Islamic - Calligraphy   Clasic Arabic scripts type  

The Kufic Script

Kufic script, a heavy monumental Arabic script suited to stone carving, appears in the earliest surviving Koran manuscripts. In these, the diacritical marks over the letters are sometimes painted in red, and the gold decorations between suras contrast handsomely with the heavy black script. In the Seljuk period, a more cursive flowing script, Naskhi, developed. The two styles were often used for contrast in architecture and decorative contexts.

Kufic script is derived from "Hijazi Script", whose origin may in order be traced to "Hirian", "Nebtian" or "Anbarian".

Available petrography and existing documents, which belong to 7th century AD, indicate that in different kinds of irregular arabesque writing, Naskh and Kufic scripts, have been carelessly used and no rule or method was officially proposed to follow. The object has been only restricted to recording of written materials and their concepts, without paying attention to the elegance and artistic issues, which would have enriched those handwritings.

Such samples could be found in some available inscriptions on stone and in a few documents as well. But, when calligraphy was employed in the service of Islam for writing Koran, it entirely got changed and gradually paced in the path of perfection from viewpoint and aspect of art and elegance.

Its first style of Islamic period writing, in which the manifestation of art, delicacy and beauty are explicitly evident, is that of Kufic Script. As, it was developed in the city of Kufa, it is called "Kufic".

During the first three centuries of Islamic period (7th-9th century AD), Koran was practically written and recorded with Kufic script, while calligraphers of every zone used to use their personal style and taste in this sort of handwriting. The nibs of their pens might have been different from one another, or the tendency of vertical ribs of the letters towards left and right sides, together with some other invented differences exerted in the chosen letters, might have been characterized the style and place of writing. Thus, various ways of inscribing letters, like those of Kufic, Madani, Basri, Shami (Syrian) and Maqrebi scripts came into existence.

In spite of all these differences, so long as using of Kufic script, uses particularly restricted to Arabian peninsula, no significant changes appeared in the original forms of this handwriting. In fact, Kufic script could be known as the first and earliest calligraphy, used in writing many copies of Koran, which are still found here and there.

Sounds and Points (Erab and Ejam):

The early Kufic script did not have any signs to display the correct pronunciation of words. Even word's dots were not used on or under the letters. But, in the course of time, signs for pronouncing vowels gradually appeared. Abdul-Asvad Doeli (1310 AD) has been known as the first scribe, who used such signs.

In the available copies, written in Kufic script, cinnabar-red circles are more or less contiguous to Arabic letters, to show proper sounds of the desired pronunciation. Dots and points (Ejam) could also be seen.

Signs, for eloquent resting of Koran, later appeared on the basis of Choice and Convention of readers or scribes. With the advents of "ibn Mogla" (950 AD) and "ibn Bavvab" (1034 AD), Kufic script was no more used by Arab calligraphers and was relaced by "Thulth", "Reihan", "Mahaggag" and "Naskh".

Thence, Arab scribes only used Kufic script in writing the rubrics of Koran's texts and margins, which were mostly as decorative designs consisting of ceruse or gold work traces done on azure background.

In non-Arabian Muslim areas, the use of Kufic script was not practically restricted to this aspect or dimension. In the course of time, it got evolution and was used in inscribing many epigraphs and writing books in the vast area, stretching between the borders of China and Spain.

One of the most important Eastern Kufic (Iranin) Scripts was a kind, which is now called "Piramouz Kufic Script" that has greatly acquired. This form or style of writing is indeed the most beautiful from the viewpoint of its elegant characteristics, such as having regular separations between the related letters, which make words.

In order to avoid spending much time for and on writing, calligraphers, gradually, gave up the method or style of using separate letters in putting down a single word; thus, new letters were regularly joined together like those of Kufic or other words inscribed.

Although, such style of writing has been relatively transformed in the course of time, taking new kinds and shapes, and being used in different areas, ruled by different governments, yet it is still known as Eastern or Iranian Kufic Script. Large number of copies of Koran and too many other books, written or printed in Persian, as well as various manuscripts are, at present, available here and there.

The reason of long prevalence and vast circulation of this style of writing, lies in its easy quality of being either written or read.

As, Kufic script was used mostly in writing Koran, different kinds of Kufic script became as sacred phenomenon and got holy aspect. Calligraphers tried to create as more beautiful and charming letters and words, as possible in innovative handwritings.

