CALLIGRAPHY (continued)


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VII. Calligraphy outside Persia.

Regional styles. In the handwriting of the various Muslim peoples, three distinct styles are recognizable: Turco-Arab, Persian, and Indo-Afghan. In the style once current in Turkey and the similar styles now prevalent in the Arab countries, most scripts are written with sharp outlines and a downward slope, whereas in the Persian style the outlines are smoother and more regular; even so, these two styles are not very different. The style. used in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, however, has in most scripts moved to some extent away from the other two.

Calligraphy in Afghanistan. From Tīmūr (771-­807/1370-1405) to Sultan Ḥosayn Mīrzā Bāyqarā (875­-912/1470-1506) the “six scripts,” as well as taʿlīq and nastaʿlīq, were improved and developed by court cal­ligraphers who produced masterpieces and trained pupils, particularly at Herat, giving the Herat school a lasting fame. In the last two centuries Afghan cal­ligraphers produced fine works, mainly in nastaʿlīq, where the influence of Mīr ʿEmād and his school can be seen. The styles of Mīr ʿAlī Heravī (d. 951/1544-45), Mālek Deylamī (d. 969/1561-62), and ʿAbd-al-Rašīd Deylamī “Rašīdā,” known in India as Āqā Rašīd or Āqā (d. 1081/1670-71) have long been admired and taken as models. Specimens of their work and other reproductions are included in two books by ʿAzīz-al-­Dīn Wakīlī (see Bibliography). On the other hand, study of the work of modern Afghan calligraphers, such as ʿAzīz-al-Dīn Wakīlī himself and Moḥammad-ʿAlī ʿAṭṭār Heravī, both masters of several scripts, shows that their nastaʿlīq style, though beautiful, is somewhat different from that of the Persians, for instance in the elongations, final flourishes, proportionate sizes of letters and diacritical points, shapes and juxtapositions of words and letters, and so on (Plate LXXI, Plate LXXII, Plate LXXIII, Plate LXXIV).

The nasḵ used in Afghanistan today (Plate LXXV, Plate LXXVI, Plate LXXVII) differs perceptibly from that of Persia, though to Persians it appears more elegant than that of Pakistan. Examples of work by Afghan calligraphers in other scripts (Plate LXXVIII, Plate LXXIX, Plate LXXX, Plate LXXXI) are likewise well exe­cuted and attractive, sometimes showing influence of Persian styles and sometimes diverging. ʿAzīz-al-Dīn Wakīlī, who adds “Haft-qalamī” (Writer of seven scripts) to his signature, excels in Kufic, ṯolṯ, nastaʿlīq, šekasta-nastaʿlīq, and in ṭoḡrā design. Moḥammad-ʿAlī ʿAṭṭār Heravī, another modern Afghan calligrapher, is particularly skillful with Kufic and has done fine work in moḥaqqaq, rayḥān, nasḵ, ṯolṯ and nastaʿlīq (for examples, see al-Qorʾān al-maḥallā).

