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Ibn Muqla

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ibn Muqla
Died20 July 940
OccupationAbbasid court official and vizier
Years active908–936
Known forIslamic calligraphy
StyleNaskh Thuluth
Abu 'Ali Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn Muqla (Arabicابن مقلهٔ شیرازی‎; born 885/886 in Baghdad, died there 20 July 940) was an official of the Abbasid Caliphate who rose to high state posts in the early 10th century. His career culminated in his own assumption of the vizierate at Baghdad thrice, in 928–930, 932–933 and 934–936. Unable to successfully challenge the growing power of regional emirs, he lost his position to the first amir al-umara,Ibn Ra'iq, and died in prison. He was also a noted calligrapher.




Ibn Muqla was born in Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, in AH 272 (885/886 CE). His career in public service began in Fars, where he served as tax collector. His rise to power in the central government came in 908, under the patronage of the powerful vizier Abu 'l-Hasan Ali ibn al-Furat, who appointed him in charge of official dispatches.[1] It was at this time, under the ineffectual rule of Caliph al-Muqtadir (r. 908–932 CE) that the civil bureaucracy reached its apex of power in the Abbasid court, but where the achievements of previous reigns in restoring the Caliphate's fortunes collapsed due to chronic financial shortages. Throughout the period, the political scene in Baghdad was dominated by Ibn al-Furat and his faction (the Banu 'l-Furat), his rivalAli ibn Isa al-Jarrah and the faction gathered around him (the Banu 'l-Jarrah), and the powerful chief of the military, Mu'nis al-Khadim.[2] Despite his close ties to Ibn al-Furat, which were re-affirmed during the latter's second tenure in 917–918, Ibn Muqla eventually turned against him. His next promotion came during the de facto 918–928 vizierate of Ali ibn Isa, when he assumed the important department (diwan) of the public estates.[1]
By cultivating the friendship of the powerful chamberlain (hadjib) Nasr, Ibn Muqla managed to secure the post of vizier for himself after Ali's disgrace in 928.[1] His vizierate however was marked by extreme internal instability, including a short-lived coup in 929, instigated by Mu'nis, which deposed al-Muqtadir in favour of his brother al-Qahir.[1][3] Despite the coup's failure, Mu'nis and his close ally Ali ibn Isa now dominated the government, and led to Ibn Muqla's dismissal in 930.[1]
Map of Iraq in the 9th–10th centuries
Ibn Muqla was reappointed as vizier by al-Qahir when he succeeded al-Muqtadir after the latter's assassination in 932. The new caliph's attempts to assert his own authority met with opposition both from Ibn Muqla and from Mu'nis. Mu'nis started conspiring against al-Qahir, but he was arrested and killed before he could act, whereupon, after only six months in office, Ibn Muqla was dismissed.[1][4] Ibn Muqla then headed another conspiracy, and in 934 al-Qahir was captured, blinded and deposed by the Baghdad troops, with his brother al-Radi succeeding him.[5] Ibn Muqla was now appointed to his third term of office.[1] By this time, the greatest threat faced by the Caliphate was the increasing independence of the regional governors, who had taken advantage of the internal quarrels in the Abbasid court to strengthen their own control over their provinces and withheld the taxes due to Baghdad, leaving the central government crippled.[5] Ibn Muqla resolved to reassert his control over the neighbouring provinces by military force, and chose the Hamdanid-controlled Jazira as his first target: in 935 he launched a campaign that took the Hamdanid capital, Mosul, but he was forced to return to Baghdad. Another attempt in 936 to launch a campaign against the rebellious governor of Wasit,Muhammad ibn Ra'iq, failed to even get started. Coupled with his failure to counter the mounting financial crisis, this last disaster led to Ibn Muqla's dismissal and arrest.[1][6]
Ibn Muqla's dismissal marks also the final end of the independence of the Abbasid caliphs, for shortly after Ibn Ra'iq was appointed to the new post of amir al-umara ("commander of commanders"), a military-based office that became the de facto ruler of what remained of the Caliphate and deprived the Caliph from all real authority.[1][7] Ibn Ra'iq had the possessions of Ibn Muqla and his son confiscated, and Ibn Muqla in turn began to conspire against the amir al-umara. Ibn Ra'iq however became aware of this, and had him imprisoned and his right hand cut off. Shortly after, even while the army of the Turkish general Bajkam was approaching Baghdad to depose Ibn Ra'iq, his tongue was cut. Despite Bajkam's success, Ibn Muqla remained in prison, where he died on 20 July 940.[1]


