History – The Origin of Islamic Calligraphy

First of all, I would like to apologize, again, for the lack of posting. As I had mentioned, I have been very busy with work that I could not find time to dedicate myself with this blog, but still I will never abandon this blog, because I still have more to share with you!

The Origin of the Islamic Calligraphy –

The chief prophet of Islam, Muhammad once said in a Hadeeth (the prophet’s sayings or traditions) regarding how to write the Basmalah, the opening verse that means “in the name of God, the most Merciful, the most Compassionate” for each chapters of the Holy Qur’an, the Islamic holy book.

The Prophet Muhammad taught Muawiyah how to write the Basmalah properly, and he said – Darken your ink and ready your pens. Write the ‘Ba” in  a good way, lengthen the “Seen”, Do not make the “Meem” long. Perfect the Lafz Jalalah (God’s Name), and beautify “Ar-Rahman” and  “Ar-Raheem”….

From this Hadeeth, we can safely assume that the techniques of Islamic calligraphy are already starting to be developed by the prophet himself, by teaching Muawiyah how to write the Basmalah correctly and also how to write it in a better, stylized way.

The Basmalah, as described in the Hadeeth

Back then, the Arabic script is not very developed, and the script used at that time was derived from the Nabatean script called the Kufic script, ounded in Kufa, Iraq and is squarish and angular. Early examples of the Arabic script and the Nabatean scripts were compared by Historians and they believe and agreed that the Arabic script were derived from the Nabatean script (more on the History of the Kufic script on later post)

After the Hijrah (migration of the prophet from Mecca to Medina) the will to learn to write and master the Arabic script became widespread, and this is backed up and supported by the Prophet himself when he freed the captives of the Badar war in 24H/624M  after asking them to teach Muslim children to read and write.

Kufic script, from an early Quran manuscript showing Sura 7 (Ala’araf) verses 86 & 87, 7th century. National Library, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Islamic calligraphy is said to be in its Golden days in the Abbasid dynasty when the most important figure in Islamic Calligraphy, Ibnu Muqlah, lived. He is the Vizier of three of Abbasid Caliphs. He is also known to be very knowledgeable in Science and Geometry, and invented a method of Calligraphy that enables writers to produce systematic and symmetrical works of calligraphic art. He also invented a few Arabic cursive scripts, namely Nasakh and Thuluth, that replaces the old Kufic scripts previously used as the medium script for writing the Holy Qur’an.

The verses 1-4 of the second chapter of the Qur’an entitled al-Baqarah (The Cow). The text is written in the cursive script called naskh, and each verse is separated by an ayah marker consisting of a gold six-petalled rosette with blue and red dots on its perimeter. Both the script and the illumination are typical of Qur’ans produced in Mamluk Egypt during the 14th and 15th centuries. Recitation markers signaling where not to stop recitation (“la” or “no stopping”) are marked in red above the first two verse markers.



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