Various sorts of artistic symbols and tokens, introduced natural things or man-made objects, were explicitly used and observable in those sacred letters and words.

The present description of above-mentioned work of art cannot quench the thirst of those who may seize the opportunity of witnessing such beautiful copies and manuscripts with their own eyes. One can enjoy his time by watching them for hours or even for days in appropriate occasions.

As, Kufic script was used in architectural designs on the basis and tastes in fashion of every area or vogue of time, Kufic script has been chronologically changed from viewpoint of its shape and style of inscription.

Decorative designs of this script could be seen on some pillars, minarets, porches and on walls of palaces. These decorations have been either done through plaster molding or by stone carving. Some ingenious craftsmen or artisans have successfully shown their artistic creations concerning Kufic script, in fine and multi-colored glazed tiles and sorted-out bricks. The history of all this covers a long period of 1000 years.

In short, one has to try to discover the mysterious beauty and elegance of the different decorative designs, skillfully used in presenting Kufic script here and there in different objects and instances.

The manifestation of such Eastern beauties has been spread from Al-Hamra Palace in Spain to the ruins of Victory Garden in Ghazneh. Reports and records have been hitherto prepared on these relics by the experts of calligraphy and graphology. Many of the examples, found in the present collections, have been given on the basis of such inscriptions.


Old Kufic (Arabic Kufic)   Western Kufic (Morocco)  Iranian Kufic (Piramouz)                 Khorasan Kufic           


            Qaznavid Kufic                                Qouri Kufic                                                 Andalusia Kufic                           


Decorative Kufic                  corative Kufic(Dome & Minaret) 

(Dome & Minaret)                                                                                          Decorative Kufic                                          

Shekasteh Script

History of Shekasteh Script

In Iran, where several millennia of artistic activity have given birth to myriad examples of this intelligent and ingenious nation's genius, writing has ever enjoyed a particular status. Writing is the oldest mean through which man's spiritual and cultural acquisitions were transmitted from generation to generation. In the course of time, this art found applications in various domains, appearing as a decorative element on carved stone panels and monument facades, terra cotta vessels, wood, fabric,...

The latest achievement in this domain was the invention by Iranian calligraphers of "Shekasteh Script", as a decorative Nastaliq, in 17th century AD. It was first designed by "Morteza Qoli Khan Shamlou and later systematized by Mohammad Shafi Hosseini, who signed "Shafia", but it reached to the top of its perfection a few decade later, with the advent of great genius Abdolmajid Taleqani (Dervish). He, besides devoting his stupendous creativity to perfect this exquisite script, also manifested considerable literary capabilities, leaving behind valuable works in this domain.

Dervish Abdolmajid Taleqani was born in 1737 AD. This illustrious artist spent his childhood in his native village, Mehran, near Taleqan, where he received his elementary schooling in local traditional school, "Maktab Khaneh".

He left his birthplace to perfect his talent. His childhood coincided with the decline of Safavid rule, when Iran faced with various difficulties in terms of economic stability and social order, which prevented the emergence of artistic creativity or the flourishing of arts.

The country's chaotic situation at the time, compounded by young artist's indigence and lack of a tutor, prevents any rational inquiry to be made about this great man's motive and private developments. Indeed, in an era when, for want of adequate means of transportation and communication, people rarely left their towns, perhaps only for trading purposes with nearby villages, why would Dervish leave his birthplace for Qazvin, then Shiraz, and eventually Isfahan?

Undoubtedly, many researchers are eager to identify the motives of this emigration, undertaken in difficult conditions prevailing in Iran some two hundred and fifty years ago. Apparently, the only way out of this quandary, which we owe to the negligence of past biographers, is to turn to narratives about him that are scattered among the pages of various sources and the scarce fragments he has left behind.

Evidence shows that ever since his childhood, he possessed great intelligence, extraordinary talent, grandeur of soul and genius, which enabled him to acquire fame among the great scientific, literary and spiritual figures of his time, captivate the attention of literary men by his poems and discourses, and elicit the wonderment of men of art by his calligraphy.

He spent some time in Shiraz, capital city of Love and Literature, while his poetic talent developed through the frequentation of such eminent figures as Lotf Ali Beig Azar, Asheq Moshtaq and Hatif Isfahani. Soon he created sublime poems, which he signed either "Majid" or "Khamoush", while continuing to astonish all those around him, with the magic that flowed from his able fingers. Thus, his fame soon reaches Isfahan, capital city and cradle of civilization of the time, where every street held a treasure of artistic wonders, and where the most illustrious artists of realm were gathered.

