Arabic calligraphy is an art that took shape about two thousand five hundred years ago and has since been an art form that has continued to evolve with the turn of each era. The Middle East and African regions experienced the gradual evolution of an Arabic script that soon turned into a form of art. Arabic calligraphy is used to adorn the walls of mosques and houses and even public buildings. In many countries Arabic Calligraphy is also taught at art schools.
Ancient scripts that influenced the Arabic script
The Canaanite Script: Archaeological evidence states that the Earliest Arabic scripts were influenced heavily by the Canaanites and Aramaic Nabataean Alphabets. In the 4th century BC when the Arabic script was in its first phase of development, it did not in any way resemble the present day script.
The Aramaic Nabataean Script: The Nabataean script was also a major influence on the Arabic script. The characters of both the Persian and Nabataean Script found a prominent place in the First Arabic Script.
The different Arabic Scripts
Like all written scripts of languages, the written script of Arabic too was invented with the purpose of communication. But the Arabic scripts were soon used as decoration in architecture and later in coin design as well because of its cursive elegance.
Arabic Musnad, the first Arabic Script, was developed from these languages. Arabic Musnad did not resemble the modern Arabic script and it’s artistic and exquisite style. The Arabic Musnad was fully developed and in use from 500 BC to the 6th century.
Al Jazm Script was later developed in the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The al Jazm script also developed into different styles like the Hiri, Anbari, Makki, and Madani. It is believed that the Al Jazm script was influenced by the Syriac script.
The Kufic script: Unlike the former scripts the Kufic script has alphabets and shapes that bear a resemblance to modern Arabic. The Kufic script that developed in the 7th century was the script that was used in the documentation of the Holy Book of the Muslims, the Holy Qur’an. This script was in use until the 13th century. The name Kufic comes from the city in which the script was developed, the city of Kufa in Iraq.
The various dynasties that ruled over the Arabian Peninsula encouraged art and the Arabic scripts continued to be invented and perfected. After the Kufic script the Thuluth, Naskh and Muhaqqaq were developed during the Abbasid Dynasty (750 -1258). The Naskh script was used mainly to copy books especially the Holy Qur’an. The Thuluth script has sophisticated characters and was used as decorations and make attractive titles.
The Thuluth Script that adorns the Taj Mahal in India
Modern Arabic Script: The Riq’a script that was developed in the 18th century is still used today. This script has a simple form and makes it an ideal script for writing long texts and is also converted into digital fonts.
Arabic Calligraphy as an Art
The term ‘Calligraphy’, comes from the Greek Language, precisely from the words ‘Kallos’ and ‘Graphos’ which means Beauty and writing. Calligraphy is an art as it involves painstaking efforts to form each letter in every word and every word on a page with exact measurements. Artists use Calligraphy to express their views or just as a decoration. There are a number of mediums through which artists let their voice be heard through calligraphy. These mediums are architecture, paper, ceramics, carpets, glass, jewelry, woodcarving, and metalwork. Verses from the Qur’an are written in bold and stately at places of worship, residences and public buildings. It also allows the Islamic population the chance to memorize the Qur’an.