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The Significance of Islamic Calligraphy in the Muslim Culture

Although it could be considered an insignificant part of society, Islamic calligraphy is crucial to its culture because of its role in religion and architecture, and its help in creating unity among Muslims. Calligraphy’s function in religion is mainly due to the Muslim forbid-dance of the “representation of living beings” (Schimmel, Islamic 11) in art. In architecture calligraphy is used to decorate the interior and exterior of buildings to help remind citizens of the purpose of the architecture: to glorify God. Lastly, calligraphy helps to unite Muslims because everyone must learn the Arabic language to participate in prayers and recitations.

For many western civilizations and religions, handwriting as an art form is not significant, neither culturally or historically. Many western cultures owe their knowledge of the past to written histories and although a good deal can be learned by studying the historical evolution of written language, these cultures have a limited appreciation for written art. Calligraphy is not only unappreciated in western cultures, it is not even considered a serious art form.

These unconsciously ingrained cultural beliefs make it difficult for non-Islamic individuals to understand the value of calligraphy in Islam and its architecture. Not only is calligraphy an integral and sacred part of Islam, it has created unity among Muslims all over the world and continues to grow as a contemporary art form. 

      It has been well said that what will remain of the Arabs in the end is to be found, firstly, in the Qura’n,  secondly in pre-Islamic poetry, and finally in calligraphy and architecture … The Arab calligraphers considered that their art was the geometry of the soul expressed through the body, a metaphor that can be taken literally and concretely with the literal design of its inspiring spirit. This metaphor refers back to an established language of love.

Abdelkebir Khatibi, The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy (2001)

Once the Arabs recognized the necessity to commit their language to writing, they surpassed the world in the art of beautifying their script. They produced in a relatively short time an astonishing calligraphic development, transferring the Arabic script into an artistic medium that best reflected their genius and attracted their best artistic talents

​Y.H. Safadi, Islamic Calligraphy (1992)

Arabic Script is the central form of Islam’s arts, and was the first and is the foremost of its characteristic modes of visual expression. It is basic to Islamic culture, and the shapes and characters of its alphabet have permeated every level of society… The reasons for the chronological, social, and geographic pervasiveness of the calligraphic arts lie in the central fact of Islamic culture- the Qura’n​

Anthony Welch, Calligraphy in the Arts of the Muslim World (1979)