I love colors and when I got my first watercolor set I was excited about exploring Islamic art, both Arabic calligraphy used in Quran, and Islamic patterns.
Arabic Calligraphy and Quranic Scripts
My journey in Arabic calligraphy started during a visit to NY in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Islamic section. The Met has an amazing collection of Islamic history artifacts including many copies of Quran dating back nearly to the times of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his Companions. This was the first time that I learned that Arabic script has changed so much over the years and there are so many different styles of Arabic calligraphy.
The earliest Qurans were written in uniform letters as we see in the seal of the Prophet and letters written by him. Eventually however there emerged a formalized and standard script for writing Quran known as the Kufic script (as it developed in Kufa, Iraq). This script was widely used till about the 11th century. With time, many other scripts were developed for Arabic calligraphy such as Thuluth and the majestic Muhaqqaq style.
Quran copies with very festive styles were not meant for regular use, but were gifted as keepsakes or used as a references by the Huffaz – i.e., a person who had memorized the Quran. Writing of Quran with golden ink on colored paper was also popular.
One of the most celebrated calligraphers in history was Ibn Muqla, a vizier to the caliph in 930 AD, who is credited with the invention of the gorgeous Thuluth script. Ibn Muqla’s political enemies eventually caused his disgrace. His arm was cut off which is the most tragic punishment a calligrapher could be given.
The calligraphers of the early times not only wrote beautifully and developed new scripts, but they also invented new tools for their work. As an example, Yaqut al-Mustasimi a eunuch slave in the times of Caliph al-Mustasim replaced the straight cut reed pen with an oblique cut, which resulted in a more elegant script.
In Islamic culture, artwork provides places such as mosques with lightness and beauty and create a welcoming environment for the devout. The beautiful patterns provide an outlet for creative expression even for those people who do not prefer figurative arts.
The following design is an example of geometric pattern from the Sircali madrasah, Konya Iraq that was built in 1200 AD.
Many Islamic designs are built on squares and circles and polygons – and combining these with calligraphic and arabesque designs resulted in magnificent art as we see in the Taj Mahal and the Topkapı palace.
Art in Our Lives
Creating art allows me to immerse myself in the words of Quran and perhaps that’s another benefit of Islamic art. The posters I have created are available for free. If you like you can download and print them and get them framed in any framing shop such as Walmart or your local studios. To view all the posters click on the archives page: Posters Archive Page
If you would like to try your own hands at art then you can download the following drawing and color it with coloring pencils, markers, or watercolor. Clicking on the image will take you to the poster home page.
Arabic calligraphy & geometric patterns in Islamic art allow all of us a way to bring color and creativity in our lives. I hope you enjoyed this peek into my journey into Islamic art.
- Islamic calligraphy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_calligraphy
- Islamic geometric patterns: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_geometric_patterns
- Islamic art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_art
- Aniconism (Non-figurative art) in Islam: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aniconism_in_Islam#Hadith_and_exegesis_examples
- Arabesque: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabesque
- Sircali Madrasah in Konya Iraq: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C4%B1r%C3%A7al%C4%B1_Medrese
- Yaqut al-Mustasimi (Famous Calligrapher): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaqut_al-Musta%27simi
- Ibn Muqla (Master Calligrapher) : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Muqla
- Seal of Muhammad (PBUH): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_of_Muhammad
- Codex Parisino-petropolitanus: Fragments from Ancient Quran: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Parisino-petropolitanus
- Early Quranic manuscripts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Quranic_manuscripts