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Ivan's picture

Arabic calligraphy

In a previous post someone well spoted that I was playing with "Arabic" numbers, which are in fact Indian numbers (the circle means 5 and the dots are zeros.) It's the Westeners who use Arabic numbers such as: 1,2,3.

Arabic calligraphy

I'm fascinated by the look of the Arabic script. It's out of this world. If Spielberg would have invented a writing for a new planet it may have been similar in looks to the Arabic script.

I think Arabic calligraphy is a form of art that has superseeded any other culture in its category. It's highly complex and has many layers of meaning.

I won't to go into details. You start doing that here if you wish. Allow me to just touch upon the subject and show you a few interesting examples.

zoomorphic calligraphy

Elephant zoomorphic calligraphyThis style is my personal favorite because I'm an animal lover. It's called zoomorphic calligraphy and some believe it's developed because of the restriction of illustrating living beings according to muslim traditions.

The example below is a highly popular style where carefully layed out miniature text makes up a bigger sentence. Both the small and big text are related and usually verses from the Koran.

miniature script

The one below showcases an ancient manuscript from Iraq. Note that in those times using black and red inks to write was a must. Later the red dots were replaced with other symbols that need not to be red.

ancient script

Finally let me show you a modern script that can be found on contemporary buildings. This example below is a piece from a long text that goes all around the House of Koran. Note the geometric simplicity of the script.

moden calligraphy

Latin font types seriously influence the contemporary Arabic typography. As you can see below sometimes latin fonts are mimiced to create similar looks.

abraj al lulu logo

Arabic script and arabesque design is largely ignored outside the Middle East. Unlike many other languages that are used extensively as design elements even in the West, Arabic didn't enter the mainstream culture. Japanese characters are all over girls as tattoos and t-shirts designs for example. Have you seen anybody with an Arab script tattoo?

I think the main reason Arabic calligraphy didn't penetrate the pop culture is because it's very closely associated with religion and the usage of these styles may be a sensitive issue.

Excuse my shallow views, but I think this is unfortunate, because Arabic calligraphy has a beautiful texture, which can be appreciated even if you don't read the text. I fully understand however that for muslims the script means so much more than just pretty design. The Koran and the style of the text is holy and there is no room for reinterpreting these visual elements.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Waleed's picture
540 pencils

It's a very complex science to me.. I have a friend who's knows Arabic calligraphy very well, he calculates the lengths and shapes of the letters based on mathematical rules. Of course it becomes natural to the calligrapher after a while, however, not all follow the rules..

He also told me the best calligraphers in the world today are Turkish..

onashir's picture
5 pencils

do not forget the Original, Koran......

10thWay's picture
47 pencils

Thanks for the article and great examples. It looks like (once again) religion got in the way of artistic development... That's a shame.

Brochure Printing by 10th Way

wurx's picture
59 pencils

Just a quick note on Tatoo's:

There are other factors to why there aren't any Aribic tatoo's, long with Hebrew and other languages, Tatoo's are/may be considered taboo in may cultures. To put a Hebrew letter tatoo on you makes as much sense as killing animals to support animal rights.

Japan has a long history and glorification of Tatoo's, along with Samoans...etc

Just my 2 cents.'s picture
4 pencils

I've always loved the flowing lines of Arabic script. It's quite nice.

As far as not catcing on in pop culture, I think that's more because pop culture is English dominated. Does it have something to do with associations with negative stereotypes? Possibly.

I can see a couple of reasons that tatoos might be taboo in Jewish culture - (especially choosing to get one on your forearm), but is it actually a stated taboo? What about in other cultures?

dihakz's picture
1 pencil

As a matter of fact, it is a stated taboo within Judaism. The rationale is as follows:

Upon your death, your body must remain as intact as possible, with no modifications or doing anything otherwise destructive to it. If your body is intact, upon the arrival of the Messiah, the dead will all rise up and the Kingdom in Israel will be re-established.

Kinda strange stuff (isn't most religion?) but the end result is that it is taboo to have tatoos. Having said that, however, many branches of Judaism are more liberal and change with the times (as many other religions do, as well) -- with the exception of the more radical groups. This thinking may be changing, with the increasing popularity of tatoos (or may have already changed.)

BTW, I'm Jewish, and I have two tatoos! :) (one of my tatoos is of two Hebrew characters -- my first initial, and my wife's first initial, designed by yours truly.)

