Arabic script or calligraphy is written from right to left and uses an alphabet of 28 basic letters. Originally, there were two types of Arabic writing: kufi, which was a sharp and angular style, and naskh, which was a curved cursive script. Over time, the kufi script lost popularity and naskh became the main form of Arabic calligraphy. From the naskh style, several other Arabic scripts were developed, and it also influenced the written languages of neighbouring countries.
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The kufi script did not have rigid standards of form or shape, which allowed the writer some creative license when using that style. Kufi writing tends to be very wide and thick, with broad horizontal strokes and clipped vertical lines. The kufi style was often used by calligraphers who were looking for a more artistic and elaborate script. The elegant form is still used today on valuable documents to showcase the style's beauty.
Where the kufi script is pointed and elongated, the naskh style is very curved and much less decorative. Early Arabic writing styles were not standardised, but as the language developed, political officer Ibn Muqlah, before his death in 940, wrote a form guideline that would make the naskh script consistent. Unlike the kufi script, nashk employs shorter horizontal strokes that allow the form to be more curved in appearance. The general public accepted this writing style because it was legible and simple to copy.
As of 2011, there are six styles of Arabic script commonly used, including nashk, which is the basis of the remaining five styles. The thuluth script is a cursive style that stems from the nashk form but is a bit more ornate than the original format. Muhaqqaq style is a variant of the thuluth style and is defined by strong, slanting lines. Rayhani script is a more complex type that is formatted from both the thuluth and muhaqqaq styles that precede it. The tawqi style is another curved script that came out of the thuluth form, but it is not as elaborate and was not used as frequently. Ruq'ah is curved, thick and less formally complex than thuluth. Ruq'ah is the style most commonly used today in countries that use the Arabic writing system.
These Arabic writing styles influenced the languages of many other countries and are the basis for scripts in Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. The writing style is also very important in Arab culture because the Islamic holy text, the Qur'an, is written and preserved in these calligraphy types.
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