History of Islamic World Calligraphy and Indonesia

Calligraphy is a tool for preservation of the Qur’an

Calligraphy is a respected art writing from various kinds of Islamic art, calligraphy is a tool for preservation of the Qur’an. The phrase calligraphy is taken from the Latin word “kalios” which means beautiful and, “graph” which means writing or script. The full meaning of the word calligraphy is: clever writing skills, or beautiful writing. Arabic itself calls khat which means beautiful lines or writing.

The phrase calligraphy (Calligraphy), etymolgically, comes from the Greek word Kalios which means beautiful and graphia which means scribble or writing, and is called beautiful writing. Calligraphy was first discovered in Egypt. Then calligraphy spread to Asia, Europe, and has undergone changes. The roots of Arabic calligraphy (Islamic calligraphy) were then Egyptian (Canaanic, Semitic) hieroglyphic writing, split into khat Feniqi (Phoenician) which was divided again into Aramaic (Aramaic) and Musnad (books containing all kinds of hadith).

Calligraphy History

Various opinions were expressed, about who originally created calligraphy. To find out religious stories are the ones that can be used as the most. The preachers from Arabia or Muarrikh noted, that the Prophet Adam As was the first to recognize calligraphy. This knowledge comes from Allah Himself by revelation. “Allah taught Adam the knowledge of all names”, as explained in the Qur’an (Surat Al Baqarah, verse 31). It was said, that 300 years before his death, Adam wrote on a slab of land which was later burned into pottery. After the earth was hit by floods in the days of Noah As and the water had receded, every nation or derivative group got the inscribed pottery.

In the history of Islamic civilization, Arabic letters written in the form of Alquran verses or the Prophet’s hadith have a very special place. Every Muslim believes that Arabic is the language used by Allah SWT when lowering the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. This language is also used in all worship systems by Muslims throughout the world. Because in Islamic teachings paintings in the form of living things are included as prohibited, the Muslims express their artistic passion, among others, through this calligraphy art. These calligraphy works have become a decoration in many fields, ranging from buildings, coins, decorative arts, gems, textiles, weapons to manuscripts.

The rise of reading and writing of Muslims began in the year 2 Hijrah when the Prophet required the prisoners of war who were unable to pay a ransom to teach reading and writing to Muslims. In those days calligraphy still used Khat Kufi (elbow-shaped khat) which was the oldest calligraphy. Kufi at that time still had no punctuation until the days of Caliph Ali bin Abi Talib the writing had perfect punctuation.

At the time of the Umayyad Caliphate began to arise dissatisfaction with the kufi khat which was considered too rigid and difficult to scratch, so the formulation of writing that was softer and easier to scratch began. Although actually Arabic had developed long before Islam was born, but this language spread rapidly in line with the development of Islam. Caliph Abdul Malik (685-705 AD) of the Umayyads made a very important political decision in this field, namely by setting Arabic as the official language of all Islamic regions, even though Arabic was not originally the language used in these regions. it produced several types of writing, namely, Khat Tumar, Jalil, Nisf, Tsulus and Tsulusain. The most famous figure of calligraphy at that time was Qutbah al-Muharrir.

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At first, many Islamic calligraphy was written on the skin or palm leaves. The discovery of paper in China in the middle of the 9th century played a considerable role in the development of this art, paper was relatively cheaper, abundant, easy to cut and in terms of coloring techniques easier than the materials used previously.
Ibnu Muqla (886-940 AD) was one of the best calligraphers in the early development of Islamic calligraphy. He developed geometric principles in Islamic calligraphy which were then widely used by calligraphers who came after him, he also played a role in developing cursive writings which later became known as Naskh’s many Slovak styles for writing Alquran ‘manuscripts.

The development of calligraphy continued to be developed until the time of the Abbasids so that calligraphy emerged which was a new style or modification of old styles such as, Khat khafif Tsulus, Khafif Tsulusain, Riyasi and al-Aqlam as-Sittah (Tsulus, Naskhi, Muhaqqaq, Raihani, Riq’ah and Tauqi). The famous figures of this period are Ibn Muqlah, Ibn Bauwab and Yaqut al-Musta’tsimi.

The 13th century, where together with Yaqut, was a century of devastation and rebuilding in Eastern Islam. The destruction was due to the invasion of Jengis Khan (1155-1227) and its Mongol troops, and culminated with Baghdad’s conquest by his son Hulagu in 1258 and the last fall of the Abbasid caliphate.
Rebuilding almost directly by the stabilization of the Mongol power, and the son of Hulagu, Abaga (1265-82), was the first ruler to give the Ilkhan (tribal ruler) glass to the new dynasty.
It is incredible that Islam is able, after being destroyed in such a way, rises back and passes its never-ending vitality. Less than half a century after the destruction of Baghdad, Islam gained victory over his disbelieving conqueror, because not only great-grandson of Hulagu, Ghazan (1295-1305) embraced Islam, but he also made Islam the official religion of all the country he ruled.

Calligraphy in Indonesia

Among all the embodiments of Islamic art in Indonesia, it seems that calligraphy art is in very decisive position. Calligraphy is a form of Islamic cultural art that was first discovered in Indonesia. Calligraphy marks that Islam has entered Indonesia. This is evidenced by the results of research on Islamic calligraphy archeology in Indonesia which was conducted by Dr. Hasan Muarif Ambary. According to him after studying ethically graphically, Kufi-style calligraphy (IX-XV M) developed, Sulus and Nasta’lik style (XII-XIX M) and other contemporary styles (from the XIX century to the next several centuries).

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His data are found on tombstones, the tombs of the Islamic rulers of Aceh, the tomb complex in Troloyo, Mojokerto, Keraton, Cirebon, Mataram, Ternate, Java, Madura, and other areas in Indonesia. But in artistry itself itself has the most widely used calligraphy formulas, including single-letter forms, connecting styles, and then processing them into words or sentences.


1. Naskhi

The writing of this model has been hereditary since its birth until now it is still used in various writings of ilmiyah (books), magazines, newspapers and others. Especially in the Qur’an or the Hadith and the Book of Tafsir, Fiqih, Nahwu-Sorof and so forth. This model is widely distributed throughout the earth. This article is easy to understand and understand, because in addition to its simple, flexible form it is not much variation.

2. Tsulutsi

The article is more monumental, especially used for decoration purposes in the world of printed medieval books, ilmiyah books, and is now widely used to decorate the walls of the building. Chulutsi is often used for titles, titles and publishing names. The text of the whole book using the tsulutsi is no longer present, as it is viewed more expedient for decorative patterns.

3. Rayhany

One source mentioned that Rayhany was from Naskhi. But judging from its shape is also part of Tsulutsi with more variation. The letters are special with the shape of the pitus alif, curved at the top of the letter.

4. Diwani

This article was used over the past few centuries for the writing of the Council (the office) of the Islamic Government. Used in artistic matters, such as essay titles, names, brochures and others that emphasize artistic values. Its shape is very inclined, arranged overlapping, interconnected and rarely wears harokat or row. The shape of the letters is obtained by playing the pen to be the letters of the tail.

5. Riq’ah

Riq’ah is the easiest model, because it is most often used for writing, as well as writers can write quickly also this khoth without any variation or even simplification. The two points can be formed into one short line, the letters of the sin letters are formed one line, the right letter at the end of the word is formed a triangle.