the scripts

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The Ruq’ah Script

“Riq‘a” is derived from the noun ruq’a, meaning “a patch or piece of cloth” because it was written on small scraps of paper.

Originally devised to write Turkish for the late Ottoman bureauocracy, it was used broadly across the Arab and Ottoman world for personal correspondence and handwriting.

It was developed in second half of 18th century and it is still in use today. This script is a simplification of the diwani script constructed from short strokes.

The letters are more straight than rounded and easier to learn and write than other scripts.

This is a good script for beginners.

The Diwani Script

The Diwani script is a script which exudes sovereignty. It was developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks during the 16th to the early 17th century. 

It was the formal calligraphy style of the Ottoman court, written in gold paint and used for the most significant documents such as the diplomatic decrees (Ferman) and legal documents (Berat). It was present in the Ottoman diplomatic correspondence until the 20th century.

Diwani is the most decorative script and difficult to read, especially when it comes to its more festive manifestation called Jali Diwani. Masters of Diwani include Sami Efendi, an Ottoman Turk calligraphy extraordinare of the 19th century. 

Diwani’s beauty lies within its complexity and harmony between the letters; thus it is no wonder that it holds a high artistic value till this very day..

The Diwani Jali Script

Being the more festive manifestation of the Diwani script, Diwani Jali is a script utterly mesmerizing. Used in Ottoman council courts (the diwan) during the 19th century, not many Diwani Jali works can be found, implying that its usage was kept only for the Sultan’s decrees that were of the highest precedence.

It was written only by palace scribes and against the law to teach to commoners. After the fall of the sultanate, Arabic calligraphers were able to put the effort in making this script more public.

The letters of Jali Diwani are intertwined and the minimal gaps between its letters are filled with small and delicate ornaments, making Diwani Jali difficult to forge, and relatively impossible to add any letters after a piece has been written and completed. This is exceptionally important so that nothing can be added to the Sultan’s decree.

The Maghribi Script

This is a cursive form of the Arabic letters that evolved from the traditional handwriting at the time, the Kufic Script. Developed in Morocco and later in the Andalusian Islamic State, it was made to make handwriting smoother and quicker than its Kufic counterpart.

The Maghribi Script can be divided in five other subscripts:

1.  Kufi Maghribi

2. Maghribi Mabsout used to write the Quran.

3. Maghribi Mojawhar Al Jalil, mainly used by the king for law making purposes.

4. Thuluth Maghribi

5. Mosnad Script mainly used by courts and notaries in writing marriage contracts.

    The Thuluth Maghribi Script

    The Thuluth Maghribi Script is the exaggerated form of the Maghribi Script usually written bigger and ornamented with traditional Arabic calligraphy ornamentation as well as Kufic Ornamentation.

    It’s a beautiful style that mesmerizes with its continuous flow of letters. It is traditionally written in a brownish gold ink which starts off dark and slowly turns a bright yellow.

    The Basmalah with the elongation of the letter lam in the name of Allah.

    The Kufi Mushafi Script

    The Kufi Mushafi script is the earliest script used for Quran transcription and architectural decoration, and it has since become a reference and an archetype for a number of other Arabic scripts. It was developed in the city of Kufa, from which its name is derived. The Kufi Mushafi script as other Kufic scripts is characterized by angular, rectilinear letterforms and its horizontal orientation.

    The Kufi Mushafi script is typically written without the use of dots or the short vowels that we accustomed to seeing in the Mushafs today.

    In its evolution, the short vowels were introduced by red dots on top of the letter representing the “Fathah,” beside the letter representing the “Dhamah,” and under the letter representing the “Kasrah.”

    The Kufi Fatimi Script

    The word “Kufic” refers to the city of Kufa in southern Iraq. Although this style did not necessarily originate in Kufa, the name Kufic is commonly related. However, there are different opinions about Kufic calligraphy on where it started from.

    Kufic and its types of calligraphy were used almost exclusively among early scripts for writing the Koran. Developed originally for writing on stone, this angular script was adopted for use in religious texts because of its formality during the period of time. In the past, the Arabs prefer memorizing the Al Quran due to their lack of knowledge in writing. It was during the Islamic establishment where the different style of calligraphy was introduced to teach people to read and understand.

    As for the name Fatimi (al-Fāṭimīyūn), the Fatimids claimed descent from Fatima bint Muhammad, the daughter of our Prophet Muhammad SAW. The field of architecture and art of Fatimi Kufic derived from Fatimid Empire under the establishment of Fatimid Caliphate. It started from North Africa and then spread out to Egypt, Syria and other parts of the regions.

    The ruling of Fatimids was relatively rapid. Historians have studied and include that the Fatimids were one of the great civilizations to introduce administrative systems, financial management, science, medications as well as architectures and art.

    One proof that the Fatimids also had a brilliant achievement in term of architecture and art, was the establishment of Al-Azhar mosque built during the reign of Al-Mu’iz. The admirable Fatimi Kufic have thick lines, sharp angles and notable with decorative curves and beautiful borders or motifs. It can be seen in the architectural decorations of old Islamic buildings and mosques too.

    The Kufi Murabba’ Script

    The Kufi Murraba’ Script, or the Square Kufic script is based on the shape of the square and its block-like form.

    This type of Kufic script like many others were used by engineers and architects in the ornamentation of the buildings and mosques.

    The Kufi Naisaburi Script

    The name originated from the city of Naisabur, Iran. Known for its leaf like character, it is not widely spread and people don’t hear of it often. There are also not many examples of its type making it difficult to dive into the techniques of Naisaburi.

    The Sini Script

    The Sini script is a calligraphy style used in China for the Arabic script. It can refer to any type of Chinese Arabic calligraphy, but is commonly used to refer to one with thick and tapered effects such as seen in Chinese calligraphy typically with the usage of the brush.

    It is used extensively in mosques in China and used to write the Mushaf i.e. the Qur’an, which is written using the pronunciation of the recitation of the Hafs An Asim transmission and not written using the Uthmani format which is more widely seen.

    One of the earliest worked can be seen at the Great Mosque of Xi’an, China.


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