Since Islamic beliefs are found in different groups of people around the entire world, it is not a surprise that the Arabic script’s design is often influenced by the geographic area where it was developed. For example, cursive styles are characteristic of China, Persia, and Turkey.
Below are given popular scripts used for Islamic Calligraphy for centuries.
The Tugrahjat script is best known for being adopted by the Ottoman Sultans, who often used it as their signature for documents. The reason why they opted for this particular script is very interesting – due to its complexity, Tugrahjat was considered to be very, very difficult to imitate. Since it was meant to be impossible to forge, it was always used to sign documents, provide authorizations and certifications.
Because of its complexity, the Tugrahjat script was often created by a specially trained calligraphist who worked for the sultan. While they were responsible for designing and creating the main part of the text, the text was later decorated by an illuminator who enhanced the design and style of the signature.
Nastal’Liq is often used for literature and other works that are not related to Quranic studies. Its history can be traced back to the Persian language, and it is considered to be related to the Ta’Liq and Naskh scripts that were used during this period. Letters of this script are characterized with shorter than usual vertical strokes, and much broader horizontal strokes. While Nasta’Liq script is often employed for normal texts, there is also a variant called Shikasteh – while very similar to Nasta’Liq, it is mostly used for informal types of text. Shikasteh was developed around the 17th century, and it is still being used today.
Muhaqqaq is considered to be one of the most beautiful types of Islamic scripts, but its beauty comes at a price – designing and executing it is very difficult, so very few artisans were able to use Muhaqqaq effectively. It was used for all kinds of texts widely during the Mamluk era, but ever since the 18th century, it has been used for short phrases exclusively.
The Thuluth script’s history can be traced back to the 7th century – of course, just like any other Arabic script, this one was also refined gradually. In the case of Thuluth, it was improved majorly by Ahmad Tayyib Shah, who introduced the usage of long vertical lines and rich spacing between characters. The Thuluth script has been around for centuries, and it has evolved continuously during this period – this is why it can be found in different forms on many historical monuments.
The Diwani script was often used for the creation of official documents, and its usage was popularized by Suleyman I the Magnificent during the sixteenth century. Housam Roumi is considered to be the creator of this script.
Just like many of the other scripts used for official documents, Diwani also uses a strictly cursive style. It is characterized by the narrow spacing between separate letters, and it is considered to be one of the more difficult scripts to master. Due to this, it is preferred for official documents – it is difficult to forge, and documents created with it are considered to be confidential.
This is another cursive-style script that was widely used for informal texts. The need for a script of this sort increased thanks to the rapid spread of Islam around the world – the religion’s followers needed a script that would be simple to write, and excellent for conversations. The Naskh script was frequently used to copy documents and texts – it was by far the best choice for transcription work, and many books and manuscripts from the Middle Ages can be found in the Naskh script.
Ibn Mugla is considered to be the creator of the Naskh script, but some historical sources do not confirm this entirely – the style of the Naskh script does not fit the writing style that Ibn Mugla used. According to some experts in Islamic history, the creator of the Naskh Script might have been Ibn al-Bawwam, a student of Ibn Muqla. However, it is undeniable that Ibn Muqla was involved heavily in the development of the Naskh script, and they are likely to be responsible for some of the rules used to format the letters in this script.
The Naskh script is best known for being very easy to read and write, which is why it was the preferred choice for transcription work and longer bodies of text.
The Kufic script’s place of birth is considered to be Kufa, a city that still exists today in the country of Iraq. Kufic is based on Ma’il, another script that was popular at the start of the Islamic reign.
One of the main characteristics of the traditional Kufic script is that it did not involve the dots found in modern-day Arabic scripts. Kufic is best fit for shorter text because of the wide script letters, and the long vertical lines used. This makes it an excellent choice for decorations, and Kufic script can be seen on many architectural decorations in schools, palaces, and mosques.
Kufic is one of the oldest Arabic scripts – the first version of it consisted of just 17 letters. Later on, the script’s style was enhanced with the addition of diacritical markings that made the text easier to read. This happened around the 7th century, a period in which the Kufic script started to be used for Quran readings and important documents. During this period, the script’s alphabet was expanded to include 28 letters.
The Kufic script saw the widest use between the 8th and 10th centuries until the Naskh script was introduced – it quickly became more practical. However, even after this change, calligraphists continued to use the Kufic script for decorations because of its intricate style.