Brief introduction to Arabic-Islamic calligraphy

This article is also available in: Italiano

The first part of a journey that we have decided to undertake within the Arabic calligraphy. In the coming months we will try to bring you the best of Arabic calligraphy in Italy and beyond. But we must start somewhere

The origins

Islamic calligraphy owes its affirmation above all to some precepts of Islam that banish any form of idolatry and that raise the value of the word. The examples of this are innumerable both in the life of the Prophet (who could neither read nor write) and in the Quran itself (the first verse never revealed reads: Iqra or “read / learn”. The Arabic alphabet, as particular as it is elegant, it immediately lent itself to transform itself, thus being able to propose abstract images that hid entire stories inside.

Arabic Calligraphy
Arabic calligraphy in the Suleiman mosque in Istanbul

This new form of art was immediately well regarded by men of faith who decided to turn it into the decoration par excellence inside mosques. Even today, some of the most beautiful examples are found in mosques and places of worship, assuming a role very similar to that of frescoes in churches.


Being a real text, the artist thus had the opportunity to express concepts in several ways, choosing a different writing style based on what he wanted to communicate. Over the years the success of this art spread more and more throughout the Arab world and over the centuries it was also absorbed by the Persian world. In fact, the first calligraphic school was born in Iraq near Kufa, to which over the centuries.

Arabic calligraphy
“Mahmud Kha, son of ‘Abd al-Hamid, the Ever Victorious”

A famous example of Arabic calligraphy was undoubtedly the tughra (official signature) of Sultan Mahmud II of the Ottoman Empire. Many were the royals who chose to sign themselves in this way, considered one of the noblest of all time in the Arab-Islamic world.


Over the centuries, Arabic calligraphy has fascinated more and more people and peoples in the world, determined to integrate this splendid form of art in places so different from those of origin. In fact, today, in addition to the classic calligraphers, there are very different genres of artists. From writers to tattoo artists, from graphic designers to sculptors, many have experimented with this ancient art, one of the few to be both simple and refined.

Arabic calligraphy
La ikraha fi al din “There is no costription in religion” (Sura II, v.256)

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