Arabic Calligraphy – The Heart of Arab History

Thursday, 04 April 2013 02:04Talaat Sengab

Arabic is the liturgical language of the Islamic Religion. It is written from right to left in cursive form with some of the letters joined at the beginning, middle or end depending on the grammar or usage of the letter or word.

With no background in the language, you may see unjoined Arabic letters written from left to right instead of from right to left, as they were originally, or you may see other symbols, rather than Arabic script.

Arabic is second in use only to the Roman alphabet and is spoken by over 422 million people worldwide. The majority of Arabic-speaking peoples reside in countries that make up  the League of Arab States, while others originate in neighbouring countries, namely, Iran, NigerSouth SudanMaliChadSenegalEthiopiaEritreaand some Arabic-speaking communities in the West.  The Arabic writing system comes in various forms, such as the Arabic alphabet, Arabic Braille, the Hebrew alphabet (Judaeo-Arabic) and the Syriac alphabet (Garshuni).

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The highly distinctive Arabic alphabet, as we know it today, is derived from the Aramaic Nabataean alphabet, while also being related to the Latin, Phoenician and Greek alphabets. Supplementary languages such as Urdu, Persian, Malay and others, also use adaptations of Arabic script.

Decorative writing, or Arabic Calligraphy, is considered to be among the highest forms of art in the Arab world. It symbolises the age-old traditions, culture and beliefs of the Arabs. It can also be portrayed as a definitive art form, with letters and words encrypted into an image.

Arabic Calligraphy has been developed and forged throughout history. It has been influenced by varied civilisations and periods. If one were to track its development over time, one would see how it has been shaped by the influence of others and how, in its own way, it has affected other cultures.


Arabic Calligraphy stems from a cultivated culture, backed up by true commitment. The art of Arabic Calligraphy portrays the past world connected to the new one. Prodigious calligraphers create their work in as intricate and complex a way as the great history and culture of the Arabs is.

Over the long and varied history of Arabic Calligraphysix different styles developed. These are Farsi, Naskhi, Kufic, Diwanii, Riq’a and Thuluth. These six styles of script form the heart of Arabic Calligraphy,ranging from the ‘dry’ Kufic styles through to the softer, cursive styles of Naskh and Thuluth, with each variant having its own individual style.  Additionally, each script requires the correct writing instrument to produce it, from point pens (e.g. Nashki) through to bamboo pens (e.g. Thuluth).

While Arabic Calligraphy has bestowed its treasure on the western world, it also represents the Muslim way of art and beliefs.

In every culture and tradition, a piece of art contains a voice from the past. Art is the way of expression. The ways of life, the spoken language, the gods and governments have all been recorded though art. Even though technology has now become the focus in people’s minds and lives, it is not possible to disregard the power of art, especially Arabic Calligraphy, which goes back to the beginning of civilization and history.