The History of Islamic Calligraphy


While most works of art had legible inscriptions, not all Muslims would have been able to read them. One should always keep in mind, however, that calligraphy is principally a means to transmit a text, albeit in a decorative form.


Arabic calligraphy is a timeless art form that has been celebrated for its beauty and elegance for centuries. The history of Arabic calligraphy dates back to the 7th century, shortly after the birth of Islam when Arabic script became the primary means of communication and expression in the Muslim world. In this article, we will explore The History of Islamic Calligraphy and Arabic calligraphy and its evolution over time.

Origins of Arabic Calligraphythe History of Islamic Calligraphy

The earliest Arabic inscriptions dating back to the 6th century, during the pre-Islamic era when they were found in the Arabian Peninsula. These early inscriptions were often carved on rocks or stones and had a simple, straightforward style. However, the emergence of Islam in the 7th century sparked a significant change in the way Arabic script was used.

Islamic Calligraphy

The History of Islamic Calligraphy With the spread of Islam, Arabic calligraphy began to play an important role in religious and cultural expression. The Quran, which is the holy book of Islam, was written in Arabic, and calligraphers were tasked with the responsibility of transcribing and preserving the text. As a result, Arabic calligraphy became an integral part of Islamic art, and calligraphers were highly regarded in society.

Styles and Forms of Arabic Calligraphy

Over time, various styles and forms of Arabic calligraphy emerged, each with its unique features and characteristics. The Kufic style, for example, was used in the early Islamic period and was characterized by its straight, angular lines and simple, geometric shapes. The Naskh style, on the other hand, emerged in the 10th century and is characterized by its fluid, cursive lines, and rounded shapes.

Other styles of Arabic calligraphy include the Thuluth, which is known for its elegant curves and long vertical lines, and the Diwani style, which is known for its intricate, interlocking shapes and designs. Each style of Arabic calligraphy has its unique history and development, reflecting the cultural and artistic influences of the time.

Influence on Art and Design

Arabic calligraphy has had a significant impact on art and design throughout history. Its intricate and beautiful script has been used to decorate mosques, palaces, and other architectural structures. It has also been used in the creation of textiles, ceramics, and other decorative arts.

In modern times, Arabic calligraphy has also been incorporated into contemporary art and design, including typography, logos, and branding. It has become a source of inspiration for artists and designers around the world, who have adapted their traditional forms and styles to create new and innovative designs.

In conclusion, the history of Arabic calligraphy is a rich and fascinating one, reflecting the cultural and artistic developments of the Islamic world. Its enduring beauty and elegance have made it a beloved art form that continues to inspire artists and designers today. The evolution of Arabic calligraphy over time has resulted in a diverse range of styles and forms, each with its unique characteristics and influences.

The History of Islamic Calligraphy

The Arabic saying, “Purity of writing is the purity of the soul” vividly describes the status of the master calligrapher in Islamic society. It was believed that only a person of spiritual devotion and clear thought could achieve the skill required for this supreme art.

The most talented of calligraphers attained honorable positions as scribes in the Imperial Palace or as teachers of Imperial rulers. The foundation of Islamic calligraphy was laid down by the creative genius of three great calligraphers from Baghdad; the Vizier Ibn Muqla (886–940) of the Abbasid court, Ibn al-Bawwab, and Yakut al-Musta’simi of Amasya (d. 1298).

1-The principles of calligraphy:The History of Islamic Calligraphy

In The History of Islamic Calligraphy, Ibn Muqla established the principles of calligraphy. To this day, Islamic calligraphers use his theory of proportion based on three sets of measurements: the dot, alif, and circle. The relationship of all letters of a script is determined by the width of the rhomboid dot produced by the pen nib.

The letter alif can then be drawn based on a set number rhomboid dots determined by the type of script being used. Once the letter alif is formed, an invisible circle is drawn around the letter (the height of the alif is the diameter of the circle), serving the basis from which all letters of a script may be calculated.

The History of Islamic Calligraphy From the 700s, the Koran had been copied only in the kufic, a formal, rectilinear script associated with the city of KuKufic southern Iraq. By the 900s, however, a series of flowing curvilinear scripts evolved that came to surpass kufic in religious, government, and private use.

