Ibn Muqlah: The prophet of Islamic calligraphy

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Ibn Muqlah
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Ibn Muqlah, whose full name was Abu Ali Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Muqlah was one of the pioneer calligraphers of the Abbasid era. He is also the reputed inventor of the primary cursive style or Arabic named the Naskhi script.

The Holy Qur’an of Muslims is one of the greatest examples of calligraphy. Calligraphy is a visual art related to writing. According to Islamic Calligraphers, it is the art of giving life to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skilful manner. Ibn Muqlah mastered every aspect of calligraphy.

He is known for standardizing Naskhi, thuluth, tawqi’, ruq’ah, muhaqqaq and reyhan in Islamic calligraphy. These are known as “the proportioned scripts”.

The official entity of Ibn Muqlah

This famous calligrapher was born in Baghdad during Abbasid era in AH 272 or 886 CE. His father was a pious man. Under his guidance, Ibn learnt a lot of tarikas of Allah the Almighty. Then, following his father’s wish, he started his career in public service.

He was appointed as a tax collector in Fars. Then, in 908 CE, under the patronage of Vizier Ibn al-Furat became in charge of official dispatches. He became diwan in 918 CE. Throughout his life, he was a dedicated public servant.

Later, he was appointed vizier three times. But, every time he lost the power for being involved in political hassle. The third time, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in 940 CE.

The creative entity of Ibn Muqlah

As said previously, Ibn Muqlah had another creative entity as a calligrapher. His invention of the Naskhi script replaced the angular Kufic script as the standard script for Islamic calligraphy. Naskhi is one of the first scripts of Islamic calligraphy commonly used to pen down administrative documents. It is even used for transcribing Qur’an.

Ibn Muqlah introduced the rounded patterns and curved lines in Naskhi. Later, this style was more refined to give Arabic writing a flowing beauty. Naskhi was standardized as one of the six primary scripts of Islamic calligraphy in the 10th century CE.

Naskhi is easy to read font which still continues to be used for printing today.

Among other scripts, he invented tawqi and thuluth. The thuluth script is very elegant. In thuluth, the straight angular forms of Kufic got replaced by curved and oblique lines. In this script, one-third of each letter slopes, from which the name thuluth comes. Thuluth means a third in Arabic.

Ibn Muqlah was known as ‘a beloved prophet in the field of calligraphy, it was poured over his hand, even as it was revealed to the bees to make their honey cells hexagonal’.