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. It is known in Arabic as khatt Islami
(خط اسلامي), meaning Islamic line, design, or construction.
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. Deep religious
association with the Qur'an, as well as suspicion of figurative art as
idolatrous, has led calligraphy to become one of the major forms of
artistic expression in Islamic cultures. It has also been argued
Islamic calligraphy was motivated less by iconophobia (since, in
fact, images were by no means absent in Islamic art) than by the
centrality of the notion of writing and written text in Islam. It
is noteworthy, for instance, that the Prophet
Muhammad is related to
have said: "The first thing God created was the pen."
Islamic calligraphy is highly venerated, most works follow examples
set by well established calligraphers, with the exception of secular
or contemporary works. In antiquity, a pupil would copy a master's
work repeatedly until their handwriting was similar. The most common
style is divided into angular and cursive, each further divided into
1 Instruments and media
2.3 Regional styles
3.3 Regional varieties
3.4 Modern examples
4 List of calligraphers
5 See also
8 External links
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 such that its intensity can vary greatly, so that the
greater strokes of the compositions can be very dynamic in their
effect. Some styles are often written using a metallic-tip pen.
Five principal Arabic calligraphic cursive styles:
1. Naskh (نسخ nasḫ)
2. Nasta‘liq (نستعلیق nastaʿlīq)
Diwani (ديواني dīwānī)
Thuluth (ثلث ṯuluṯ)
5. Ruq‘ah (رقعة ruqʿah)
Islamic calligraphy is applied on a wide range of decorative mediums
other than paper, such as tiles, vessels, carpets, and
inscriptions. Before the advent of paper, papyrus and parchment
were used for writing. The advent of paper revolutionized calligraphy.
While monasteries in Europe treasured a few dozen volumes, libraries
Muslim world regularly contained hundreds and even thousands of
Coins were another support for calligraphy. Beginning in 692, the
Islamic caliphate reformed the coinage of the Near East by replacing
visual depiction with words. 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 calligraphic inscribed textiles 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.:223–5
9th century Qur'an, an early kufic example from the Abbasid period
Kufic Calligraphy, 10th century. Brooklyn Museum
Kufic 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. The Archaic Kufi consisted of about 17 letters
without diacritic dots or accents. Afterwards, dots and accents were
added to help readers with pronunciation, and the set of Arabic
letters rose to 28. It is developed around the end of the 7th
century in the areas of Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name.
The style later developed into several varieties, including floral,
foliated, plaited or interlaced, bordered, and squared kufi. It was
the main script used to copy Qur'ans from the 8th to 10th century and
went out of general use in the 12th century when the flowing naskh
style become more practical, although it continued to be used as a
decorative element to contrast superseding styles.
There were 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 methods, the scripts in different regions and countries and
even down to the individuals themselves have different ways to write
in the script creatively, ranging from very square and rigid forms to
flowery and decorative.
Common varieties include square Kufic, a technique known as
banna'i. 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
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 13–14th century Middle-Eastern
scripts as being identical with the scripts current during Jesus's
time, and thus found natural to represent early Christians in
association with them.
Muhaqqaq script in a 14th-century
Qur'an from the Mamluk dynasty.
The use of cursive script coexisted with kufic, but because in the
early stages of their development they lacked discipline and elegance,
cursive were usually used for informal purposes. With the rise of
Islam, new script was needed to fit the pace of conversions, and a
well defined cursive called naskh first appeared in the 10th century.
The script is the most ubiquitous among other styles, used in Qur'ans,
official decrees, and private correspondence. 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.)
Muhammad Ibn Abd ar-Rahman (1492 – 1545 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. However, Ibn
Muqla did establish systematic rules and proportions for shaping the
letters, which use 'alif as the x-height.
Variation of the naskh includes:
Thuluth is developed as a display script to decorate particular
scriptural objects. Letters 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.
Riq'ah is a handwriting style derived from naskh and thuluth, first
appeared in the 9th century. The shape is simple with short strokes
and little flourishes.
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
Mameluke era, but the use become largely restricted to short phrases,
such as the basmallah, from the 18th century onward.
Nasta'liq calligraphy by Mir Emad Hassani, perhaps the most celebrated
With 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 developed
in Turkey, Persia, and China.
Nasta'liq is a cursive style originally devised to write the Persian
language for literary and non-Qur'anic works.
Nasta'liq is thought
to be a later development of the naskh and the earlier ta'liq script
used in Iran. The name ta'liq means "hanging", and refers to the
slightly steeped lines of which words run in, giving the script a
hanging appearance. 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 is used in a more
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
Süleyman I the Magnificent
Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520–1566). 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
Diwani is difficult to read and write due to its heavy
stylization, and became ideal script for writing court documents as it
ensured confidentiality and prevented forgery.
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
Deen Mi Guangjiang.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2016)
Western design has influenced Arabic
Calligraphy in modern times, with
forms such as calligraffiti.
