The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Islamic Art

What is Arabic calligraphy?

Beautiful calligraphy is very important in Islamic art and is a primary form of fine art and decoration. Calligraphy, or decorative handwriting, is used to decorate not only books and manuscripts, but also carpets, tapestries, and even architectural surfaces. The dome of the Great Mosque at Cordoba, for example, is covered in mosaics which feature the curvilinear Arabic script. In Islam, writing is one of the most elegant and honored forms of art, and is linked to God’s revelation to the Prophet Mohammad. In the Qur’an, God declares: “Recite! Thy lord is the most generous, who hath taught by means of the pen, Hath taught man what he knew not.” (Qur. lxviii.1 as quoted in Janson 281).


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