Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing. It is the visual expression of words and sounds. In a similar way as other traditional arts such as music, architecture and illumination, calligraphy is the expression of harmony, balance and beauty.
In the Islamic tradition, this art was born with the need to transmit and preserve sacred texts. Over time and with the expansion of Islam from Spain to China, Arabic calligraphy developed in contact with different cultures. This has enabled the development of this art in all its glory through several styles and their particular aesthetics. The use of calligraphy was subsequently extended beyond the sacred texts to poetry, proverbs and words of wisdom.
Calligraphy developed from the angular and square Kufic style towards more cursive and round styles. Among these we find in particular muhaqqaq, rayhani, sulus, nesih and talik styles, which are still used today.
Like any traditional art, calligraphy is transmitted from master to disciple after a long education that lasts many years. Just like playing a musical instrument, daily and methodical practice is necessary to master the techniques of writing. The learning process also allows the disciple to exercise his human qualities (patience, perseverance, and humility): it often happens that the master asks the disciple to write and copy the same sentence for many months…
The instruments used for calligraphy are essentially: reed, ink and paper. The reed is harvested and aged according to certain standards, and then it is cut to the desired angle and dimension. The ink is made from the soot on oil lamps (traditionally collected from the lamps of mosques) mixed with gum Arabic and water. A ball of silk soaked with ink is then placed in the inkwell. Paper is prepared so that the reed slides over it and so that the ink does not impregnate the paper. It is thus coated with several layers of ahar (starch, egg white and alum stone) and then burnished with an agate stone.
Moreover, calligraphy has its rules and proportions: the length, the width and the diameter of letters are calculated according to a system of marks created with the tip of the pen (nuqta). The nuqta is the unit of reference for measurement which determines the size of all the letters and gives them an intrinsic coherence. Moreover, the combination of the letters responds to specific laws that give the calligraphic composition all its harmony.
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