Arabic Calligraphic Styles
Deewani script is an Ottoman development parallel to Shikasteh (broken style). The script was largely developed by the accomplished calligrapher Ibrahim Munif in the late 15th century from the Turkish/Persian Ta'liq. Deewani reached its zenith in the 17th century, thanks to the famous calligrapher Shala Pasha.
Like Riq'a, Deewani became a favorite script for writing in the Ottoman chancellery. Deewani is excessively cursive and highly structured with its letters undotted and unconventionally joined together. It uses no vowel marks. Deewani also developed an ornamental variety called Deewani Jali which also was known as Humayuni (Imperial). The development of Deewani Jali is credited to Hafiz Uthman. The spaces between the letters are spangled with decorative devices which do not necessarily have any orthographic value. Deewani Jali is highly favored for ornamental purposes.
Kufi was the dominant priestly script in early times. It was created after the establishment of the two Muslim cities of Basrah and Kufah in the second decade of the Islamic era (8th century A.D.). The script has specific proportional measurements, along with pronounced angularity and squareness. It became known as al-Khat al-Kufi (Kufi script).
Kufi script had a profound effect on all Islamic calligraphy. In contrast to its low verticals, Kufi has horizontal lines that are extended. The script is considerably wider than it is high. This gives it a certain dynamic momentum. The script often is chosen for use on oblong surfaces. With its glorious Handasi (geometrical) construction, Kufi could be adapted to any space and material -- from silk squares to the architectural monuments left by Timur at Samarqand.
Because Kufi script was not subjected to strict rules, calligraphers employing it had virtually a free hand in the conception and execution of its ornamental forms.
The most unique variants of Kufic script are:
The writing stands out against a background of floral and geometric designs superimposing the movement of the script over the movement of the underlying pattern.
The flow of the words blends beautifully in a unique way with the movement of the stressed and dense vertical letters.
The composition is based on the intertwining of geometric shapes -- including circles, squares, and triangles -- with the words.
These ornamental Kufic versions were applied to the surfaces of artistic and architectural objects including surfaces of stucco, wood, tile, metal, glass, ivory, textiles, and bricks.
Naskh was one of the earliest scripts to evolve. It gained popularity after being redesigned by the famous calligrapher Ibn Muqlah in the 10th century. Because of Ibn Muqlah's comprehensive system of proportion, Naskh style displays a very rhythmic line.
Naskh later was reformed by Ibn al-Bawaab and others into an elegant script worthy of the Qur'an -- and more Qur'ans have been written in Naskh than in all the other scripts together. Since the script is relatively easy to read and write, Naskh appealed particularly to the general population.
Naskh is usually written with short horizontal stems -- and with almost equal vertical depth above and below the medial line. The curves are full and deep, the uprights straight and vertical, and the words generally well spaced. Currently, Naskh is considered the supreme script for almost all Muslims and Arabs around the world.
This script, also called Ruq'ah (small sheet), evolved from Naskh and Thuluth. Although Riq'a has a close affinity with Thuluth, Riq'a developed in a different direction. Riq'a became simplified. The geometric forms of the letters are similar to those of Thuluth but are smaller with more curves. Riq'a is rounded and densely structured with short horizontal stems, and the letter alif is never written with barbed heads.
Riq'a was one of the favorite scripts of Ottoman calligraphers and underwent many improvements at the hand of Shaykh Hamdullah al-Amasi. Later, Riq'a was revised by other calligraphers and went on to become the most popular and widely used script. Today, Riq'a is the preferred script for handwriting throughout the Arab world.
Ta'liq (hanging) script is believed to have been developed by the Persians from an early and little known Arabic script called Firamuz. Ta'liq, also called Farsi, is an unpretentious cursive script apparently in use since the early 9th century.
The calligrapher Abd al-Hayy, from the town of Astarabad, seems to have played an important role in the script’s early development. He was encouraged by his patron, Shah Isma'il, to lay down the basic rules for the writing of Ta'liq. The script is currently in great favor with Arabs, and it is the native calligraphic style among the Persian, Indian, and Turkish Muslims.
The Persian calligrapher Mir Ali Sultan al-Tabrizi developed from Ta'liq a lighter and more elegant variety which came to be known as Nasta'liq. However, Persian and Turkish calligraphers continued to use Ta'liq as a monumental script for important occasions.
The word Nasta'liq is a compound word derived from Naskh and Ta'liq. Ta'liq and Nasta'liq scripts were used extensively for copying Persian anthologies, epics, miniatures, and other literary works -- but not for the Holy Qur'an.
Thuluth script was first formulated in the 7th century during the Umayyad caliphate, but it did not develop fully until the late 9th century. The name means 'a third' -- perhaps because of the proportion of straight lines to curves, or perhaps because the script was a third the size of another popular contemporary script. Though rarely used for writing the Holy Qur'an, Thuluth has enjoyed enormous popularity as an ornamental script for calligraphic inscriptions, titles, headings, and colophons. It is still the most important of all the ornamental scripts.
Thuluth script is characterized by curved letters written with barbed heads. The letters are linked and sometimes intersecting, thus engendering a cursive flow of ample and often complex proportions. Thuluth is known for its elaborate graphics and remarkable plasticity.