Anonymous's picture

sorry,but there is no such thing as israel or israel kingdom?
in addition people (israeles)who came along to palitaine will never be happy or last there.
thank you

Anonymous's picture

From one arab to another, this is not the time nor the place for the debate. Take it elsewhere.

Anonymous's picture


It is sad to see, from studying history, how much wealth in information and the sciences the Arabic cultures brought into the world, and now those countries are a-shambles.

I, as an American, would be glad to see a more enlightened Middle East, as it once was. Just seeing this calligraphy is amazing, let alone its meaning.

Assalamu alaikum

Anonymous's picture

While the west cant get all the blame, the fact is that the main reason why the middle east is in shambles, at least politically, is because of western countries spending the past century trying to suck the place dry of oil.

Democratically elected governments are overthrown and replaced with western-friendly dictators. Countries which try to modernize and industrialize are bombed back into the stone age. And of course the people that speak out against this, like Bin Laden, become heroes to many.

Younghusband's picture
18 pencils

Check out this one:

From The British Museum.

Coming Anarchy

- Speak Victorian, Think Pagan -

Coming Anarchy

- Speak Victorian, Think Pagan -

Ivan's picture

Wow. That's beautiful. Look at the rhythm and the balance.

Bit similiar in concept this one, which says love and peace:

Nice to see you back Younghusband.

prettyliltab's picture
2 pencils

Do you know of any place I can find more zoomorphic calligraphy??? and its meanings???

Tigerstorm's picture
1009 pencils

That's awsome.. The colors.. mm love it!

lrenhrda's picture
207 pencils

I love arabic script. The pure complexity of it is amazing, and sometimes they're so beautiful and freeflowing that it's a marvel that it's actually meant to be read too!

I was going to outright agree with you... and had a paragraph about how I wish there was more Arabic-inspired work in the West, but when I sat and thought about it for a moment, I realized that there's quite a bit of Arabic-inspired art in the Western world.

As far as I can remember, "Oriental rugs" (as they're called here) come from areas closer to the Middle East than to China, correct? What about tilework mosaics... those regular divisions of plane using geometric shapes (ya know... tesselations.) Star charts have followed the same stylization used by Middle-Eastern seafarers hundreds of years ago (not to mention the names of the stars they chart: Aldebaran, Fomalhaut, Deneb, Izar, etc.) I'm sure there's myriad amounts of things that are derived from Arabic designs that I am unaware of. Much of it, it would seem, has integrated itself into our daily lives here in the West.

Although I definitely understand and agree with you're overall point. There is a painful lack of inspiration taken from more modern Arabic design styles. This, I think, is due in large part to the turmoil that has existed in the region for the past several decades, as well as the friction between Western culture and Middle Eastern culture. Modern Arabic design, such as the Futura-inspired Arabic typography you feature in your post, is seen quite often on the signs and buildings we see everyday in the newscasts about deaths in Iraq, and unfortunately, we see it on the websites of fundamentalist terrorist groups... right next to the videos of beheadings. In the popular subconscious, these sorts of images have been linked to the emotions we feel over what's going on in the Middle East lately, and you're absolutely right in stating that it's very unfortunate that this has happened.

grafixforlife's picture
226 pencils

Wow I've never seen any examples of this before, my love of typography has just been expanded internationally. Those examples are beautiful! Wish I knew how to read them!

Visit My Website!: - David Bailey - graphic artist - ONLINE PORTFOLIO -

Sera's picture
1 pencil

I was also looking for some ideas with calligraphy for my next tattoo n i came across this site...I'm actually lebanese and you know what? i just realized how much i take my heritage for granted.
Oh and also, concerning the whole Hebrew script, its the same with Arabic and Islamic phrases and calligraphy.The whole act of tattooing your body in Islam is considered as "haram" or unholy because when it comes to praying, one must be pure and clean, inside and the ink is the skin and you arent completely "purified"if you will. As for the less religious, phrases including "Allah" (God) or anything else in that context is sssssssssssssssssssuuuuuch a no no haha its not even thought of, so thats why it might be a tad harded to find images of islamic script tattoos hehe

Roba's picture
2 pencils

Yes, I agree that Arabic calligraphy is absolutely stunning to work visually with. It allows for a versatility that the Latin alphabet could never cater to.
A few days ago, I was browsing
, and I came upon this shirt design:

It says Brooklyn in Arabic.

The most fascinating thing about this calligraphy though is the font they created for it- it's almost like Latinized funkified Arabic, which is not something I've ever seen before.
I was really amused.. maybe because as an Arab, I'm just not used to seeing Arabic look so Westernized.

alatheia's picture
1 pencil

Does anyone know where I can find the translation for the zoomorphic Arabic elephant above?

