In a time of devices and digital apps, Zeeshan Farooq, ’13, favors handwriting.
On coffee mugs with vibrant red or pink interiors, his lively, modern calligraphic script forms the Arabic word Bismillah. Shortened from Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, it means “In the name of Allah, the most merciful and compassionate.” A metal placard for mirrors reads, in his carefully crafted script: “Oh Allah, just as you made my body beautiful, make my character beautiful as well.”
“I want to play a little part in spreading the beauty of the Arabic script and the religion of Islam,” says Farooq. “That keeps me motivated.”
First captivated by calligraphy’s human details as an elementary-school student in 1980s Pakistan, young Farooq took inspiration from billboard messages in Nastaliq script—a preferred form of calligraphy used for Urdu, the native language of Pakistan. He started his journey by modifying over-the-counter fountain pens to use them for calligraphy. Urdu and Arabic scripts share a common set of alphabets, and he naturally transitioned toward different styles. Handwriting and calligraphy were important skills, particularly pre-internet, and that helped form his own passion for penmanship. Now, as senior product manager of digital innovations at Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance and a former software engineer, Farooq runs a thriving side business, CreationZ Art, designing customized laser-cut Arabic and English calligraphy artwork for clients.
“Booth created that entrepreneurial spirit,” says Farooq. His art business has allowed him to express his creativity outside his primary job—it also helped pay for his 2009 wedding.