Islamic calligraphy – Education on Art
Posted by Osman on April 5, 2007
Islamic calligraphy is the art of writing, and by extension, of bookmaking. This art has most often employed the Arabic script, throughout many languages. Throughout Islamic history, the work of calligraphers were collected and appreciated. Consideration of figurative art as idolatrous led to calligraphy and abstract figures becoming the main methods of artistic expression in Islamic cultures.
ArabicPersian and Ottoman Turkish Calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (the Arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of masjids as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.
Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the Muslims with the religion of Islam. The holy book of Islam, al-Qur’an, has played an important role in the development and evolution of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet. Proverbs and complete passages from the Qur’an are still active sources for Islamic calligraphy. The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters and 18 different forms of writing.
The first of those to gain popularity was known as the Kufic script, which was angular, made of square and short horizontal strokes, long verticals, and bold, compact circles. It would be the main script used to copy the Qur’an for three centuries. Its static aspect made it suitable for monumental inscriptions, too. It would develop many serifs, small decorations added to each character.More often used for casual writing was the cursive Naskh script, with rounder letters and thin lines. As techniques for writing in this style were refined, it would come to be preferred to Kufic for copying the Qur’an. Most children are taught Naskh first, and at a later stage they are introduced to the Riq’a script. Almost all printed material in Arabic is in Naskh so, to avoid confusion, children are taught to write in the same script. It is also clearer and easier to decipher.In the 13th century, the Thuluth would take on the ornamental role formerly associated with the Kufic script. Thuluth meaning “one third”, it is based on the principle that one third of each letter slides downward. Thus it has a strong cursive aspect and is usually written in ample curves.As the Persians converted to Islam, they took to using Arabic script for their own language, Persian. They contributed to Arabic calligraphy the Ta’liq and Nasta’liq styles. The latter is extremely cursive, with exaggeratedly long horizontal strokes. One of its peculiarities is that vertical strokes lean to the right rather than (as more commonly) to the left, making Nasta’liq writing flow particularly well. The Persians also developed a style called shekasteh (’broken’ in Persian). Shekasteh has seldom been used for scripting Arabic texts, though it is an Arabic calligraphy style.The Diwani script is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks (16th and early 17th centuries). It was invented by Housam Roumi and reached its height of popularity under Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520–66). As decorative as it was communicative, Diwani was distinguished by the complexity of the line within the letter and the close juxtaposition of the letters within the word.
Finally, the most commonly used script for everyday use is Riq’a. Simple and easy to write, its movements are small, without much amplitude. It is the one most commonly seen. It’s also considered a step up from the Naskh script, and as children get older they are taught this script in school.
In China, a calligraphic form called Sini has been developed. This form has evident influences from Chinese calligraphy, using a horsehair brush as opposed to the standard reed pen. A famous modern calligrapher in this tradition is Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang