Guest Author - Rachel Schaus
Calligraphy is an Islamic fine art dating back to the 6th century when Muhammad is believed to have received the Qur'an from God. According to Islamic tradition, Mohammad memorized the messages from God and then dictated then word for word to scribes (writers) who wrote them down using elegant calligraphy.
The earliest form of Islamic calligraphy is called Kufic calligraphy, having first originated from Kufa, Iraq. Kufa is one of the earliest centers of calligraphy, and is an angular style. The other earliest style is Naskhi, used for secular writing and not for documents considered holy.
In the 10th and 11th centuries, two famous Muslim calligraphers, Ibn Muqlah and Ibn al-Bawwab developed and established six classical styles of Arabic script still used today. These are: naskhi, thuluth, muhaqqaq, rayhani, riqa, and tauqi.
Because Muslims do not believe in using pictures and representations of living things on mosques and madrasahs (religious schools), calligraphy is used for decoration and can be quite beautiful. Typically, words from the Qur'an are used to decorate mosques in a variety of colors, sizes, and mediums.
Muslim calligraphers use a variety of tools and mediums to write and paint calligraphy. These may include reed and brush pens of various sizes, scissors and knives for cutting and sharpening the pens. Additionally, there are many different recipes used for the inks, including natural dyes, perfumes, and soot.
Another really fun form of calligraphy art is when calligraphy is done in the shape of a picture, called a calligram. Some artists will make special shapes and words to order, but still usually utilizing holy words from the Qur'an.
Modern calligraphy is still very much taught and used both in Islam and in the Western world as a formal way of writing. Well known Islamic artists include Hassan Massoudy, Rachid Koraichi, and others from the Middle East who demonstrate their master skill in Islamic calligraphy.
When viewed as an art form, it is easier to appreciate the skill of the artists who paint calligraphy on Mosque domes more than 100 feet in the air!