Calligraphy in India and Pakistan. Perso-Arabic scripts were introduced into India at a very early date. Some inscriptions in nasḵ and Kufic from the 2nd/8th and 3rd/9th centuries have been preserved. The ṯolṯ script appears in an inscription in the mosque which gar Shah Sūrī, the Afghan ruler of north India (947-52/1540-45) during the absence of the Mughal emperor Homāyūn, built in the Old Fort at Delhi and in the text of Sura 36 (Yāsīn) in the center of the façade of the same mosque (see Chaghatai, p. 1127b). The most widely used script, however, was nastaʿlīq, which enjoyed the favor and patronage of the Mughal emperors. The excellence of nastaʿlīq calligraphy in India is attested by examples such as an illustrated manuscript of the Bābor-nāma dated 937/1530-31, written by ʿAlī Kāteb at Alwār (Plate LXXXII); the nastaʿlīq inscription in the mausoleum of the emperor Akbar at Sikandra outside Agra, consisting of a Persian poem in the handwriting of ʿAbd-al-Ḥaqq b. Qāsem Šīrāzī, dated 1022/1613-14 (see Ḥekmat, pp. 97-99); numerous Indian nastaʿlīq manuscripts illustrated with portraits, pictures of social gatherings, and miniatures, including an illustrated manuscript of the Čengīz-nāma (i.e., the section on Čengīz Khan in Rašīd-al-Dīn’s Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ) with beautiful miniatures, completed in India on 27 Ramażān 1004/25 May 1596 during Akbar’s reign, now preserved in the Golestān palace library at Tehran; and a large number of inscriptions on old buildings (Ḥekmat, passim). Mughal rulers and princes, including Akbar, Jahāngīr, Šāh-Jahān, Dārā Šokūh, Šāh-Šojāʿ, Awrangzēb (Awrangzīb), Zīb-al-Nesāʾ Bēgom, Moḥammad Shah (emperor at the time of Nāder Shah’s invasion), and Bahādor Shah II (the last emperor, 1253-74/1837-58)not only patronized calligraphy but in some cases practiced it themselves. Awrangzēb, who had been taught the art by Sayyed ʿAlī Khan Tabrīzī Jawāher­raqam (d. 1094/1683 or 1097/1686), wrote out copies of the Koran and sent them to the holy cities of Arabia but never put his signature on them (Chaghatai, p. 1128; Ḡ.-M. Dehlavī, pp. 56-57). The styles of Mīr Alī Heravī and Mīr ʿAbd-al-Rašīd Deylamī had many followers in the Mughal period.

In India the calligraphers formed a sizable professional group. One of the best known is Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Kašmīrī Zarīnqalam (d. 1020/1611-12), a nastaʿlīq specialist who was patronized by Akbar and Jahāngīr and has left much fine work, e.g., in an album with the title Moraqqaʿ-e golšan now in the Golestān palace library (catalogue nos. 1663, 1664; see Atābāy, pp. 334-68; Moḥīṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾī, pp. 40-47; Sohaylī Ḵᵛānsārī, pp. 16-18); the preface and conclu­sion of this album appear also to be in Zarīnqalam’s handwriting (Plate LXXXIII, Plate LXXXIV; see Dānešpažūh, 1360, p. 202). Prominent after him were ʿAbd-al-Raḥīm ʿAnbarīnqalam, one of Jahāngīr’s court calligraphers (Plate LXXXV); Mīr Moḥammad-Moqīm Tabrīzī and his son Sayyed ʿAlī Khan Jawāher-raqam at the court of Awrangzēb; and Awrangzēb’s librarian Hedāyat-Allāh Zarīnqalam (d. 1118/1706-07), who at first followed the writing style of Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Kašmīrī but later switched to that of Sayyed ʿAlī Khan Jawāher-raqam, ʿAbd-al-Rašīd Deylamī, a nephew and pupil of Mīr ʿEmād Ḥasanī, emigrated to India after the latter had been put to death; he won the favor of Šāh-Jahān, whose court calligrapher he became, and trained many pupils, among whom were members of the royal family including Šāh-Jahān’s younger son and designated successor Dārā Šokūh (d. 1069/1658-59; Plate LXXXVI) and the princess Zīb-al-Nesāʾ Bēgom (d. 1112/1700-01). He enjoyed respect in Awrangzēb’s reign too.

Although work of the Indian nastaʿlīq calligraphers is clearly influenced by the Persian style (Plate LXXXVII), some differences can also be seen, particularly in the placing and frequency of elongations and in the width of the spaces between the words, which makes the script look printed. But the words do not match each other as well as in Persian nastaʿlīq. Some of the calligraphers produced work in other scripts besides nastaʿlīq, for instance, in ṯolṯ, rayḥān, reqāʿ, nasḵ, taʿlīq, and šekasta. Mīrzā Moḥammad-Jaʿfar Khan known as Kefāyat Khan (11th/17th century) and Jamāl-al-Dīn Yūsof were skilled in šekasta. Mīr Ḵalīl-Allāh “Haft­qalamī” (Plate LXXXIX) and Ḡolām-Moḥammad Deh­lavī Haftqalamī (d. 1239/1823-24) tried their hands at different scripts.

