In the Islamic world, calligraphy has traditionally been held in
high regard. The high esteem accorded to the copying of al Quran,
and the aesthetic energy that was devoted to it, raised Arabic calligraphy
to the status of an art. Arabic calligraphy, unlike that of most cultures, influenced
the style of monumental inscription. It is revered as highly as painting. There
has always existed in the Islamic world a keen appreciation of fine handwriting,
and, from the 16th century, it became a practice to assemble in albums specimens
of penmanship. Many of these assembled in Turkey, Persia, and India are preserved
in museums and libraries. Calligraphy, too, has given rise to quite a considerable
literature such as manuals for professional scribes employed in chancelleries.
Beauty: Arabic calligraphy is the art of beautiful or elegant handwriting
as exhibited by the correct formation of characters, the ordering
of the various parts, and harmony of proportions.
Origin: Today, it is widely believed that Arabic script
is a descendent of the Nabataean script. Apart from the Nemara and a few other inscriptions,
the earliest surviving document of written Arabic is al Quran,
Islam's sacred book revealed to the Prophet Mohammed in the early 7th century A.D.
Features: Arabic is written from right to left , and consists
of 17 characters, which, with the addition of dots
placed above or below certain of them, provide the 28 letters of the Arabic
alphabet, also indicated by signs placed above or below the consonant
or long vowel. Certain characters may be joined to their neighbours, others to the
preceding one only and others to the succeeding one only.
The written letters undergo a slight external change according to their position
within a word. When they stand-alone or occur at the end of a word,they ordinarily
terminate in a bold stroke; when they appear in the middle of a word, they are ordinarily
joined to the letter following by a small, upward curved stroke.
With the exception of six letters, which can be joined only to the preceding ones,
the initial and medial letters are much abbreviated, while the final form consists
of the initial form with a triumphant flourish. The essential part of the characters,
however, remains unchanged. These features, as well as the fact that there are no
capital forms of letters, give the Arabic script its particular character. A line
of Arabic suggests an urgent progress of the characters from right to left. The
nice balance between the vertical shafts above and the open curves below the middle
register induces a sense of harmony. The peculiarity that certain letters cannot
be joined to their neighbors provides articulation. The inletters that hold resemblance
in their shapes denote distinct letters, as in the case of letters B, T, and TH.
With the development of the Arabic writing system, more subtleties and refinement
were added. Thus the three letters B, T and TH were marked with one dot below (B),
two dots above (T), and three dots above (TH). It was not until the early 8th century
AD that the use of diacritical marks was introduced to secure the correct reading
of alQuran. But these marks never came into general use, and to the present day,
the system is used mainly in text of the al Quran and for teaching purposes.
Instruments: For writing, the Arabic calligrapher employs a
reed pen (qalam) with the working point cut on an angle.
This feature produces a thick downstroke and a thin upstroke with an infinity of
gradation in between. The line traced by a skilled calligrapher is a true marvel
of fluidity and sensitive inflection, communicating the very action of the master's