The Calligraphic Tradition in Islam

Calligraphy has developed into an important art form in Islam.

Calligraphy, from the Greek “kallos” (beauty) and “graphein” (to write) is the art of beautiful writing. It is believed that the practice of calligraphy originated in China during the second millennium BC, eventually spreading to the Middle East.

The art of transcribing the Holy Qur’an in beautiful hand was considered a form of devotion and an act of piety. Through its medium, verses from the Holy Qur’an and other revered writings became modes of refined decoration. In the Muslim world, calligraphy can be found everywhere – on the exteriors as well as interiors of the buildings.

Decorative words transferred knowledge and religious teachings from one generation to another. Hence, the skilled calligraphers and copyists were highly esteemed since printing was not available in the Islamic world until the eighteenth century. In contrast to painters, potters, and other artists, who generally remained anonymous, the calligraphers frequently signed their works and were thus well-known.

Many volumes were written about famous calligraphers, discussing their stylistic innovations and recording their works. In the Muslim world, calligraphy is considered amongst the highest forms of art and devotional activity.

Source: The Institute of Ismaili Studies: http://www.iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=105223

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