with them The Prophet warned them against the result of their stubbornness and misconception. He said to them: “If you worship idols, Allah, the Glorified, will punish you.” But they didn’t listen. So, prophet Younis left Naynawa and went away and initiated journey towards the Mediterranean Sea.

He thought that Allah would punish them. But nothing happened, So, Younis continued his journey to the Mediterranean Sea. When prophet Younis left Naynawa, he was irritated. After some days the persons of Naynawa saw terrible signs. The sky was full of black clouds. There was something like smoke in the sky. So then Wise person told them that Younis was a nice and trustworthy and didn’t lie with us. He is a messenger of one and only Allah.

All the people repented because they knew that Allah will punish them. They asked forgiveness. So, the black clouds scattered gradually, and then the clear blue sky began to appear. The sun shined again. The people of Naynawa rejoiced at Allah’s great mercy and the blessing of faith and life.

When Prophet Younis arrived in the Mediterranean Sea, he took a permission for traveling in it. When the ship reached in the middle of the sea, A huge fish attacked the ship, for preventing all Younis (AS) jumped into the sea and fish swallowed him.

When he opened his eyes, he was in fish’s stomach. Then he realized that he shouldn’t leave the Naynawa. He asked forgiveness from Allah day and night. His prayer is now known as Ayat Kareema.

To learn more, to purchase a piece of art, or to rent the rotating exhibit at your museum, masjid, or community center please contact Tusif Ahmad:

Tusif Ahmad <>

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