Arabic calligraphy is a form of calligraphy based on the Arabic script. In ancient times, Arabic calligraphy was mainly used to spread the word of Islam. History behind Arabic calligraphy takes us some thousand years back, when the Arabic script was created with assistance from a number of languages like Urdu, Farsi, Persian and Malay. At a time when there was an alarming increase in the number of non Arabs in Arabia, verses of Quran were used to spread the Arabic script within the masses, which later lead to various forms of Arabic calligraphy styles. Arabic calligraphy further developed alongside the development in Arabic literature.
Though not a conventionally popular hobby, Arabic calligraphy is still extensively practiced, and can prove to be a little difficult for novices to learn. But if you are up for the challenge, it can prove to be a satisfying hobby.
To begin with Arabic calligraphy, you need learn about the Arabic script, which is written from right to left, consists of 17 basic consonants and vowels are only marked either alongside, below or above the consonants. The various writing scripts for Arabic calligraphy are grouped under two broad heads, geometric styles and cursive styles. Two popular geometric styles include:
This simple style with diacritical marks, dates back to the 7th and 8th century and was supposedly the first developed style of writing Arabic calligraphy. The ancient stone carvings, even the very first editions of the Quran were written in the style of Hijazi.
This is a more geometric style in comparison to Hijazi. The vowels in this style are noted in red dots, while consonants are marked with small dashes. Ancient coins used this style of scripting.
The cursive writing style is much easier in terms of reading and writing, as compared to the geometric style, explaining its wider following. Here is a brief account of the various styles which fall under the broad category of cursive writing style.
Also known as Naskhi, this style has a simple cursive writing form. A slender form without many complex particulars, it is highly followed by Arabic calligraphers.
This style has a very energetic form with much elongated verticals. This style was in use during the reign of Mamluks around the 14th and 15th centuries.
In this style of writing, the endings of the letters are elongated and the curves of the letters underline the text. This is an alert script and is popular amongst enthusiasts.
This style of writing is a bit less popular due to its wide curves and elongated verticals.
This style, a minuscule version of Tawqi, is also a less popular style of writing.
Today, the most commonly used script is Ruqah, which is quite simple to read and write. This style of writing is considered to be an advanced version of the Naskh style of writing. The movements of the letters are small with less amplitude and the letters themselves are quite slender.
The tools required for Arabic calligraphy are paper, ink, pen and pencil. Arabic calligraphy is done on smooth glossy paper so that the pen glides on the surface. For a beginner as yourself, you can use old magazines and once you feel you are ready, move to using glossy paper. But while buying glossy paper, remember to check that it is not so glossy that the pen slips off the paper.
If you buy a calligraphy set from a stationary shop, you will find a variety of pens such as, calligraphy dip pens, markers, fountain and felt pens. A calligraphy dip pen, which comes in the calligraphy set has a flat tip, which needs to be cut at an angle of 35-40 degrees otherwise this will not work well for Arabic calligraphy. Bamboo or reed pens, are other options, which you might even produce at home by cutting bamboo or reed at a particular angle. You can even use a pencil, which is a more economical alternative to pens. You can either use an ordinary pencil like 2H, with its tip properly cut at an angle of 35-40 degrees or combination of two pencils tied together which might help in writing large letters in the beginning. You can also choose a carpenter pencil with a rectangular and broad center.
The best part of writing Arabic calligraphy is that the medium on which you write may be selected from a wide range such as stone, ceramics, textiles, metal and wood, apart from paper. Arabic calligraphy can be also woven into a beautiful carpet. The calligram created can take the form of an animal, bird, flower or any other inanimate object according to your choice.
You can conduct further research through books related to Arabic calligraphy, including, "The Art of Arabic Calligraphy", a pack of 6 books written by Bushra Yasmin Ghazi or "Arabic Script: Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations" by Gabriel Mandel Khan. Browsing the internet for popular Arabic calligraphers and their work, is also a good idea for novices. If there are any local hobby clubs in your neighborhood, joining them will help you learn a lot, if not, you can create your own club, with likeminded people, to learn and share your knowledge about Arabic calligraphy.