بحسن الخط دخل الجنة
Beautiful calligraphy ensures entrance to Paradise
Islamic calligraphy is based on the Arabic script. Born in the early Islamic period (7th century A.D.), Arabic calligraphy continues to evolve into the present time. It was and remains intrinsically linked to the religion of Islam and Muslim civilizations. In fact, it is believed that “بحسن الخط دخل الجنة ”, roughly translated as “beautiful calligraphy ensures entrance to Paradise” (AC31).
The script developed for writing Arabic was adapted to fit many other languages, such as Persian, Ottoman-Turkish, North-African Berber languages, Kurdish, Urdu, Malay, and others. As a matter of fact, this script was for a very long time used by all Muslims in their respective languages. Today, it remains, after the Latin script, the most frequently used script in the world.
The Arabic alphabet includes 28 letters and is written from right to left. The letters change form when used in the initial, medial, final or isolated state making Arabic a naturally cursive language. This, in turn encouraged calligraphy and the different styles that have developed over time.
Islamic Calligraphy became of great importance among Islamic arts for two main reasons:
- Arabic is the language of the Qur’an (the Holy Book of Islam), and calligraphy is the primary means for the preservation of the sacred text
- Figurative art (representation of humans and animals) was and remains discouraged by many Muslim theologians, thus calligraphy became the major form of artistic expression in Islamic cultures.
Over the centuries, many different styles emerged:
- Kūfī (c. 7th century – originating from Kufa, Iraq), also known as Early and Late Abbasid (8th – 11th centuries) is an angular style with elongated horizontals.
- Maghribī and Andalusī(c. 8th century – mostly used in North-Africa) are variants of the Kufic script with more curves.
- Naskh or Naskhī (10th century – originating from Iran) is a round simplified style created for faster writing.
- Thuluth (11th century – originating from Turkey?) is a large and elegant cursive style with elongated verticals.
- Ta‘līq and Nasta‘līq (14th-15th centuries – originating from Iran) are cursive styles with short verticals and elongated horizontals.
- Dīwānī (16th-17th centuries – originating from Turkey) is a complex style of intertwining letters.
These styles evolved over time and were influenced by different artistic styles from various regions. Calligraphy remains one of the most important art forms of Islam.