Arabic calligraphy was originally a tool for communication, but with time, it began to be used in architecture, decoration and coin design. Its evolution into these major roles was a reflection of the early Muslims’ need to avoid, as their beliefs required, figures and pictorials that were used as idols before Islam was established in the Arabian Peninsula.
While the Arabic tribes preferred to memorize texts and poetry, the first Muslims tried to document their holy book (Qur’an Kareem) using the scripts that we’ll look at in this article. In order to understand how these scripts developed into the beautiful and complex shapes we know today, we have to understand the history of Arabic calligraphy.
Over the course of their development, the Arabic scripts were created in different periods and locations of the expansive Islamic Empire. There is also a close relationship between each Arabic script and its common usage throughout history. This leads us to the question of why this article is important, especially for non-Arabic speakers, and what information can be gleaned from each script.
Well, understanding the history of each script and how Arabic calligraphy evolved over the history of the Islamic Empire can expand our visual experience beyond the beautiful glyphs and forms. Some scripts reflect the time period in which they developed, such as the Musand script, which emerged at an early stage in the history of Arabic calligraphy. Others provide geographical insight into where the artwork was developed, such as the Maghribi script, which distinguishes the artwork and inscriptions of northwest Africa.
Can different scripts tell us more information, such as the geographical area where each was developed? How much is the local culture affected by each script? We will try to answer these questions, while briefly going through the history and style of each script.
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