Styles of Arabic/Islamic calligraphy

Islamic calligraphy is a highly evolved art form, and has a rich history spanning centuries and different geographical regions. A big testament to the sophistication and evolution of Islamic calligraphy is the emergence of different styles of writing the Arabic script. Each style evolved in a particular place, at a particular time, and has its own set of rules of writing. We shall explore the different styles of writing the Quranic verses, even more so as there has been a spurt of interest among people who want to buy Islamic wall hangings and Islamic wall art stickers.

  1. Kufic: This is the oldest style, which developed in the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq, from where it gets its name. It was the first font in which the Quran was written at a time when the Arabic script contained only 17 letters and no dots to indicate vowel sounds. Later, as non-Arabs began converting to Islam and were unfamiliar with the language of the Quran, dots were introduced. The Kufic font is characterised by horizontal strokes that are either very long or very short, and round characters with tiny counters.

The style developed into several varieties, including floral, foliated, plaited or interlaced, bordered, and squared Kufic.

The use of Kufic font in writing the Quran disappeared around the turn of the 10th century as the new more legible font, Naskh came into being. It, however, continued to be used for decorative purposes such as in ceramic plates.

  1. Naskh: This is a cursive style of writing which replaced Kufic as the primary font in which the Quran was written. Developed in Mecca and Medina, this font became popular due to both ease of reading and writing, and continues to be used even today in writing the Quran. It formed the basis of the modern Arabic script, and is still used in newspapers, periodicals, official decrees and private correspondence.
  1. Thuluth: Thuluth is a form of Naskh font, but is often understood to be a different style altogether. ‘Thuluth’ is an Arabic word that means ‘one third’. In Thuluth script, one-third of the letters are straight. It is a very striking font due to long, vertical lines, broad spacing and special emphasis on dots and other vowels sounds. Because of its grand look, it is used for decorative purposes. It adorns the walls and ceilings of many monuments, and people also use it for Islamic wall hangings in their homes.
  1. Nast’aliq: This is a regional style that developed in Persiafor non-religious purposes such as writing court documents. The name ta’liq means “hanging”, and refers to the slightly steeped lines of which words run in, giving the script a hanging appearance.
  1. Diwani: This style came into being in Ottoman Turkey in the 16th It is an extremely ornate form of writing – the letters are slanted, and the narrow spaces between them are densely covered with dots. The Diwani script is difficult to read and was employed in confidential documents of the court. In modern times, its extreme decorativeness makes it the preferred choice for those looking to buy Islamic wall hangings and Islamic wall art stickers.


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