Islamic calligraphy

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Islamic calligraphy
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{{Calligraphy}}File:Basmalah-1wm.svg|right|thumb|The phrase [Abu sofwān] in an 18th-century Islamic calligraphy from the Ottoman region and called Thuluth.]]Islamic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting and calligraphy, based upon the alphabet in the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. It includes Arabic Calligraphy, Ottoman, and Persian calligraphy.BOOK, Blair, Sheila S., The art and architecture of Islam : 1250–1800, 1995, Yale University Press, New Haven, 0-300-06465-9, Reprinted with corrections, Bloom, Jonathan M., Chapman, Caroline (2012). Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture, {{ISBN|978-979-099-631-1}} It is known in Arabic as khatt Islami ({{rtl-lang|ar|خط إسلامي}}), meaning Islamic line, design, or construction.WEB, Arabic calligraphy as a typographic exercise,weblink Julia Kaestle, 10 July 2010, The development of Islamic calligraphy is strongly tied to the Qur'an; chapters and excerpts from the Qur'an are a common and almost universal text upon which Islamic calligraphy is based. However, Islamic calligraphy is not limited to strictly religious subjects, objects, or spaces. Like all Islamic art, it encompasses a diverse array of works created in a wide variety of contexts.Blair, Sheila S. (Spring 2003). "The Mirage of Islamic Art: Reflections on the Study of an Unwieldy Field". The Art Bulletin. 85: 152–184 – via JSTOR. The prevalence of calligraphy in Islamic art is not directly related to its non-figural tradition; rather, it reflects the centrality of the notion of writing and written text in Islam.Allen, Terry (1988). Five Essays on Islamic Art. Sebastopol, CA: Solipsist Press. pp. 17–37. {{ISBN|0944940005}}. It is noteworthy, for instance, that the Prophet Muhammad is related to have said: "The first thing God created was the pen."Roxburgh, David J. (2008). ""The Eye is Favored for Seeing the Writing's Form": On the Sensual and the Sensuous in Islamic Calligraphy". Muqarnas. 25: 275–298 – via JSTOR.Islamic calligraphy developed from two major styles: Kufic and Naskh. There are several variations of each, as well as regionally specific styles. Islamic calligraphy has also been incorporated into modern art beginning with the post-colonial period in the Middle East, as well as the more recent style of calligraffiti.

Instruments and media

The traditional instrument of the Islamic calligrapher is the qalam, a pen normally made of dried reed or bamboo. The ink is often in color and chosen so that its intensity can vary greatly, creating dynamism and movement in the letter forms. Some styles are often written using a metallic-tip pen.(File:Niebuhr Beschreibung von Arabien Tab XIII.png|thumbnail|Five principal Arabic calligraphic cursive styles:{{ordered list|| Naskh| Nasta‘liq| Diwani| Thuluth| Reqa}})Islamic calligraphy can be applied to a wide range of decorative mediums other than paper, such as tiles, vessels, carpets, and stone. Before the advent of paper, papyrus and parchment were used for writing. During the 9th century, an influx of paper from China revolutionized calligraphy. While monasteries in Europe treasured a few dozen volumes, libraries in the Muslim world regularly contained hundreds and even thousands of books.{{rp|218}}For centuries, the art of writing has fulfilled a central iconographic function in Islamic art.Tabbaa, Yasser (1991). "The Transformation of Arabic Writing: Part I, Qur'ānic Calligraphy". Ars Orientalis. 21: 119–148. Although the academic tradition of Islamic calligraphy began in Baghdad, the center of the Islamic empire during much of its early history, it eventually spread as far as India and Spain.Coins were another support for calligraphy. Beginning in 692, the Islamic caliphate reformed the coinage of the Near East by replacing Byzantine Christian imagery with Islamic phrases inscribed in Arabic. This was especially true for dinars, or gold coins of high value. Generally, the coins were inscribed with quotes from the Qur'an.By the tenth century, the Persians, who had converted to Islam, began weaving inscriptions onto elaborately patterned silks. So precious were textiles featuring Arabic text that Crusaders brought them to Europe as prized possessions. A notable example is the Suaire de Saint-Josse, used to wrap the bones of St. Josse in the Abbey of St. Josse-sur-Mer, near Caen in northwestern France.{{rp|223–5}}As Islamic calligraphy is highly venerated, most works follow examples set by well-established calligraphers, with the exception of secular or contemporary works. In the Islamic tradition, calligraphers underwent extensive training in three stages, including the study of their teacher's models, in order to be granted certification.