For writing Urdu the script in common use is a version of Persian nastaʿlīq.

Calligraphy in Asia Minor and Turkey. Under the Saljuqs of Rūm (470-700/1077-1301), who promoted Persian culture in the region for more than two centuries, and after the rise of the Ottomans in the early 8th/14th century, the written language was Persian. In the Saljuq period calligraphy had been wholly under the influence of Persian schools, and there is no mention of Turkish calligraphers or a Turkish school at that time. But under the Ottomans Turkey became a major center of diffusion of Islamic scripts and calligraphy, and Turkish calligraphers won renown. The first to do so was Shaikh Ḥamd-Allāh Amāsī (840-926/1436-1520), the greatest Turkish calligrapher, in the reigns of the sultans Mehmet II (the conqueror of Constantinople in 857/1453) and Bayezit II. The son of Shaikh Moṣṭafā, who had migrated from Bukhara to Amasya, be was influenced by the methods and style of his teacher Ḵayr­al-Dīn Maṛʿašī, who had studied under ʿAbd-Allāh Ṣayrafī Tabrīzī. Ḥamd-Allāh Amāsī not only left fine works of his own but also founded a school to which seven masters in later Ottoman times belonged. The “six scripts” reached their zenith in Asia Minor, and Istan­bul became the principal center of calligraphic art.

The Saljuqs of Rūm inherited the Kufic script from Persia, but the Ottomans took little interest in it. Nasḵ and ṯolṯ, which in Persia had acquired special forms during the Saljuq period and are therefore known as Saljuq nasḵ and ṯolṯ, progressed and flourished in Anatolia, largely under the influence of Shaikh Ḥamd-­Allāh Amāsī and his school. Later Ḥāfeẓ ʿOṯmān (1052-1110/1642-43 to 1698-99) perfected these two scripts with a distinctive style of his own. The Turkish calligraphers Ḥāfeẓ ʿOṯmān, the modern master Ḥāmed Āmedī, and others are much admired in Persia. The earliest preserved examples of nastaʿlīq from Turkey belong to the reign of Mehmet II. The script was brought by Persian calligraphers to the Ottoman court and developed under the guidance of the renowned and talented Darvīš ʿAbdī Boḵārāʾī (d. 1057/1647), who was a pupil of Mīr ʿEmād and implanted the latter’s Persian style on Ottoman soil. Through the work of his pupils and followers and of Mīr Moḥammad-Rafīʿ known as Kātebzāda (d. 1182/1768-69), great progress was made. In the 12th/18th century Moḥammad Asʿad Yasārī (so called because he was left-handed) produced masterly work in nastaʿlīq (Plate XC). His son and pupil Yasārīzāda Moṣṭafā ʿEzzat was the first to introduce a distinctively Turkish nastaʿlīq, differing from the Per­sian style in that the letters are somewhat longer and less closely packed. In modern times the outstanding nastaʿlīq calligraphers in Turkey were Sāmī, Ḵolūṣī and Necmettin (Najm-al-Dīn; d. 1976). Šekasta-nastaʿlīq, less commonly used by Turks, was not so intricate as the Persian style. After the official adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1928, calligraphy in Perso-Arabic scripts inevitably faded away.

Calligraphy in Transoxiana and Central Asia. In the Timurid period calligraphy prospered thanks to the interest and patronage of Tīmūr, Šāhroḵ, Bāysonḡor, Oloḡ Beg, and other rulers of the far-flung Timurid domains. The great masters of the time—among them Mīr ʿAlī Tabrīzī and Mīrzā Jaʿfar Tabrīzī Bāysonḡorī—produced fine works of art themselves and also trained outstanding pupils. Aẓhar Tabrīzī (see on nastaʿlīq, above; Plate XCI), enjoyed the patronage of Oloḡ Beg at Samarkand. Mīr ʿAlī Heravī, the greatest master of nastaʿlīq (Plate XCII, Plate XCIII), spent sixteen years at the court of the Uzbek ruler ʿObayd-Allāh at Bukhara and trained eminent pupils, for instance, Maḥmūd Šehābī and Sayyed Aḥmad Mašhadī, thereby founding a school which remained influential for half a century after him (Plate XCIV).