Nevertheless, his fame soon crossed the gates of Isfahan, and he created masterpieces the like of which have rarely been produced by any artist. His personal virtuousness, his upright character and innate modesty, kept this untiring genius apart from worldly interest. Hence, in his writing about life, he has praised and given true meaning to his appellation of "Dervish".

Elsewhere, in a superb album preserved in Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran, Iran, he has left behind stupendous examples, in "Qobar Script", of his magic. In a corner of a page, bemoaning the unfairness of the world, he has written most emphatically "I write and I write and I write and for it to remain in history that poor Abdolmajid preferred pardon to vengeance". This shows that he was firmly committed to upright virtues and that he had acquired the certainly that his "ideas" and "calligraphy" were part of history.

This type of writing, dedicated by way of acknowledgement and gratitude to such prominent figures as Lotf Ali Beig Azar, who supported him both financially and spiritually, appear miracles beyond the capability of any human being. It is related that emulating the manner of Mir Emad Hassani, Dervish perfected his Nastaliq penmanship while in his twenties, so much so that it was said "He has equaled his master's writing".

The veracity of this heavy claim is verified by his early works, when he emulated Shafia, un which most of words were written in Shekasteh Script. He thereafter devoted his efforts to this script, spending part of the last 15 years of his life imitating Shafia's works. Very soon, he surpassed all of the masters, who had written in this manner before him.

Although he always praised such great men as Morteza Qoli Khan Shamlou, Shafia and Mirza Hossein Kermani, he himself, in the short last years of his life, created masterful compositions of letters and words that made Shekasteh immortal, and one can daringly affirm that the evolution of this script during this brief period, which may not exceed 10 years, equaled its entire development over a period of 5 centuries, with all the alternations initiated in Nastaliq by a line of master calligraphers ranging from Mir Emad Heravi to Mirza Kalhor.

Mirza Kouchek Isfahani, Mohammad Reza Isfahani, Mirza Hassan Isfahani, Mirza Qolam Reza Isfahani and at the end of this period, the venerated Seyed Golestaneh (1901), each of whom may be considered a flag-bearer of this script, all followed his way, whether directly or indirectly, studying the magic of his pen and paying homage to his brilliant genius.

Although stricken with malaria in the last years of his life, he produced a multitude of calligraphic pages, albums and poetic collections and anthologies, while at the top of his art. These included "Collection of Hafiz' Poems", "Golestan Raz", "Collection of Sadi" and "Boustan Sadi", which today adorn museums in Iran and abroad.

Dervish died of his disease at the age of 35 in Isfahan and was humbly buried near "Tekyeh Mir" in "Takht Poulad Cemetery".


The Naskh Script

Naskh, which means "copying," was developed in the 10th century, and refined into a fine art form in Turkey in the 16th century. Since then it became generally accepted for writing the Quran. Naskh is legible and clear and was adapted as the preferred style for typesetting and printing. It is a small script whose lines are thin and letter shapes are round.

Naskh (also known as Naskhi or by its Turkish name Nesih) is a specific calligraphic style for writing in the Arabic alphabet, thought to be invented by Ibn Muqlah, Ibn Muqlah Shirazi (born 886 in Baghdad--died 20 July 940 there). The root of this Arabic term nasakha means "to abolish, abrogate" and "to copy". It either refers to the fact that it replaced its predecessor, Kufic script, or that this style allows faster copying of texts. With small modifications, it is the style most commonly used for printing Arabic, Persian, Pashto, et al. This type of script was derived from Thuluth by introducing a number of modifications resulting in smaller size and greater delicacy. It is written using a small, very fine pen known as a cava pen, which makes the script eminently suitable for use in book production. Naskhi was used in copying Qur'ans, Delails, En-ams and Hadiths. It was also used in commentaries on the Qur'an (Tefsir) and in collections of poetry (Divan). It was and is a very widely used form of script. Naskh, along with Ta'liq, is also famous for giving rise to the Nasta'lq script, the script used for writing Urdu, Persian, Kashmiri, and sometimes Pashto and Uyghur. Computers typically use Naskh or a Naskh-like script.