ImadS's picture
1 pencil

It's actually the first verse in a chapter of the Nobel Quran. The name of this chapter is "AL FIL" (The elephant).

The translation is:

"Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with the possessors of the elephant?"

You can read the rest of the chapter from the link below:

prettyliltab's picture
2 pencils

Hello, I have been searching for Arabic calligraphy for a while now, I was looking for something attractive for my next tattoo and stumbled upon this site where I saw the zoomorphic calligraphy... Does anyone know where I can find more of it and its meanings???

ahmedkandil's picture
14 pencils

I'd like to inform you that I'm an Arabic Calligrapher , iCan help any one in that field
see my website

Mr Ahmed Kandil

Scout's picture
9 pencils

Named Imad Mahhouk, from Syria. I found his website by chance, and immediately fell in love with his work.

He's the more academic/classic type of calligrapher, and that what adds more to his value as an artist (in my opinion).

Today, Arabic calligraphers are becoming very scarce, in a world dominated by electronic arts and media. As most today's digital arts were developed in the west, there are more and more challenges that face the Arabic calligraphy. Very few, if any, computer applications are designed to help developping the Arabic calligraphy and conserve its uniqueness compared to the Latin typo. One little exception that I'm aware of is a software called "Kelk" by SinaSoft( which is basically an Arabic calligraphy software that allows you to compose Arabic words and designs in several Arabic calligraphy styles.

Samples of what the software does:

A little note about using Arabic calligraphy for tatoos:
Most Arabic calligraphy artwork is related some how to texts from Quran or other religious scriptures, such as Sunnah (Prophetic statements and traditions). Islam does not allow one to carry any Quranic scripture inside a restroom or to a place that can contain impurities (especially human and/or animal). Therefore, one should be a bit careful when choosing an Arabic design, especially if the user does not know about its meaning.

I remember Nike, the shoe maker, once had a sneaker that has the word "Allah" (God in Arabic) written on the back and bottom of the shoe. This created a strong from Muslims and Nike had to withdraw it from the market.

Most likely, the designer didn't know about the meaning of the design, and just liked its look.

You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

Anonymous's picture

thats right about the nike, and anyways for muslims to have tatoos is "haram" not allowed.
why would anyone put and word ao symbol which they dont know the meaning of?

boazinha's picture
1 pencil

Does anyone know the translation for the fish shown above? It is beautiful....


Scout's picture
9 pencils

The fish above is the verse 14 chapter 16 from the Quran.
Here's a link to its close English translation:


You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

HadMeDinner's picture
1 pencil

The Portugese Footballer Simao Sambrosa (better known as Simao) has two children Mariana & Martim whos names he tattooed on his arms in Arabic. He has Mariana tattooed on his right arm and Martim tattooed on his left. Oddly Simao is the most Arabic looking player on the Portugese team.

Here is Simao.

Here are his tattoos.

Another intersting point is in Malta they speak a Maltese versian of Arabic. Maltese is the only Semitic language on earth written with Latin letters.

Scout's picture
9 pencils

This book is composed illustrated and designed by a unique Arab graphic designer named: Mohieddin Ellabbad.
He's an artist, educator, art critic, calligraphy lover... he's a genuis!
One of his books entitled "Nadhar" (Vision) is THE book that made me choose Graphic Design as a life career!! it may sound strange, but it's true.

Graphic design books in Arabic are VERY scarce, so when I found my first one "Nadhar" I fell in love with the art, and the artist.

After "eating" Nadhar in no time, I started looking for another ElLabbad's book, "Kashkul arrassam" (The Illustrator's Notebook) which is the one I'm talking about in this post. I couldn't find it in my home country, so I waited till I had the chance to travel to Egypt (Ellabbad is from there), and started looking for the book in all major Cairo's bookstores... looked and looked and looked, but I was like the one looking for a needle in the hay!

People don't know him there... they know each and every singer, dancer, actor....but not Ellabbad. How sad, and how discouraging!

Anyway, that was the result I got from two trips to Egypt.

When I first came to the United States, I emailed some online Arabic bookstores, none of them had it. I even tried to contact the publisher directlly, but no reply. I'm telling you guys, Arabs are taking care of everything useless, except their great art and cultural heritage!

I'm not the type who give up when temporarily defeted, so I kept telling people right and left about the book, hoping that someone will find it somewhere, someday!

