The Kufic script continued its development through the different dynasties, including the Umayyad — CE and Abbasid — CE dynasties. Below are some examples of Kufic scripts and their different developmental stages:. While Kufic has been used for a long time and is one of the more common scripts across the Islamic civilization, some versions of it were developed in particular areas, such as Egypt and Iraq. Understanding how the script developed in different areas and being able to identify each variation of it will help us identify the origins of the artifacts where they appear.
Variations and developments of the Kufic script include the following:. As an Egyptian citizen, resident in Cairo, I enjoy the Fatimid Kufic as part of my daily life because it can be seen in the architectural decorations on the old Islamic buildings. This script was used with decorative motifs in the characters themselves or as a background. The letters are marked with straight lines and angles, with short curves for some letters at the ends of words. After the Umayyad dynasty came the Abbasid dynasty — CE , bringing advancements to Arabic calligraphy.
During this period, Thuluth and Naskh were developed. These rules are based on four elements: the rhombic dot, the alif, the circle and the similarity system.
These changes helped to develop the Kufic script with the cursive styles shown below. It is one of the cursive scripts that was commonly used to decorate mosques and different types of texts. The Thuluth script was first developed in the 11th century during the Abbasid dynasty and was refined by calligrapher Seyh Hamdullah during the Ottoman dynasty. It is the basis of scripts that appear later, such as the Jeli Thuluth, the Naskh and the Muhaqqaq, the last two of which we will cover later in this article.
The Thuluth script is marked by its clear structure and readability, which make it suitable for a number of purposes, even today. The cursive letters and long lines make it easily readable and usable for both titles and long texts. Below are some examples of the Thuluth script. During the same period, the 10th century, another main script was developed. Known for its readable glyphs, the Naskh was traditionally used for long texts and inscriptions.
Its use continues today in the design of printed Arabic books, due to its modern look and cursive letters. After the Abbasid dynasty, the Safavid dynasty — was established in Persia and made substantial contributions to Islamic arts and calligraphy. As mentioned, the words appear hung together and connect to each other, and the letters are rounded and have a lot of curves. While this makes it less legible, the script is often written with a large distance between lines to give more space for the eye to identify letters and words.
While the spaces between lines are helpful, they consume the page, which is obviously a disadvantage when space is limited or the text is long. It developed during the 15th century and continued until the 16th century in Persia and Turkey. Although the arrangement of letters flows smoothly and in harmony, it is hard to write and is less readable than many other scripts. Maghrib refers to the west side of North Africa in the Islamic Empire.
Arabic Calligraphy – Taking A Closer Look
This area is distinguished by the Maghribi script, used in writings, inscriptions and monuments. The Maghribi script developed during the 10th century and is still used today in Spain and western North Africa, particularly in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. In this way, the Maghribi script drifted away from the scripts discussed above that developed in the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula. The Maghribi script is marked by descending lines written with very large bowls and by letters of a unified thicknesses. The special form of its letters gives it a unique beauty and makes it easy to read, even in long text.
Because of its decorative appearance, The Maghribi script is suitable for decorations as well as titles. During the Ottoman Empire — , Arabic calligraphy went through a noticeable evolution, not only because of the development of a new script but also because of the enhancement of existing scripts. Most Arabic scripts reached their final and modern form during the period between the 15th and 19th centuries.
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The Ottoman reign is considered a remarkable period in the development of Arabic calligraphy, second only to the Abbasid dynasty. Many calligraphers contributed to this development of Arabic calligraphy, including Mustafa Halim died , Nejmiddin Okyay died and Hamid Aytac Al-Amadi died It was used in the courts to write official documents. Developed during the 16th century, it reached its final shape in the 19th century and is still used today. It is defined by its beautiful curved letters, merged to form complex shapes and decorative forms.
However, Islamic calligraphy is not limited to strictly religious subjects, objects, or spaces. Like all Islamic art , it encompasses a diverse array of works created in a wide variety of contexts. Islamic calligraphy developed from two major styles: Kufic and Naskh.
Arabic Calligraphy Names
There are several variations of each, as well as regionally specific styles. Islamic calligraphy has also been incorporated into modern art beginning with the post-colonial period in the Middle East, as well as the more recent style of calligraffiti. The traditional instrument of the Islamic calligrapher is the qalam , a pen normally made of dried reed or bamboo. The ink is often in color and chosen so that its intensity can vary greatly, creating dynamism and movement in the letter forms. Some styles are often written using a metallic-tip pen. Islamic calligraphy can be applied to a wide range of decorative mediums other than paper, such as tiles, vessels, carpets, and stone.
During the 9th century, an influx of paper from China revolutionized calligraphy. While monasteries in Europe treasured a few dozen volumes, libraries in the Muslim world regularly contained hundreds and even thousands of books. For centuries, the art of writing has fulfilled a central iconographic function in Islamic art. Coins were another support for calligraphy. Beginning in , the Islamic caliphate reformed the coinage of the Near East by replacing Byzantine Christian imagery with Islamic phrases inscribed in Arabic. This was especially true for dinars, or gold coins of high value.
Generally, the coins were inscribed with quotes from the Qur'an. By the tenth century, the Persians, who had converted to Islam, began weaving inscriptions onto elaborately patterned silks. So precious were textiles featuring Arabic text that Crusaders brought them to Europe as prized possessions.
A notable example is the Suaire de Saint-Josse , used to wrap the bones of St. Josse in the Abbey of St. Josse-sur-Mer, near Caen in northwestern France. As Islamic calligraphy is highly venerated, most works follow examples set by well-established calligraphers, with the exception of secular or contemporary works. In the Islamic tradition, calligraphers underwent extensive training in three stages, including the study of their teacher's models, in order to be granted certification.
Kufic is the oldest form of the Arabic script. The style emphasizes rigid and angular strokes, which appears as a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Diacritical markings were added during the 7th century to help readers with pronunciation of the Qur'an and other important documents, increasing the number of Arabic letters to Due to its straight and orderly style of lettering, Kufic was frequently used in ornamental stone carving as well as on coins. However, it continued to be used as a decorative element to contrast superseding styles.
There was no set rules of using the Kufic script; the only common feature is the angular, linear shapes of the characters. Due to the lack of standardization of early Kufic, the script differs widely between regions, ranging from very square and rigid forms to flowery and decorative ones.
Common varieties include  square Kufic, a technique known as banna'i. Decorative Kufic inscriptions are often imitated into pseudo-kufics in Middle age and Renaissance Europe. Pseudo-kufics is especially common in Renaissance depictions of people from the Holy Land. The exact reason for the incorporation of pseudo-Kufic is unclear. It seems that Westerners mistakenly associated 13thth century Middle Eastern scripts with systems of writing used during the time of Jesus , and thus found it natural to represent early Christians in association with them.
The use of cursive scripts coexisted with Kufic, and historically cursive was commonly used for informal purposes.
Naskh translates to "copying," as it became the standard for transcribing books and manuscripts. Ibn Muqla is highly regarded in Muslim sources on calligraphy as the inventor of the naskh style, although this seems to be erroneous.
Since Ibn Muqla wrote with a distinctly rounded hand, many scholars drew the conclusion that he founded this script. Ibn al-Bawwab , the student of Ibn Muqla, is actually believed to have created this script. With the spread of Islam , the Arabic script was established in a vast geographic area with many regions developing their own unique style. From the 14th century onward, other cursive styles began to develop in Turkey, Persia, and China.
In the post-colonial era, artists working in North Africa and the Middle East transformed Arabic calligraphy into a modern art movement, known as the Hurufiyya movement.
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