Styles Of Calligraphy
There are many different styles of Arabic calligraphy. These were developed over centuries into formal scripts. Each script has distinctive shapes and characteristics.
Scripts were created for various purposes. Some were used to write the Qu'ran; others were used for court documents. Small scripts were created to send mail by pigeon post; large scripts were developed for architectural inscriptions; and so on.
Different regions developed their own styles. Three regions in particular were important in the development of calligraphy:
- The Arab world (from Morocco to Iraq)
- The Ottoman empire (present-day Turkey and beyond)
- Persia (present-day Iran and beyond).
The Kufic Script:
Kufic script, a heavy monumental Arabic script suited to stone carving, appears in the earliest surviving Qu'ran manuscripts. In these, the diacritical marks over the letters are sometimes painted in red, and the gold decorations between suras contrast handsomely with the heavy black script. In the Seljuk period, a more cursive flowing script, Naskhi, developed. The two styles were often used for contrast in architecture and decorative contexts.
The Naskh Script:
Naskh, which means "copying," was developed in the 10th century, and refined into a fine art form in Turkey in the 16th century. Since then it became generally accepted for writing the Qu'ran. Naskh is legible and clear and was adapted as the preferred style for type setting and printing. It is a small script whose lines are thin and letter shapes are round.
The Thuluth Script:
Thuluth was the medieval Islamic style of handwritten alphabet. Thuluth (Arabic: "one-third") is written on the principle that one-third of each letter slopes. It is a large and elegant, cursive script, used in medieval times on mosque decorations. It took on some of the functions of the early Kufic script; it was used to write surah headings, religious inscriptions, and princely titles and epigraphs. It was also used for many of the large copies of the Koran produced from the 13th century.
The Ta'liq / Nasta'liq / Farsi Scripts:
Ta'liq is a cursive style of lettering developed in Iran in the 10th century. It is thought to have been the creation of Hasan ibn Husain Ali of Fars, but, because Khawaja Abdul Mali Buk made such vast improvements, the invention is often attributed to him. The rounded forms and exaggerated horizontal strokes that characterize the Ta'liq letters were derived primarily from the Riqa' script. The ornateness and sloping quality of the written line had roots in the Towqi script of Ibn Muqla (died 940). Designed specifically to meet the needs of the Persian language, Ta'liq was used widely for royal as well as daily correspondence until the 14th century, when it was replaced by Nasta'liq.
The Diwani Script:
The Diwani script is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks (16th-early 17th century). 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.