Islamic calligraphy is an unparalleled form of art, and has a glorious heritage covering centuries and vast geographical territories. A major sign of the refinement and evolution of Islamic calligraphy is the emergence of different styles of writing Arabic. Each style developed in a particular region over a particular period and has its distinct set of rules and format. We shall talk about these styles of writing the Quranic verses, especially as there has been a recent spurt of interest among people looking to buy Islamic art. Indeed, Islamic art for home is an emerging home décor category for which it is important to understand the different calligraphic styles that adore different artefacts and wall hangings.
1. Kufic: This style, which developed in 7th century Kufa, Iraq, from where it gets its name, is the oldest known style of writing the Arabic script. It was the first font in which the Quran was transcribed. At that time, the Arabic script is believed to have comprised 17 letters and no dots to indicate vowel sounds. Over time, as non-Arabs began entering the fold of Islam and were unfamiliar with the language of the Quran, dots were brought in. The Kufic font is characterised by long horizontal strokes and round characters with tiny counters.
The style branched into sub-types like floral, foliated, plaited or interlaced, bordered, and squared Kufic.
At the turn of the 10th century, the Kufic font gave way to the new, more legible Naskh font in the transcription of the Quran. It, however, continued to be used for decorating artefacts and buildings.
2. Naskh: This cursive style replaced Kufic as the main font in which the Quran was transcribed. Developed in the Middle East, Naskhbecame popular as it offered ease of both reading and writing. It still is used for writing the Quran, and formed the basis of the modern Arabic script. It continues to be used in newspapers, periodicals, official decrees and private correspondence.
3. Thuluth: ‘Thuluth’ is an Arabic word that means ‘one third’. This font emerged from Naskh, and in it, one-third of the letters are straight. It is a very grand, striking style due to long, vertical lines, broad spacing and emphatic dots and vowels symbols. Because of its imposing appearance, it is used to adornthe walls and ceilings of many monuments.It is also used for Islamic art for home where it is used to decorate wall art and hangings.
4. Nast’aliq: This font emerged in Persiafor secular reasons like writing court papers. The name ta’liq means “hanging”, and refers to the slightly steeped lines of which words run in, giving the script a hanging appearance.
5. Diwani: This style came into being in 16th century Turkey during the Ottoman rule. It is a highly decorative, intricate and elaborate font – the letters are slanted, and the narrow spaces between them are densely covered with dots. The Diwani script is difficult to read and was used in transcribing court papers. In modern era, it is used in Islamic art for home. Learning about these styles can be of use to those looking to buy Islamic art.