Ibn Muqla was also famous as a calligrapher, and he or his brothers have been considered the originators of the so-called al-khatt al-mansub ("proportioned script") style, perfected by the 11th-century Persian calligrapher Ibn al-Bawwab.[1]


  1. a b c d e f g h i j k Sourdel (1986), pp. 886–887
  2. ^ Kennedy (2004), pp. 185–188
  3. ^ Kennedy (2004), p. 191
  4. ^ Kennedy (2004), pp. 193–194
  5. a b Kennedy (2004), p. 194
  6. ^ Kennedy (2004), pp. 194–195
  7. ^ Kennedy (2004), pp. 195ff.


  • Kennedy, Hugh (2004), The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century (Second Edition), Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd., ISBN 0-582-40525-4
  • Sourdel, Dominique (1986). "Ibn Muḳla". The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume III: H–Iram. Leiden and New York: BRILL. pp. 886–887. ISBN 90-04-08118-6.

Islamic calligraphy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
18th century writing in Ottoman calligraphy. Depicts the phrase 'In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Gracious'
Islamic calligraphy, also known as Arabic calligraphy, is the artistic practice of handwriting, or calligraphy, and by extension, ofbookmaking,[1]:218 in the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. This art form is based on the Arabic script, which for a long time was used by all Muslims in their respective languages. They used it to represent God because they denied representing God with images.[2] Calligraphy is especially revered among Islamic arts since it was the primary means for the preservation of the Qur'an. Suspicion of figurative art as idolatrous led to calligraphy and abstract depictions becoming a major form of artistic expression in Islamic cultures, especially in religious contexts.[1]:222 The work of calligraphers was collected and appreciated.
ArabicPersian and Ottoman Turkish calligraphy is associated with abstract arabesque motifs on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.



[edit]Role in Islamic culture

Islamic calligraphy on large pishtaq of theTaj Mahal.
Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of Islamic art because the Arabic script was the means of transmission of the Qur'an. Theholy book of Islam, the Qur'an, has played an important role in the development and evolution of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet. Proverbs and complete passages from the Qur'an are still active sources for Islamic calligraphy.

[edit]Geometric scripts (basically Kufic styles)

Kufic is a cleaner, more geometric style, with a very visible rhythm and a stress on horizontal lines. Vowels are sometimes noted as red dots; consonants are distinguished with small dashes to make the texts more readable. A number of Qur'ans written in this style have been found in the Mosque at Kairouan, in Tunisia. Kufic writing also appears on ancient coins.
The Maghribi script and its Andalusi variant are less rigid versions of Kufic, with more curves.
For writing of Qur'ans and other documents, Kufic was eventually replaced by the cursive scripts. It remains in use for decorative purposes:
  • In "Flowering Kufi", slender geometric lettering is associated with stylized vegetal elements.
  • In "Geometric Kufi", the letters are arranged in complex, two-dimensional geometric patterns, for example filling a square. This aims at decoration rather than readability.