File:A section of the Koran - Google Art Project.jpg|thumb|250px|left|9th century Qur'an, an early kufic example from the Abbasid period ]]File:Bowl with Kufic Calligraphy, 10th century.jpg|thumb|250px|left|Bowl with Kufic Calligraphy, 10th century. Brooklyn MuseumBrooklyn MuseumKufic is the oldest form of the Arabic script. The style emphasizes rigid and angular strokes, which appears as a modified form of the old Nabataean script.BOOK,weblink A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, Flood, Necipoğlu, John Wiley & Sons, 2017, 9781119068570, Volume I, Hoboken, 109–110, 963439648, The Archaic Kufi consisted of about 17 letters without diacritic dots or accents. Diacritical markings were added during the 7th century to help readers with pronunciation of the Qur'an and other important documents, increasing the number of Arabic letters to 28.Schimmel, Annemarie (1984). Calligraphy and Islamic Culture. New York: New York University Press. p. 4. {{ISBN|0814778305}}. Although some scholars dispute this, Kufic script was supposedly developed around the end of the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name.Kvernen, Elizabeth (2009). "An Introduction of Arabic, Ottoman, and Persian Calligraphy: Style". Calligraphy Qalam., Schimmel, Annemarie (1984). Calligraphy and Islamic Culture. New York: New York University Press. p. 3. {{ISBN|0814778305}}. The style later developed into several varieties, including floral, foliated, plaited or interlaced, bordered, and square kufic. Due to its straight and orderly style of lettering, Kufic was frequently used in ornamental stone carving as well as on coins.Ul Wahab, Zain; Yasmin Khan, Romana (June 30, 2016). "The Element of Mural Art and Mediums in Potohar Region". Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan. Vol. 53; No. 1 – via Nexis Uni. It was the main script used to copy the Qur'an from the 8th to 10th century and went out of general use in the 12th century when the flowing naskh style become more practical. However, it continued to be used as a decorative element to contrast superseding styles.WEB, Kūfic script,weblink Encyclopædia Britannica, There was no set rules of using the Kufic script; the only common feature is the angular, linear shapes of the characters. Due to the lack of standardization of early Kufic, the script differs widely between regions, ranging from very square and rigid forms to flowery and decorative ones.Common varieties include square Kufic, a technique known as banna'i.BOOK, Jonathan M. Bloom, Sheila Blair, The Grove encyclopedia of Islamic art and architecture,weblink 4 January 2012, 2009, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-530991-1, 101, 131, 246, Contemporary calligraphy using this style is also popular in modern decorations.Decorative Kufic inscriptions are often imitated into pseudo-kufics in Middle age and Renaissance Europe. Pseudo-kufics is especially common in Renaissance depictions of people from the Holy Land. The exact reason for the incorporation of pseudo-Kufic is unclear. It seems that Westerners mistakenly associated 13th-14th century Middle Eastern scripts with systems of writing used during the time of Jesus, and thus found it natural to represent early Christians in association with them.Mack, Rosamond E. Bazaar to Piazza: Islamic Trade and Italian Art, 1300–1600, University of California Press, 2001 {{ISBN|0-520-22131-1}}


