10th century Iraq ... A time when early Muslims needed a method by which they could make sure the Holy Quran was documented and distributed. That's when calligraphy was born.
Khatt is the Arabic term given to the artistic discipline of Islamic handwriting and calligraphy. Leaving oral traditions behind, Muslims used the old Nabataean script as a basis to create the earliest forms of calligraphy.
A practical instrument used to record literature at first, calligraphy soon established itself as a venerated visual art form that Quran scholars used as a means to express themselves and the environment around them.
Over a large period of time and spanning various regions of the Islamic world, calligraphy blossomed into an art form boasting various styles and growing increasingly intricate and detailed.
1. Kufic Calligraphy
Originating in the city of Kufac, Kufic khatt was the only script used to copy the Holy Quran between the 8th and 10th century.
Naskh, which directly translates to copying, was a more legible style of calligraphy developed in 10th century Turkey.
Pioneered by Ibn Muqla, Naskh was a hallmark in Islamic calligraphy. By using the alef as anx-height that all other characters were proportional to, Ibn Muqla solidified Naskhas as standard in Quranic scripture.
A more extravagant style of calligraphy, Thuluth was mainly used for titles and on architectural monuments. This style can be commonly found today engraved on glass panels and mosque ceilings.
More informal than previous styles, Muhaqqaq was considered challenging to execute and was mainly only used in short phrases.
The Basmallah phrase has almost constantly been written in Muhaqqaq style since the 18th century.
A cursive style developed in 14th century Iran, Nastaliq was where calligraphy parted ways with theology. It picked up right from where Naksh stopped, utilizing steeped lines coupled with concise vertical strokes and broad horizontal strokes.
6. Contemporary Calligraffiti
Calligrafitti is a style that fuses Arab calligraphy with Western graffiti. Once an art form on the brink of death, Arabic calligraphy is currently undergoing a promising revival.
Young Arab artist such as El Seed, Yazan Halawani and Khadiga El Ghawas are blowing life into calligraphy by deconstructing and re-imagining it in a new light. By doing so, they have made it accessible to Arab millennials.