Art of Arabic Calligraphy

Islam in Arabic means “submission” and derives from a word meaning “peace,” for it is in submitting to God’s Will that human beings gain peace in their lives in this world and the hereafter. Islam is a universal message revealed in the sacred book, the Quran, through the Prophet Muhammad, and shares with the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity, their ethical teachings and the belief in the One God. Islam is both a religion and a way of life.

Art of Arabic calligraphy is a traditional and revered art form that involves the skilled use of the Arabic script to create intricate and aesthetically pleasing designs. The history of Arabic calligraphy dates back to the 7th century, when the Arabic script was first developed and used to record the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Over the centuries, Art of Arabic Calligraphy has evolved into a highly respected art form that is appreciated for its beauty and spiritual significance. The intricate designs and elaborate lettering of Arabic calligraphy are used to decorate everything from religious texts and manuscripts to architectural features and everyday objects.Art of Arabic Calligraphy

One of the key characteristics of Art of Arabic calligraphy is its emphasis on the beauty of the written word. In Arabic calligraphy, each letter is carefully crafted to convey a sense of grace and harmony. The calligrapher must have a deep understanding of the shape and structure of each letter, as well as an appreciation for the overall composition of the design.

Art of Arabic Calligraphy is also noted for its use of geometric patterns and motifs. These elements are often incorporated into the design to create a sense of balance and symmetry. Islamic art, which often features Art of Arabic calligraphy, is renowned for its intricate and highly detailed geometric designs.

In addition to its aesthetic qualities, Art of Arabic Calligraphy also has deep spiritual significance. The use of calligraphy in Islamic art reflects the belief that the word of God is a divine gift, and that the written word should be treated with the utmost respect and reverence.

To become a skilled calligrapher, one must undergo years of training and practice. The calligrapher must have a deep understanding of the rules and conventions of Arabic script, as well as a strong sense of artistic composition and design. The tools of the trade include a pen, ink, and a special paper called “wassat,” which is designed to absorb the ink without bleeding or smudging.

Art of Arabic Calligraphy has played an important role in the cultural and artistic traditions of the Middle East and beyond. Today, the art form is practiced by calligraphers around the world, and is appreciated for its beauty, complexity, and spiritual significance. Whether used to decorate a mosque or simply to write a letter, Art of Arabic calligraphy is a timeless art form that continues to inspire and captivate people of all ages and backgrounds.

Islamic Calligraphy Materials and Tools:

For Muslims the Quran is the actual Word of God revealed through the archangel Gabrielle to the Prophet of Islam during the twenty-three year period of his prophetic mission. It was revealed in the Arabic language, which became therefore the language of Islam even for non-Arab Muslims.

Although early Arabic sources mention several calligraphic styles in reference to the cities in which they were used, they generally fit into two broad categories with some minor variations, these are the “dry styles,” the early predecessors of Kufic, and the “moist styles,” the early predecessors of the cursive family or scripts.

Early calligraphic developments

The North Arabic script, which was influenced by the Nabatian script, was established in north-eastern Arabia and flourished in the 5 th century among the Arabian tribes who inhabited Hirah and Anbar. It spread to Hijaz in western Arabia, and its use was popularized among the aristocracy of Quraysh, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad, by Harb ibn Ummayyah.

The reform of Arabic script

With the increasing number of non-Arab Muslims, there was a greater need for facilitating reading and learning of Arabic. Since several letters of the Arabic alphabet share the same shapes, and since vowels are not clearly indicated, some reform was needed to avoid confusion, and a system of Naqt or I’jam (letter-pointing), and Tashkeel (vowel indication) was developed.

Abul Aswad al Du’ali (d. 688) was the legendary founder of Arabic grammar, and is credited with inventing the system of placing large colored dots to indicate the Tashkeel. It was used with the Kufic scripts, but proved to be somewhat cumbersome to use with smaller scripts, or in ordinary writing.

The Ummayad governor al Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al Thaqafi enforced a uniform system to distinguish letters by using dots, which he asked two of al Du’ali’s students to codify.

Al Khalil ibn Ahmad al Farahidi (d. 786) devised a tashkeel system to replace Abu al Aswad’s. His system was universally used since the early eleventh century, and included six diacritical marks:

Al Khalil ibn Ahmad al Farahidi devised a tashkeel system to replace Abu al Aswad’s. His system was universally used since the early eleventh century, and included six diacritical marks to indicate the small vowels attached to Arabic letters.
Fathah (a), Dammah (u), Kasrah (i), Sukun (vowelless), Shaddah (double consonant), and Maddah (vowel prolongation) which is applied to the Alef. Art of Arabic Calligraphy

Development of cursive scripts

Cursive scripts coexisted with Kufic and date back to before Islam, but because in the early stages of their development they lacked discipline and elegance, they were usually used for secular purposes only.

Under the Ummayads and Abbasids, court requirements for correspondence and record keeping resulted in many developments to the cursive scripts, and several styles were devised to fulfill these needs.

Abu Ali Muhammad Ibn Muqlah (d. 940), along with his brother, became accomplished calligraphers in Baghdad in an early age. Abu Ali became a Vizir to three Abbasid caliphs, and is credited with developing the first script to obey strict proportional rules.

His system utilized the dot as a measuring unit for line proportions, and a circle with a diameter equals to the Alef’s height as a measuring unit for letter proportions.

Art of Arabic Calligraphy

The measuring system of Ibn Muqlah is based on a circle with a diameter that equals the height of the letter Alef. It controls the correct proportions of the letters by comparing them to the circle, and by diagonal dots written with the calligraphy pen. Art of Arabic Calligraphy
Ibn Muqlah’s system became a powerful tool in the development and standardization of cursive scripts, and his calligraphic work elevated the previous cursive styles into a place of prominence, and made them acceptable as worthy of writing the Quran.

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Art of Arabic Calligraphy