A hadith claims that a person who writes beautifully “in the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate” (the bismillah) will enter paradise. The belief that God's own word, the Quran, should be written in a style worthy of its contents led to the development of elegant calligraphic styles. Special attention was given to large, complicated scripts used in chancelleries to discourage imitation or forgeries of important documents. Though there are basic classical styles of writing used throughout the centuries, regional variants arose throughout the Islamic world. Maghrebi script was restricted to North Africa and Andalusia, where writers often used colorful ornamentation. A similar development can be observed in the Bihari script used in medieval India for Quranic texts. Often faces, flowers, or animals are formed by sentences written in highly decorative scripts. To write an invocation to Ali in the shape of a lion is particularly admired by Shiis because Ali is often called Asad Allah, or “God's lion.” Interest in calligraphy is increasing in Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Turkey, which use scripts other than Arabic for their languages, thus producing modern interpretations of traditional forms and calligraphic paintings.
See also Naskh; Nastaliq; Taliq
Subjects: Islam — Bibliography.