Calligraphy Qalam: An Introduction to Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Calligraphy

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This calligraphic panel, or levha, reads: "Oh 'Ali, my spirit is sacrified for you" (Ya 'Ali, ruhi fadakah). The letters are arranged artistically to fill the calligraphic panel, making the reading of the phrase quite difficult. Diacritics (vocalization signs) also fill in the composition's empty spaces. Although meaning is secondary to form, this vocative phrase calling for loyalty to 'Ali underscores the Shi'i message of the panel.

Calligrapher: Muhammad Ibrahim. Iran or India. 1721-1722 A.D. 20.4 x 15.5 cm. Thuluth script. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, African and Middle Eastern Division.

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