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"World's largest Quran" unveiled in Afghanistan

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By Mandy Clark

Afghan calligrapher Mohammed Sabeer Hussani, center, and nine student apprentices work on a page for the world's largest Quran - the Islamic holy book - at the Hakim Nasir-e-Khusraw Balkhi Cultural Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Credit: Hakim Nasir-e-Khusraw Balkhi Cultural Center)

The world's largest Quran has been unveiled in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The cultural center that commissioned the work wanted more than just to own the largest Muslim holy book -- it wanted to show the world that despite more than 30 years of war, Afghanistan's rich cultural heritage has not been destroyed.

Afghan calligrapher Mohammed Sabeer Khedri Hussani, 52, and nine student apprentices spent five years working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, to create the enormous masterpiece. Hussani, a devout Muslim, tells CBS News it was a labor of love, and he is proud of his accomplishment.

"My happiness is when I see each and every group of people coming everyday to see my calligraphy, it makes me feel proud," he says.

The lavish holy book, with pages measuring more than seven feet tall and five feet wide, has been certified as the world's largest Quran by the Afghan Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, according to the cultural center which houses it.

It weighs 1,102 pounds, and has 218 pages of cloth and paper bound inside an embossed leather cover made from the skins of 21 goats. Hussani says the book cost a million dollars to create, and was paid for by Islamic spiritual leader Alhaj Sayed Mansoor Naderi.

The Quran combines gold script with millions of tiny colorful dots, forming highly symbolic decorations around the giant pages.

"I wanted to use as many tasteful colors as possible to make this holy book look beautiful," Hussani says. The book was completed in 2009, but a room at the cultural center had to be built to house it.

The cultural center was originally founded in the 1980s, and was once home to 50 thousand books, a medical center and schools teaching traditional Afghan crafts like carpet weaving, but it was largely destroyed in the 1990s during the Civil War that followed the Soviet pullout.
The founders have been reviving the center since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, and the new Quran is its showpiece.

(Courtesy: CBS News)
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