Kufic script in an 11th-century Qur'an
Maghribi kufic script in a 13th-century Qur'an
Square kufic tilework in Yazd, Iran
Under-glaze terracotta bowl from the 11th century Nishapur
Gold dinar from 10th century Syria
Kufic calligraphy in Chota Imambara
Muhaqqaq script in a 15th-century
Qur'an from Turkey.
Muhaqqaq script in a 13th-century Qur'an.
Naskh script in an early 16th-century Ottoman manuscript dedicated to
Diploma of competency in calligraphy, written with thuluth and naskh
Thuluth script tile in Samarkand.
Calligraphy of Ali decorating Hagia Sophia.
Ta'liq script in an Ottoman manuscript.
Proportions of the nasta'liq script.
Sini script in an 11th-century Qur'an.
Qur'an written in Sini with Chinese translation.
The Word "Allah" written in the Form of Pigeon in Chota Imambara
An example of zoomorphic calligraphy.
flag of the
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 2001.
Animation showing the calligraphic composition of the
Al Jazeera logo.
The Emirates logo is written in traditional Arabic calligraphy.
Air Serbia logo,
Serbian eagle drawn with
Arabic calligraphy style
The instruments and work of a student calligrapher.
Islamic calligraphy performed by a Malay Muslim in Malaysia.
Calligrapher is making a rough draft.
List of calligraphers
Some classical calligraphers:
Ibn Muqla (d. 939/940)
Ibn al-Bawwab (d. 1022)
Fakhr-un-Nisa (12th century)
Yaqut al-Musta'simi (d. 1298)
Mir Ali Tabrizi (d. 14th–15th century)
Shaykh Hamdullah (1436–1520)
Seyyid Kasim Gubari
Seyyid Kasim Gubari (d. 1624)
Hâfiz Osman (1642–1698)
Mustafa Râkim (1757–1826)
Mehmed Shevki Efendi
Mehmed Shevki Efendi (1829–1887)
Islamic Golden Age
Museum of Turkish
Ottoman Turkish language
^ a b c d Blair, Sheila S.; Bloom, Jonathan M. (1995). The art and
architecture of Islam : 1250–1800 (Reprinted with corrections
ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-06465-9.
^ a b c Chapman, Caroline (2012). Encyclopedia of
Islamic Art and
Architecture, ISBN 978-979-099-631-1
^ a b c Julia Kaestle (10 July 2010). "
Arabic calligraphy as a
^ Irvin Cemil Schick, “The Content of Form: Islamic Calligraphy
Between Text and Representation,” in Sign and Design, ed. B.
Bedos-Rezak and J. Hamburger (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks
Research Library and Collection, 2016), 169–190.
^ Sunan Abi Dawud, Sunnah 4699.
^ "History of the Arabic Type Evolution from 1930 till Present".
^ a b c d e f Kvernen, Elizabeth (2009). "An Introduction of Arabic,
Ottoman, and Persian Calligraphy: Style".
^ "Kūfic script". Encyclopædia Britannica.
^ Jonathan M. Bloom; Sheila Blair (2009). The Grove encyclopedia of
Islamic art and architecture. Oxford University Press. pp. 101,
131, 246. ISBN 978-0-19-530991-1. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
^ Mack, Rosamond E.
Bazaar to Piazza: Islamic Trade and Italian Art,
1300–1600, University of California Press, 2001
^ Mamoun Sakkal (1993). "The Art of Arabic Calligraphy, a brief
^ a b "Library of Congress, Selections of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman
Calligraphy: Qur'anic Fragments". International.loc.gov. Retrieved
^ Kampman, Frerik (2011). Arabic Typography; its past and its future
^ Mansour, Nassar (2011). Sacred Script:
Muhaqqaq in Islamic
Calligraphy. New York: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.
^ "Ta'liq Script". Encyclopædia Britannica.
Diwani script". Encyclopædia Britannica.
^ "Gallery", Haji Noor Deen.
Wolfgang Kosack: Islamische Schriftkunst des Kufischen. Geometrisches
Kufi in 593 Schriftbeispielen. Deutsch – Kufi – Arabisch.
Christoph Brunner, Basel 2014, ISBN 978-3-906206-10-3.
Find more aboutIslamic calligraphyat's sister projects
Media from Wikimedia Commons
Quotations from Wikiquote
Kufic (Geometric Kufic)
Islamic illuminated manuscript
List of Arabic calligraphers
List of Ottoman calligraphers
List of Persian calligraphers
Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation
Museum of Turkish
Society of Iranian Calligraphists
Part of Islamic arts
See also Decoration
Persian (Early, Qajar, Safavid)
Jerusalem (Islamic Museum, L. A. Mayer Institute)
London (British Museum, V&A)
Marrakech (Museum, Majorelle Garden)
Paris (Arab World Institute, Louvre)
Toronto (Aga Khan)
Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World
Aniconism in Islam
Islamic world contributions to Medieval Europe
Influences on Western art
Mathematics and architecture
Oriental carpets in
Indonesian / Malaysian
Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
Dome (Arabic dome /
Onion dome / Persian dome / South Asian dome)
Islamic geometric patterns
Islamic interlace patterns
Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Influences on Western architecture