Arabic calligraphy is one of the greatest arts of the Arabs. Because Islam forbade the making and worshipping of idols, there was no scope for arts like sculpture to develop and, therefore, Muslims directed their talents towards arts such as literature, architecture, arabesque and calligraphy. Another main reason for the development of calligraphy was the need to make copies of the Quran, which was considered a most meritorious act. Like the names of poets and writers, the names of famous calligraphers are better known today than most of those who excelled in other forms of art. In fact, Ibn Muqlah reached the post of ‘Wazeer’ (i.e., the highest position in government after the Caliph) during the reign of three successive Abbaside Caliphs, partly if not largely because of his beautiful handwriting.
Kufie script: This is the oldest of these six styles and one of its early forms was used for reproducing the earliest copies of the Quran. It is a more or less square and angular script. It went out of general use around the 11th century but remains till today as one of the most important scripts for decoration, especially in mosques and major buildings in the form of carving in stone or marble, stucco, faience tiles, etc. There are various forms of the script, one tree-like with elaborate decorative branches. An early basic form without dots was used at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Thuluth script: This is considered the most difficult and most beautiful of all Arabic scripts. It was first developed over 1,300 years ago. It is used nowadays mainly for writing Quranic verses on the walls of mosques and in tableaus and for writing sign boards and book titles.
Naskh script: The word ‘naskh’ means copying which refers to the fact that it was first developed for copying the Quran. Today this is the style used in the printing of practically all books, magazines and newspapers. It is a cursive script based on certain laws governing the proportions between the letters. It came into use a thousand years ago and was developed by famous calligraphers like Ibn Muqlah and Ibn Al-Bawab, a sample of whose work still exists.
Farsi or Taliq script: Persian scribes developed this fluid style in the 13th century. Taliq means suspension and this describes the tendency of each word to drop down from the preceding word. It is the style used today in places like Persia and Pakistan since the Persian language and Urdu are written in Arabic script.
Diwani script: the Turks who used Arabic script to write their language until early this century developed this. A Diwan is a ruler’s office and thus the name of the script refers to its use in Government correspondence and decrees. A peculiar form is the ‘Tughra’, a somewhat intricate and beautiful royal signature indicating name and title of each sultan, done by a skilled calligrapher.
Ruqa script: This is the most widely used script by people in their daily handwritten work. It is easy to write and read.