Through the transmission of knowledge from teacher to pupil, the achievements of Ibn Muqla were refined by the calligrapher and illuminator Ibn al-Bawwab (d. 1022) and Yakut al-Musta’simi (d. 1298), the secretary to the last Abbasid caliph. These calligraphers contributed to the development of the akalm-i sitte, also known as the six major scripts: sulus, newish,akarma-iasiteyhani, tevki, and rika. Legend has it that Yakut instructed six disciples, each of whom mastered a script. Another great invention by Yakut is the cutting of the reed nib at an oblique angle, thereby accentuating the elegance and thinness of the vertical line.

Each of the aklami sitte (six major scripts) was utilized by calligraphers to serve varied functions based on their size and style. The names of some of the scripts refer to their size.

For example, sulus, also known as the “mother of calligraphy” is called the “one-third script.” Its rounded lettering lends itself to compositional techniques, including playful interlacing and interlocking of letters.

Nesih is a small elegant script often used for secular writing. A derivation of this script is Gubari (dust script), a micro script so small that it was used to write carrier pigeon messages.

Muhakkak, meaning “tightly woven” is perhaps the most angular of the six scripts and is used in copying the Koran. A smaller version of muhakkak is reyhani. Tevki is a chancellery script, used to record government documents. Rika is a smaller version of tevki. These six scripts dominated the arts of Islamic calligraphy up until the 1400s when Islamic calligraphy would transform itself yet again under the empire of the Ottomans.

The History of Islamic Calligraphy is a unique and highly revered art form that has been an integral part of Islamic culture and tradition for centuries. The rich history of Islamic calligraphy can be traced back to the early days of Islam and has since evolved into one of the most refined forms of expression in Islamic art.

2-Origins of Islamic Calligraphy

The History of Islamic Calligraphy was closely linked to the Quran, the holy book of Islam. The Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century, and the art of writing it down quickly developed into a highly revered tradition. The Arabic script became the standard script for writing the Quran, and calligraphy was used to enhance the beauty of the text.

3-Development of Islamic Calligraphy

During the Abbasid period (750-1258 AD), The History of Islamic Calligraphy developed into a highly refined art form. Calligraphers developed various scripts, such as the Kufic, Naskh, and Thuluth scripts, which were used for different purposes. The kufic script was used primarily for religious inscriptions, while the Naskh script was used for everyday writing. The Thuluth script, which was highly decorative, was reserved for more formal and ornate works.

In addition to the Quran, Islamic calligraphy was used to decorate buildings, mosques, and other Islamic structures. The art form became an essential element in Islamic architecture, with calligraphy often incorporated into the design of domes, walls, and arches.

4-Islamic Calligraphy in the Ottoman Empire

The History of Islamic Calligraphy in The Ottoman Empire (1299-1923) played a significant role in the development of Islamic calligraphy. Ottoman calligraphers created a unique style of calligraphy known as Ottoman calligraphy, which combined elements of the Naskh and Thuluth scripts. This style was highly decorative and was used to create intricate works of art that adorned the walls of mosques, palaces, and other buildings.

5-Islamic Calligraphy Today

Today, Islamic calligraphy continues to be an essential part of Islamic art and culture. The art form has evolved and expanded to include various styles and techniques, with contemporary artists creating new and innovative ways to express themselves through calligraphy.

In recent years, The History of Islamic Calligraphy has gained wider recognition and appreciation outside of the Islamic world. Exhibitions and art shows featuring Islamic calligraphy are now held in major cities worldwide, attracting a diverse audience.


The History of Islamic Calligraphy had a rich and fascinating history that spans over a thousand years. The art form has been an integral part of Islamic culture, reflecting the deep spiritual and artistic values of the Islamic faith. Today, Islamic calligraphy continues to inspire and captivate artists and enthusiasts worldwide, with its beauty, elegance, and timeless appeal.

The History of Islamic Calligraphy

The History of Islamic Calligraphy

The History of Islamic Calligraphy

The History of Islamic Calligraphy