File:Folio from a Qur'an (Mamluk dynasty).jpg|thumb|right|Muhaqqaq script in a 14th-century Qur'an from the Mamluk dynasty.]]The use of cursive scripts coexisted with Kufic, and historically cursive was commonly used for informal purposes.WEB, The Art of Arabic Calligraphy, a brief history,weblink Mamoun Sakkal, 1993, With the rise of Islam, a new script was needed to fit the pace of conversions, and a well-defined cursive called naskh first appeared in the 10th century. Naskh translates to "copying," as it became the standard for transcribing books and manuscripts.Blair, Sheila S. (2006). Islamic Calligraphy. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 158, 165. {{ISBN|0748612122}}. The script is the most ubiquitous among other styles, used in the Qur'an, official decrees, and private correspondence.WEB,weblink Library of Congress, Selections of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Calligraphy: Qur'anic Fragments,, 2013-12-04, It became the basis of modern Arabic print.Standardization of the style was pioneered by Ibn Muqla (886 – 940 A.D.) and later expanded by Abu Hayan at-Tawhidi (died 1009 A.D.). Ibn Muqla is highly regarded in Muslim sources on calligraphy as the inventor of the naskh style, although this seems to be erroneous. Since Ibn Muqla wrote with a distinctly rounded hand, many scholars drew the conclusion that he founded this script. Ibn al-Bawwab, the student of Ibn Muqla, is actually believed to have created this script. However, Ibn Muqla did establish systematic rules and proportions for shaping the letters, which use 'alif as the x-height.Kampman, Frerik (2011). Arabic Typography; its past and its futureVariation of the naskh includes:
  1. Thuluth was developed during the 10th century and later refined by Ahmad Tayyib Shah. Letters in this script have long vertical lines with broad spacing. The name, meaning "third," is in reference to the x-height, which is one-third of the 'alif.WEB,weblink Thuluth and Naskh, Kvernen, Elisabeth, 2009, CalligraphyQalam, 26 November 2018,
  2. Reqa is a handwriting style derived from Naskh and thuluth, first appeared in the 10th century. The shape is simple with short strokes and small flourishes.WEB,weblink Tawqi' and Riqa', Kvernen, Elizabeth, 2009, CalligraphyQalam, 26 November 2018,
  3. Muhaqqaq is a majestic style used by accomplished calligraphers. It was considered one of the most beautiful scripts, as well as one of the most difficult to execute. Muhaqqaq was commonly used during the Mamluk era, but its use became largely restricted to short phrases, such as the basmallah, from the 18th century onward.Mansour, Nassar (2011). Sacred Script: Muhaqqaq in Islamic Calligraphy. New York: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd. {{ISBN|978-1-84885-439-0}}

Regional styles

File:Miremad-1.jpg|thumb|right|Nasta'liq calligraphy by Mir Emad HassaniMir Emad HassaniWith the spread of Islam, the Arabic script was established in a vast geographic area with many regions developing their own unique style. From the 14th century onward, other cursive styles began to develop in Turkey, Persia, and China.
  1. Diwani is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks in the 16th and early 17th centuries. It was invented by Housam Roumi, and reached its height of popularity under Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520–1566).WEB, Diwani script,weblink Encyclopædia Britannica, Spaces between letters are often narrow, and lines ascend upwards from right to left. Larger variations called djali are filled with dense decorations of dots and diacritical marks in the space between, giving it a compact appearance. Diwani is difficult to read and write due to its heavy stylization and became the ideal script for writing court documents as it ensured confidentiality and prevented forgery.
  2. Nasta'liq is a cursive style originally devised to write the Persian language for literary and non-Qur'anic works.WEB, An Introduction of Arabic, Ottoman, and Persian Calligraphy: Style, Kvernen, Elizabeth, 2009, Calligraphy Qalam,weblink Nasta'liq is thought to be a later development of the naskh and the earlier ta'liq script used in Iran.WEB, Ta'liq Script,weblink Encyclopædia Britannica, Quite rapidly gaining popularity as a script in South Asia. The name ta'liq means "hanging," and refers to the slightly sloped quality of lines of text in this script. Letters have short vertical strokes with broad and sweeping horizontal strokes. The shapes are deep, hook-like, and have high contrast. A variant called Shikasteh was developed in the 17th century for more formal contexts.
  3. Sini is a style developed in China. The shape is greatly influenced by Chinese calligraphy, using a horsehair brush instead of the standard reed pen. A famous modern calligrapher in this tradition is Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang."Gallery", Haji Noor Deen.


