Just last week ago, the Arabic Flagship program hosted an Arabic calligraphy lesson with a master who teaches in California. Our whole Arabic class went together to take a look at the different styles of writing, and I can tell you, there were WAY more than expected. Calligraphy isn’t something practiced in the Western world with Latin script, so just in case you didn’t know, it’s an art form more about how the letters look than what they mean. It was initially practiced because it’s forbidden to paint or create any religious imagery of the Prophet or other figures whatsoever, so instead, script praising Allah was used as art to decorate buildings and writings. I’ve included a few examples of calligraphy below if you want a better idea of what I’m talking about. Classically, there were 65 distinct styles of calligraphy, but now there are just 12 styles in use, which is still way more than I expected. Of those, I could only read about 5, because the rest are so filled with decoration and twisting of the script that it was unrecognizable to someone who wasn’t too used to Arabic script. In the end, the lesson was far more intriguing than I could’ve guessed.
The professor had studied for years and years to learn how to write the scripts and it showed in his presentation. There were some technology issues and he had to use a chalkboard, and even without his proper tools, the scripts were still absolutely incredible. Each letter has a particular measurement using the dots you see in Arabic scripts, and each letter had to be a certain number of dots tall and wide to be considered actual script. Combine this with decorations and short vowels and you have a complex art. I didn’t realize that so much went into calligraphy, but after attempting to write some simple calligraphy with a pen, I quickly discovered that I would need SO many years to figure it out. Either way, it was an illuminating lesson, even if the illumination was mostly that my handwriting was WAY worse than I liked to think!