Arabic Calligraphy Styles

Written by regina y. favors
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Arabic Calligraphy Styles
Some Arabic calligraphy styles are used for translating the Qu'ran. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Arabic calligraphy styles have parallels to scripts used during the 8th century of the Islamic era. Some styles are popular for writing or reading, and others are preferred for ornamental purposes. Arabic calligraphy includes a range of scripts that are cursive with vertical extensions and geometric constructions. Other scripts employ fuller curving and linking between letters. Each Arabic calligraphy style is integral to the purpose of the calligrapher.

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Developed by the calligrapher Ibrahim Munif in the 15th century, the Deewani script is an Ottoman parallel to the broken style of Shikasteh. Shala Pasha revised the style in the 17th century. Deewani is popular for writing. It is a cursive script that is highly structured. The letters are undotted and are joined together without vowel marks. Deewani later developed into Deewani Jali, or Humayuni. Deewani Jali is mostly used to display wording for ornamental purposes.


The Kufi style was used as a priestly script during the Islamic era of 8th century A.D. The script was created after the establishment of Basrah and Kufah, two Muslim cities. It has low verticals, horizontal lines that extend and great width. The script has a geometrical construction, and can be used on any surface, such as silk and monuments. During its first application, calligraphers did not employ strict rules concerning execution and the movement of the hand. Today, the Kufi script has popular variants.


Ibn Muqlah, a famous calligrapher of the 10th century, redesigned the Naskh script into a rhythmic, proportionate line. Ibn al-Bawaab later revised the script to make it worthy of use within the Qu'ran. Today, many Qu'rans are written in the Naskh script. The script is easier to read and write and appeals to the general masses. Naskh uses shorter horizontal stems and fuller curves. It also makes use of spacing between words and is the most widely used by all Muslims and Arabs globally.


Riqa (Ruq'ah) is an extension of Naskh and Thuluth. The script is a simpler version. The letters are geometric with more curves, rounded and structured densely. The horizontal stems are shorter, and the letter "alif" doesn't have barbed heads. The Ottoman calligraphers used the Riqa script primarily during language translation activities, but Shaykh Hamdullah al-Amasi later improved it. The script was revised again by other calligraphers, and it went on to become the most popular tool for handwriting.


Used since the 9th century, Ta'liq is a hanging script. Little is known about the development of the script, except that the Persians may have developed Ta'liq from another Arabic script called "Firamuz." Ta'liq, which is also called Farsi among the Muslim community, is a cursive script. Abd al-Hayy, a calligrapher, played a integral role in the development of Ta'liq. He developed basic rules for employing the script. It is a favourite among Arabs, Persians, Indians and Turkish Muslims. Today, Ta'liq is widely used as a script for copying literary works.


Thuluth, which means "a third," is an Arabic script first developed during the 7th century. Calligraphers later developed the script during the 9th century. The "third" refers to the proportion of lines that are straight to the curves. Calligraphers in the past have used Thuluth for writing the Qu'ran, but today it is widely popular for titles, headings, inscriptions and colophons for ornamental purposes. The script has curved and linked letters and barbed heads. It is best used for displaying words in an elaborate way.

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