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Alyson Heineman

REL 305
04/10/05

Summary of Islamic Calligraphy

Plate pgs. 89-96, pgs. 106-117

The first part of Plate’s Section three is called Word and Image in Islamic Calligraphy. It first compares urban graffiti art with the art of Islamic calligraphy. It talks of how a verbal language can provoke such visually complex artwork, linking the similarity of urban street art to historical religious text.

In a religious setting, ties between the visual and verbal contexts are apparent. Generally in the Western religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all include examples of the combination of visual and verbal communication. Islam, however, particularly blends the two through its central art form, calligraphy.

Calligraphy, simply defined, is a highly stylized writing of words completed by hand. The section goes on to explain how deeply seeded the practice of writing is to Islam. A title of a chapter in the Quran, Qalam, is almost identical to the Arabic word for pen, Al-Qalam. Plate also explains that in the Muslim culture, “word” is not something that is passive but an active verb. In the mesh of the written and the spoken Islamic calligraphy takes place.

Throughout history there has been different rules of the art to further define it. In the beginning there was Ibn Muqlah who began using geometry. As the art progressed, more changes were made to insure legibility. On the other hand, not all Islamic calligraphy demands legibility. As Qadi Ahmad said, “If someone, whether he can read or not, sees good writing, he likes to enjoy the sight of it. An interesting point is made that in the general religious belief, one is typically opposed to the religious use of images. According to author, Oleg Garber, opposition nor support existed for Islamic art until later after the twelfth century. This is a stark contrast to the battles over images in the early Christian church at the time. An interesting legend however describes when Muhammad...
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