“Strive to write elegantly for this will ensure your means of livelihood.”
Caliph ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d.661)
Penned by the Moghul prince Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest son. Manuscript dated 1631-32, border 18th century. (Image: Aga Khan Museum)
Calligraphy, from the Greek kallos (beauty) and graphein (to write) is the art of beautiful writing. Although the development of sophisticated calligraphy as an art form is not unique to Islamic culture, it has been used to a much greater extent and in varied ways, and in all art forms and materials in Islamic cultures.
The practice of calligraphy, originating in China during the second millennium BC, spread to many regions including the Middle East. The art of transcribing the Qur’an in a beautiful script was considered a form of devotion and an act of piety. In contrast to painters, potters, and other artists, who generally remained anonymous, the calligraphers…
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