It was only yesterday, when my wife -who happens to be an ebay fan- emailed me an ebay item ( an Arabic book that talks about Calligraphy) and suggesting that we buy it for our little boys. And that was the shock!!! The book I have been looking for for over 11 years in my Arab world, is being sold on ebay by a guy from California!!! (Item number: 140124608283) The seller doesn't seem to be an Arab (from the way he described the book).
Of course, I bidded on it immediately (hopefully nobody will outbid me lol)

Just wanted to share the story!

More about Mohieddin Ellabbad:

You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

Scout's picture
9 pencils

I got my book, and I'm almost done reading it.
I can't tell you how beautiful it is... full of ideas, creativity, dreams and genuineness. It comes with an English translation of the Arabic text. I would definitely recommand it!

I wish I can post some pages here, I'm just afraid it will violate the artist's copyrights... any input? (I know Amazon always displays sample pages).

By the way, how can one posts pics here? (I tried the "img" tag but it doesn't seem to work for me :) )

You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

ahmedkandil's picture
14 pencils

Hello there , I'd like to show you my art gallery , you will be admired by it , i hope to have your comments

this is my 2 links


Ahmed Kandil

fperez85's picture
1 pencil

Help me, please, you are my last hope...
The thing is, i´ve decided to get a tatoo with a short frase from the Holy Koran, I want it spelled on Naskh. I have found the page where the frase is but since I dont even speak arab I cant even tell wich part says the phrase I want.

I would like the phrase "The life of this world is no more than an illusion." written on Naskh, its from The Koran 3:185.

I live in argentina, I wouldnt even know were to start looking for someone with this kind of knowledge...

Thank you VERY MUCH!

Scout's picture
9 pencils

Hi Fperez,
That verse of the Quran is beautiful, however, as a respect to the holy script, I think it's not a good idea to have it as a tattoo. A tattoo will be carried in places where there will be impurities, like inside restrooms.
The same thing I suggest to people who make jewelery with the name of Allah (God) or other Islamic terms. It's prohibited on Muslims to do it, and I suggest not to do it for non-Muslims, as a respect to other beliefs.


You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

You Can’t Reach The Top By Sitting On Your Bottom!

Zahras's picture

I would welcome your comments about my jewelry creations where I create gold & silver jewelry using traditional Arabic and Islamic Calligraphy Styles.

Anonymous's picture

i really love that jewelry, its amazing

lainaink's picture
1 pencil

I know this thread is a bit old, but I've been spending some time going through calligrams on the web. The only one I can't seem to find a translation of is that of this woman. I find her to be the most interesting and unique. It would surprise me if it's a Quaranic text, considering it's printed as the body of a woman, but I'm hoping someone can help.

ssadak's picture
1 pencil

Hi, just wanted to clarify that not all muslims are barred from having tattoos done. I'm shia muslim and we're actually permitted to get tattoos, even those with Quranic verses on them, as long as they're in a respectable place...

Here's a pic of my first ink work....

Dazzler347's picture
1 pencil

I wonder who told you that you're "permitted" to have tattoos. He must be someone bigger than the Prophet (SAAWS) seeing as how you're following him instead of the Prophet. I think you've been misled my friend. And for you to put Allah (SWT)'s name on your ARM. "As long as its in a respectable place". If it was a verse without His Name, I would've overlooked this, but since it is, May Allah (SWT) forgive whoever told you it was okay and May He forgive you for your ignorance. No hate, just honesty =).

Wassalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh

deface's picture
1 pencil


Can anyone provide a translation of the first image on this page? Thanks!

Attia's picture
6 pencils

here is the translatio0n of first image

" Best wishes for the occasion of ..... "

cuev5038's picture
1 pencil
Perecca's picture
1 pencil

Hello, I found this site while trying to find some information related to my research. I was trying to find different examples of calligraphic script for the word "barakah", or "baraka", but to no avail. Could someone please direct me to some correct examples of that script, on any website or other online source? Illustrations like shown in the main post would be much appreciated. Thank you.

richard abas's picture
1 pencil

Hi Perecca, check out

i bought this online a few months ago.

Description by cedarseed on

Hardcover, 20 x 20 cm, white Ingres Vidalon paper (100 g/m2), 42 pages sewn in 4 signatures, Japanese endpapers. Cover paper painted in shimmery green, fibers. The plate is painted Daler mounting board.

The plate spells بركة , baraka or "blessing" in Square Kufi of my composition. The design is perfectly symmetrical so the book can be used in the Western direction (cover on the left) or rotated and used in an Eastern direction (cover on the right). The charm on the back will also hang correctly in either case! It can be removed to place the book flat on a surface(you can even hang it on something else.)

it is really nice



Zahras's picture

Zahras Jewelry is offering a unique Calligraphy Service.