[edit]Cursive styles as Naskh styles

Naskh script in an Egyptian Qur'an from the 14th-15th centuries
Cursive styles of calligraphy appeared during the 10th century.[3] They were easier to write and read and soon replaced the earlier geometric style, except for decorative purposes.
The canonical "six cursive scripts" (al-aqlam al-sittah) were pioneered by the Persian Ibn Muqla Shirazi (d. 939) and later refined by his successors Ibn al-Bawwab (d. 1022) and Yaqut al-Musta'simi (d. 1298). Naskh script was the most widespread, used in Qur’ans, official decrees, and private correspondence.[3] Ancient texts listing these six styles typically do not provide examples. It is therefore difficult to distinguish these styles.
  1. Nasḫ or naskhi[4] is a simple cursive writing that was used in correspondence before the calligraphers started using it for Qur'an writing. It is slender and supple, without any particular emphasis, and highly readable. It remains among the most widespread styles. The most famous calligrapher of this genre was Hâfiz Osman, an Ottoman calligrapher who lived during the 17th century. It is the basis of modern Arabic print.
  2. Ṯuluṯ is a more monumental and energetic writing style, with elongated verticals. It was used by Mamluks during the 14th-15th centuries. However the style was transformed and refined by Ottoman calligraphers. Today the masters of this style still live in Turkey including Hüseyin Kutlu and Fuat Başar
  3. Tawqīʿ appeared under the Abbassid caliphate, when it was used to sign official acts. With elongated verticals and wide curves under the writing line, it remained a little-used script.
  4. Riqaa' was a miniature version of tawqi'. It has nothing to do with ruq`ah, a much later style the Ottomans developed for secular handwriting, and which is still used at the present day in the Arab countries that fell within the Ottoman cultural sphere.
  5. Muḥaqqaq is an ample, alert script. Letter endings are elongated and their curves underline the text.
  6. Rīḥānī or rayḥānī is a miniature version of muḥaqqaq.
From the 14th century onward, other cursive styles began being used in Turkish and Persian lands.[3]
Nasta'liq is a cursive style developed in the Persian world. Nasta'liq means "suspended", which is a good description of the way each letter in a word is suspended from the previous one, i.e. lower rather than on the same level.
The Persians calligraphers gave this style under the name "ta'liq". It gave the style a refined look. The Ottoman calligraphers produced splendid works with this style. The larger size was called "jali-ta'liq" and used on entrances of mosques and other buildings.
Shikasteh (broken) is a Persian script used in more informal contexts.
The Diwani script is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks (16th and early 17th centuries). It was invented byHousam Roumi and reached its height of popularity under Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520–66). As decorative as it was communicative, Diwani was distinguished by the complexity of the line within the letter and the close juxtaposition of the letters within the word. A variation of the Diwani, the Diwani Al Jali, is characterized by its abundance of diacritical and ornamental marks.
Bihari script was used in India during the 15th century.
The most common script for everyday use is Ruq'ah (also known as Riq'a). Simple and easy to write, its movements are small, without much amplitude. It is the one most commonly seen. It is considered a step up from Naskh script, which children are taught first. In later grades they are introduced to Ruq'ah.
In China, a calligraphic form called Sini has been developed. This form has evident influences from Chinese calligraphy, using a horsehair brush instead of the standard reed pen. A famous modern calligrapher in this tradition is Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang.[5]


The official imperial Tughra of the Mughal Empire.
Bismillah calligraphy from the Mughal Empire.
Calligraphy, the most Islamic of arts in the Muslim world, also has its figurative sides. By interweaving written words, made from an "Allah", a "Muhammad", a "Bismillah", etc., or using micrography,[6] calligraphers produced anthropomorphic figures ('Ali, the Ideal Human of mystics, a praying man,[7] a face), zoomorphisms (symbolic creatures, most from the Shi'a iconography, like the lion (Ali "the Lion of God")[8] horse ('Ali's Duldul),[9] fish,[6] stork or other bird (the qur'anic Hudhud)[10][11]) and inanimate representations (a sword (Dhu al-Fiqar), a mosque, a ship (made from the letter waw, a symbol of mystical union, literally meaning "and," in Arabic)). Calligrams are related to Muslim mysticism and popular with many leading calligraphers in TurkeyPersia and India from the 17th century onward.
Although striking in appearance, calligrams have never been regarded as appropriate or a decent expression of the art by the master calligraphers. Many calligrams therefore were produced by either folk calligraphers or for the interest of uncultivated people. These calligrams were not exhibited in mosques or sufi convents in the Ottoman state, for example.
An element in this perspective is the rejection of the interpretation by the heretic Hurufiyyah sufi order which sees letters as true manifestations of the fate, events and creation in themselves.
In the teachings of calligraphy, figurative imagery is used to help visualize the shape of letters to trace, for example, the letter ha' looks in nasta'liqsimilar to two eyes, as its Persian name implies: "he' two eyes" he' do cheshm). In literature and poetry seeing in letters a reflection of the natural world goes back to the Abbasid times.
One of the contemporary masters of the calligram genre is Hassan Massoudy and Wissam Shawkat
Good commercial examples are the logos of Al Jazeera, an international news station based at Qatar, and the Edinburgh Middle East Report, a Scottish academic journal on the Middle East, and also the work of the calligrapher and designer Wissam Shawkat in Dubai.