In the post-colonial era, artists working in North Africa and the Middle East transformed Arabic calligraphy into a modern art movement, known as the Hurufiyya movement.Flood, Necipoğlu (2017). A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture. Volume II. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 1294. {{ISBN|1119068665}}. OCLC 1006377297. Artists working in this style use calligraphy as a graphic element within contemporary artwork.Mavrakis, N., "The Hurufiyah Art Movement in Middle Eastern Art," McGill Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Blog, Online:weblink A. and Masters, C., A-Z Great Modern Artists, Hachette UK, 2015, p. 56The term, hurufiyya is derived from the Arabic term, harf for letter. Traditionally, the term was charged with Sufi intellectual and esoteric meaning. It is an explicit reference to a medieval system of teaching involving political theology and lettrism. In this theology, letters were seen as primordial signifiers and manipulators of the cosmos.Mir-Kasimov, O., Words of Power: Hurufi Teachings Between Shi'ism and Sufism in Medieval Islam, I.B. Tauris and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2015Hurufiyya artists blended Western art concepts with an artistic identity and sensibility drawn from their own culture and heritage. These artists integrated Islamic visual traditions, especially calligraphy, and elements of modern art into syncretic contemporary compositions.Lindgren, A. and Ross, S., The Modernist World, Routledge, 2015, p. 495; Mavrakis, N., "The Hurufiyah Art Movement in Middle Eastern Art," McGill Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Blog, Online:weblink Tuohy, A. and Masters, C., A-Z Great Modern Artists, Hachette UK, 2015, p. 56 Although hurufiyyah artists struggled to find their own individual dialogue within the context of nationalism, they also worked towards an aesthetic that transcended national boundaries and represented a broader affiliation with an Islamic identity.The hurufiyya artistic style as a movement most likely began in North Africa around 1955 with the work of Ibrahim el-Salahi. However, the use of calligraphy in modern artworks appears to have emerged independently in various Islamic states. Artists working in this were often unaware of other hurufiyya artists's works, allowing for different manifestations of the style to emerge in different regions.Dadi. I., "Ibrahim El Salahi and Calligraphic Modernism in a Comparative Perspective," South Atlantic Quarterly, 109 (3), 2010 pp 555-576, DOIweblink Flood, F.B. and Necipoglu, G. (eds) A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, Wiley, 2017, p. 1294 In Sudan, for instance, artworks include both Islamic calligraphy and West African motifs.Flood, Necipoğlu (2017). A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture. Volume II. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 1298-1299. {{ISBN|1119068665}}. OCLC 1006377297.File:Roof of Frere Hall.JPG|thumb|The Roof of Frere Hall, Karachi, Pakistan, c. 1986. Mural by artist, Sadequain Naqqash integrates calligraphy elements into a modern artwork]]The hurufiyya art movement was not confined to painters and included artists working in a variety of media.Mavrakis, N., "The Hurufiyah Art Movement in Middle Eastern Art," McGill Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Blog, Online:weblink A. and Masters, C., A-Z Great Modern Artists, Hachette UK, 2015, p. 56; Dadi. I., "Ibrahim El Salahi and Calligraphic Modernism in a Comparative Perspective," South Atlantic Quarterly, 109 (3), 2010 pp 555-576, DOIweblink One example is the Jordanian ceramicist, Mahmoud Taha who combined the traditional aesthetics of calligraphy with skilled craftsmanship.Asfour. M., "A Window on Contemporary Arab Art," NABAD Art Gallery, Online:weblink Although not affiliated with the hurufiyya movement, the contemporary artist Shirin Neshat integrates Arabic text into her black-and-white photography, creating contrast and duality. In Iraq, the movement was known as Al Bu'd al Wahad (or the One Dimension Group)","Shaker Hassan Al Said," Darat al Funum, Online:; Flood, Necipoğlu (2017). A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture. Volume II. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 1294. {{ISBN|1119068665}}. OCLC 1006377297. and in Iran, it was known as the Saqqa-Khaneh movement.Western art has influenced Arabic calligraphy in other ways, with forms such as calligraffiti, which is the use of calligraphy in public art to make politico-social messages or to ornament public buildings and spaces.Grebenstein, M., Calligraphy Bible: A Complete Guide to More Than 100 Essential Projects and Techniques, 2012, p. 5 Notable Islamic calligraffiti artists include: Yazan Halwani active in LebanonAlabaster, Olivia. "I like to write Beirut as it’s the city that gave us everything", The Daily Star, Beirut, 09 February 2013, el Seed working in France and Tunisia, and Caiand A1one in Tehran.NEWS, Vandalog, A1one in Tehran IRAN,weblink 8 October 2012, Vandalog, 3 May 2011,



