Origins of Arabic Calligraphy

The first inscriptions with traces of Arabic came from the Nabateans.
As they were Arabs, we can talk of a certain continuity between Aramean and Arabic at the beginning of Islam, which is close to the current script.
Arabic script was very plain in the beginning and became an ‘art’ in the 7th century at the beginning of Islam.
It was used in both manuscripts and architectural ornamentation in all Muslim countries, from Palmyra to Granada. The influence of each country can often be seen in the forms and colours, especially in Africa.
There is a ‘visual’ way of reading it, which has been enriched by the various cultures in which it is used.

Given the geographical reach of the Muslim world, where a lot of peoples have used Arabic scripts, from Andalusia to India, and the time span – it has been used for fifteen centuries – Arabic calligraphy has known uncountable forms which can be put into two main families: angular, and round, called ‘cursive’.

The main seven forms are: kufic, thoulth, nashk, diwanny, riqa, Persian, and Andalusian-Magrebhian.
The main tool used in calligraphy is a simple reed which can be found in large quantities in hot, swampy regions. It has been used by man since the dawn of time.
The calame is an extension of our body, hand and the spirit of calligraphy.

Thanks to tradition, Arabic calligraphy has stood the test of time and is an eternally contemporary, universal and timeless art.

Source: ”Calligraphie Arabe” by Ghani Alani

Extract translated by Sarah Haté