For a small fee, we will hand-create a unique and masterful calligraphy design for your name or phrase.

The design can be either emailed to you, or printed (on high quality paper) and posted to your address.

Additionally, we can embroider the calligraphy design onto cloth using metallic gold or silver thread (similar to the kiswah on the Kabbah) and post this to you.

Finally, we can make the calligraphy and embroider it onto a T shirt and post it to you.

Unique and amazing offering !


im arabic typographer my artwork name is typographometers
i designed font abjects in onece !

im creative in designig your sign thiss is personalite for great & famouse people ,

just contact us for spesialist typography of arabic or persian font.

pouya golestaeh

Anonymous's picture

I am trying to design a tattoo & I really like the idea of zoomorphic caligraphy. Could you help me by translating "nothing loved is ever lost & they were loved so much"

Ivan's picture

We don't have such service.

Anonymous's picture


If you like arabic calligraphy, you will be interested...

WinSoft has developped a plug-in, called Tasmeem, for Adobe InDesign, Middle Eastern or North African versions. The last version, Tasmeem 4 enables to create Arabic calligraphic documents without a calligrapher on hand...

WinSoft propose many Tasmeem fonts that have been specifically designed by typographers to fully take advantage of all Tasmeem features and to show the true beauty of Arabic script! The new Nastaliq will be released soon...(Mid-June)

Anonymous's picture

hey there I'm a Muslim man living in NewZealand. my writing of the Arabic language is not the greatest : s. is there anyone who can help me with a project? i need a hand writing calligraphic Arabic in between a Maori pattern. if anyone can help r is interested please email me.

Jihad Ghanbari


Anonymous's picture

I am a Bangladeshi Calligrapher. I reqoest all to provide me calligraphy books, cataloge for expressing this devine art in Bangladesh.
Please contact
visit to
Abdur Rahim

karencanaan's picture
1 pencil

i want a gold name necklace in arabic . it has to say karen

JulesMD's picture
4 pencils

For those of you who are looking for help with calligraphy you may want to try this book, The Art of Calligraphy by David Harris. If you are interested in getting started with doing your own, it is a good book.

Jewinessay's picture
1 pencil

It is kind of an amazing art form which is centuries old.
I remember the movie Alibaba or the story of Alibaba.

- Jewinessay

Jaysha's picture
1 pencil

I wonder if someone could help me translate this token which I believe is in Arabic. I found it about 30 years ago as a child when I was digging in the dirt in Brisbane Australia and have kept it ever since. It is made of brass or copper and also has writing on the other side as well. Your feedback would be most appreciated.

Comment upload: 
gammal's picture
2 pencils

I can't read all of the words on the coin, but the one at the top is "Sultan", and the first word on the second row is "Mahmoud" (also spelled "Mahmud"). The rest of the second row and the third one are not clear, to me at least. May be it's in a language other than Arabic (such as Persian, Pashto, or Urdu) and that's why I can't understand what it says.

There were several sultans who were called Mahmud in the Muslim world, so it's really difficult to tell which one this coin refers to. But better hold on to it. It's clearly very old, and might be worth a small fortune :)

Natia's picture
14 pencils

I love arabic script! The only thing which I think is comparable to it is the elvish script from LOTR...maybe Tolkien even got his inspiration from it, who knows?

gammal's picture
2 pencils

LOL! I love Arabic calligraphy too, and I consider myself fortunate that I'm able to read it, because many verses and Prophetic sayings have even more beautiful meanings than forms. Another art form that you might want to explore is Quranic recitation, especially by Egyptian reciters. A popular saying in the Muslim world is: "The Quran was revealed in Makkah, written in Turkey, and recited in Egypt."

Here are some links to get you started:

Norjihan's picture
1 pencil

The arabic calligraphy was associated with religion for us Muslims, because it used to be from the verses of the Quran.

However, in Malaysia, some talented artist who also learn about the arabic calligrapher open a new door in the arts of calligraphy. They create a couple calligraphy for an outstanding wedding card. You can look the arts here - -> you can go to photo, there are some samples on it.

This link of a calligraphy picture is done by the calligrapher for his parents which consists the names of his father and mother -

Mine, that I used instead of my photo is my full name, was written by a Chinese calligrapher from the China when he came here for some exhibition.

ijaz's picture
1 pencil


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