Image:Qur'an folio 11th century kufic.jpg|Kufic script in an 11th-century Qur'anImage:Maghribi script sura 5.jpg|Maghribi kufic script in a 13th-century Qur'anFile:Jame mosque yazd tilework.jpg|Square kufic tilework in Yazd, IranFile:Cup votive inscriptions MET 40-170-15.jpg|Under-glaze terracotta bowl from the 11th century NishapurFile:Hamdanid gold dinar, Nasir al-Dawla and Sayf al-Dawla.jpg|Gold dinar from 10th century SyriaImage:An example of Kufic Calligraphy.jpg|A Kufic calligraphy in Chota Imambara


Image:Qur'anic Manuscript - Mid to Late 15th Century, Turkey.jpg|Muhaqqaq script in a 15th-century Qur'an from Turkey.File:Qur'an manuscript Surat al-Nisa'. (1).tif|Muhaqqaq script in a 13th-century Qur'an.File:Muhammad ibn Pir Ahmad al-shahir bi-Ibn Arghun al-Shirazi - Text Page with Dedication to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I - Walters W5912A - Full Page.jpg|Naskh script in an early 16th-century Ottoman manuscript dedicated to Selim I.File:Ijazah3.jpg|Diploma of competency in calligraphy, written with thuluth and naskh script.File:Mausolée de Touman Aka (Shah-i-Zinda, Samarcande) (6009410911).jpg|Thuluth script tile in Samarkand.Image:Kalligráfia Hagia Sophia.jpg|Calligraphy of Ali decorating Hagia Sophia.

Regional varieties

Image:Ta'liq Script.jpg|Ta'liq script in an Ottoman manuscript.Image:Brooklyn Museum - Sample of Calligraphy in Persian Nasta'liq Script.jpg|Nasta'liq Script.Image:Nastaliq-proportions.jpg|Proportions of the nasta'liq script.File:Qur'anic Manuscript - Sini script.jpg|Sini script in an 11th-century Qur'an.File:Chinese quran.jpg|Chinese Qur'an written in Sini with Chinese translation.Image:The Islamic calligraphy.jpg|The Word "Allah" written in the Form of Pigeon in Chota Imambara

Modern examples

File:Bismillah.JPG|Bismallah calligraphy.File:Muhammad calligraphy.svg|Muhammad calligraphyFile:Bismillah.svg|Bismallah calligraphy.File:Caligrafia arabe pajaro.svg|An example of zoomorphic calligraphy.File:Flag of Taliban.svg|flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 2001.File:Al jazeera Calligraphy Animation.gif|Animation showing the calligraphic composition of the Al Jazeera logo.File:Emirates logo.svg|The Emirates logo is written in traditional Arabic calligraphy.File:Learning Arabic calligraphy.jpg|The instruments and work of a student calligrapher.File:Menulis khat.jpg|Islamic calligraphy performed by a Malay Muslim in Malaysia. Calligrapher is making a rough draft.

List of calligraphers

Some classical calligraphers:

Ottoman era {{anchor|Ottoman-era calligraphers}}

{{See|List of Ottoman calligraphers}}

See also



External links

{{Sister project links| wikt=no | commons=Category:Islamic calligraphy | b=no | n=no | q=Islamic calligraphy | s=no | v=no | voy=no | species=no | d=no}} {{Islamic calligraphy}}{{Islamic art}}{{Islamic architecture}}{{Islamic studies}}{{Use dmy dates|date=April 2017}}

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