Post Author: Anne Layton, Arabic Flagship Program student
Calligraphy is one of the most well-known aspects of Arabic culture and is a high art-form in the Arab world. Despite its significance in the world and throughout history, many people know little about calligraphy. In this post, I will go over the history and types of calligraphy.
One of the main reasons for the development of calligraphy was religion. In Islam, idolatry is frowned upon, so religious portrayals using images of people was not an option. Thus, calligraphy became the main method of religious expression. Many different forms of this art developed throughout time and in various locations due to the scope of Islam. Many different regions created their own forms such as Morocco and the Ottomans. Additionally, calligraphy in its earliest forms dates all the way back to the Umayyed Caliphate in the 7th century. The different types include: Ta’liq, Naskh, Kufi, Deewani, Req’aa, Thuluth.
● Ta’liq: This script was most likely developed by the Persians from an earlier Arabic script called Firamuz. It was used by Persian and Turkish calligraphers as a script for important occasions, and is still very popular among Persian, Turkish, and Indian Muslims.
● Naskh: One of the earliest scripts, it gained popularity in the 10th century after the famous calligrapher Ibn Muqlah redesigned it. Later redesigns made it more elegant so that more Qurans have been written with this script than any other. It is also relatively easier to read and write, which lends to its popularity.
● Kufi: This script was created in the 8th century and was the dominant script for priests. It is a very geometric script, which allows it to be adapted to many different surfaces. It also does not have strict rules for writing, so it gives the calligrapher greater freedom of expression.
● Deewani: Deewani script is an Ottoman development derived from Ta’liq. It became a favorite for Ottoman calligraphers for ornamental purposes.
● Req’aa: This script evolved from Naskh and Thuluth. It is a more simplified script with more rounded and structured letters. It was also popular for the Ottomans, and is now one of the most popular throughout the Arab world
● Thuluth: Thuluth first developed in the 7th century during the Umayyad caliphate, but did not fully develop for another 2 centuries. It is rarely used for the Quran, but it widely used for ornamental purposes and is the most important ornamental script. It is characterized by letters with barbed heads and is often elaborate and complex in appearance.