[edit]Instruments and media

Inscriptions in calligraphy, form regular bands throughout the Qutb Minar, India, built 1192 CE
The traditional instrument of the Arabic calligrapher is the qalam, a pen made of dried reed or bamboo; the ink is often in color, and chosen such that its intensity can vary greatly, so that the greater strokes of the compositions can be very dynamic in their effect.
To present calligraphy, diverse media were used. Before the advent of paper, papyrus and parchment were used for writing. The advent of paper revolutionized calligraphy. While monasteries in Europe treasured a few dozen volumes, libraries in the Muslim world regularly contained hundreds and even thousands of volumes of books.[1]:218
Coins were another support for calligraphy. Beginning in 692, the Islamic caliphate reformed the coinage of the Near East by replacing visual depiction by words. This was especially true for dinars, or gold coins of high value. Generally the coins were inscribed with quotes from the Qur'an.
By the tenth century, the Persians, who had converted to Islam, began weaving inscriptions on to elaborately patterned silks. So precious were calligraphic inscribed textile that Crusaders brought them to Europe as prized possessions. A notable example is the Suaire de Saint-Josse, used to wrap the bones of St. Josse in the abbey of St. Josse-sur-Mer near Caen in northwestern France.[1]:223–5

[edit]Mosque calligraphy

Islamic Mosque calligraphy is calligraphy that can be found in and out of a mosque, typically in combination with Arabesque motifs. Arabesque is a form of Islamic art known for its repetitive geometric forms creating beautiful decorations. These geometric shapes often include Arabic calligraphy written on walls and ceilings inside and outside of mosques.
The subject of these writings can be derived from different sources in Islam. It can be derived from the written words of the Qur'an or from the oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
There is a beautiful harmony between the inscriptions and the functions of the mosque. Specific surahs (chapters) or ayats (verses) from Koran are inscribed in accordance with functions of specific architectural elements. For example, on the domes you can find the Nour ayat (the divine stress on light) written, above the main entrance you find verses related to the entrances of the paradise, on the windows the divine names of Allah are inscribed so that reflection of the sun rays through those windows remind the believer that Allah manifests Himself upon the universe in all high qualities.
Edirne Selimiye Mosque


[edit]See also

[edit]List of calligraphers

Some classical calligraphers:


  1. a b c d Blair, Sheila S.; Bloom, Jonathan M. (1995). The art and architecture of islam : 1250-1800 (Reprinted with corrections. ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300064659.
  2. ^ Bernard Lewis and Butnzie Ellis Churchill, Islam : the Religion and the PeopleISBN 978-0-13-223085-8
  3. a b c Library of Congress, Selections of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Calligraphy: Qur’anic Fragments
  4. ^ Muhammad Shafiq's "Arabic Primer of Calligraphy"World Digital Library Yale University Library.
  5. ^ "Gallery"Haji Noor Deen.
  6. a b BNF - Torah, Bible, Coran. In French.
  7. ^ "Praying Man". Ethiopian Muslims Network. Archived from the original on 2008-12-17. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  8. ^ Lion of ’Ali.
  9. ^ Horse of ’Ali.
  10. ^ HudHud.[dead link]
  11. ^ Islamic BirdUC Santa Cruz Currents Online.

[edit]External links

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