In Caucasia the art of Perso-Arabic calligraphy was pursued for many centuries, as shown by preserved examples in manuscripts, albums, and inscriptions on historic buildings and tombstones of saints. The avail­able information about calligraphic works of art preserved in Central Asia and Caucasia is no doubt incomplete, but it is sufficient to prove that calligraphy in various scripts and styles, strongly influenced by Persian styles and teachers, was cultivated in those regions for many centuries. In the 20th century, after the Soviet government had made the Cyrillic alphabet official in all the republics of the Union, the Perso-­Arabic scripts and with them the traditional calligraphy gradually fell out of use. In recent decades, however, some editions of Persian texts, handwritten and photo­graphically reproduced, have been published; the script is generally an easily legible but clumsy and inartistic nastaʿlīq.

Following is a list of some of the Central Asian and Caucasian inscriptions, with their locations and (Gregorian) dates:

Plain Kufic is found in the minaret at Batarqūrḡān, Uzbekistan, 1108-09; the mausoleum of Ḵᵛāja Aḥmad Yasavī at Torkestān (town), 14th century: the Gūr-e Amīr at Samarkand, 1404 (both plain and maʿqelī ­Kufic); the minaret of the Masjed-e Moḥammad (Senīq­qaḷʿa) at Baku, 1078; the mausoleum of Yūsof b. Qoṣayyer at Naḵjavān, 1161-62; the mausoleum of Moʾmena Ḵātūn at Naḵjavān, 1186 (Āṯār al-Eslām al-taʾrīḵīya, pp. 3, 40, 51, 118, 119, 121).

Ornamental Kufic is found on the portal of the south mausoleum at Ūzgand, 1186, and the mausoleum of Shah Fāżel at Safīdbolān in Kirghizistan, 12th century (ibid., pp. 10, 13).

Maʿqelī Kufic is found on the west wall of the Namāzgāh at Bukhara, 12th century; the madrasa of ʿAbd-Allāh Khan at Bukhara, 1588-90; both domes of the mausoleum of Qāżīzāda Rūmī in the Šāhzenda at Samarkand, 15th century; the octagonal minaret of the mosque of Bībī Khanom at Samarkand, 1399­-1404; the portal of the madrasa of Oloḡ Beg at Samarkand, 1420; the Ṭelākārī madrasa at Samarkand, 1646-60; the Qarabāḡlār village at Naḵjavān (ibid., pp. 7, 35, 36, 49, 63, 88, 106, 107, 127).

Ṯolṯ is found on the portals of the mausoleum of Bayānqolī Khan at Bukhara, 1359; the portal of the madrasa of Oloḡ Beg at Bukhara, 1417; the domes of the tomb chamber and the south ayvān of the madrasa of Mīr ʿArab at Bukhara, 1535-36; the tombstone of Ḥakīm Termeḏī at Termeḏ, 14th century; the portal of the mausoleum of Šīrīn Beg Āḡā in the Šāhzenda at Samarkand, 1385; the mosque and tomb of Tūmān Āḡā in the upper courtyard of the Šāhzenda at Samarkand, early 15th century (Plate XCV); the façade of the main entrance of the mosque of Bībī Khanom at Samarkand, 1399-1404 (Plate XCVI), and plinth of the façade of the same mosque; the minaret of the mosque in the palace complex of the Šervānšāhs at Baku, 1441-42; and the minaret of the Masjed-e Jomʿa at Baku, 15th century (ibid., pp. 15, 58, 76, 77, 17, 29, 34, 45, 48, 130, 132).

Nastaʿlīq is found on the madrasa of Allāhqolī Khan at Ḵīva, 1835, and the madrasa of Amīn Khan at Ḵīva, 1852 (ibid., pp. 112, 115).



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(Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Yūsofī)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: January 1, 2000

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Vol. IV, Fasc. 7, pp. 704-718