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

CalligraphyQalam.com uses interactive tools to interest new audiences in Arabic, Ottoman and Persian calligraphy.

Calligraphy process

The traditional learning method

To learn Arabic script calligraphy in the traditional way, you first find a master calligrapher (someone who is licensed to teach) with whom to study. Though resources exist to help you learn calligraphy on your own, you will be most successful if you study one-on-one with an artist. Visit our resources page for help on locating a teacher or class.

The script you study depends on your background and interests. Many beginning students start with the Riq‘a script because it is smaller and simpler than other scripts. Once you have mastered Riq‘a, you can move on to more complex scripts such as Thuluth and Naskh.

Lessons are taught by demonstration. You watch as your teacher writes the meshk (“lesson or practice sheet”), then go home and practice writing it yourself. You don’t usually practice in front of your teacher, because he or she may have other students waiting. At the next lesson, your teacher corrects your work and re-writes the meshk while you observe. Once your progress is satisfactory, your teacher advances you to the next lesson.

The curriculum you will follow was established centuries ago and consists of three stages (listed below). The entire process can take many years to complete, depending upon the amount of time you devote to practice, the availability of a teacher and your natural skill level.

Learning stages

Tools & materials

Calligraphy tools and materials

Calligraphy tools and materials.

Beyond the traditional

Beyond the traditional

Calligraphy and modern art, politics, and typography.

Calligraphy & Islam

Calligraphy and Islam

How Islam influenced the development of calligraphy.

Glossary

Glossary of terms

Glossary of Arabic, Turkish and Persian calligraphy terms.

Calligraphy demonstration

In this video, New York-based calligrapher Elinor Aishah Holland demonstrates how to write the "Rabi Yasir," a phrase commonly written by beginning students of Arabic script calligraphy. Rabi Yasir means, "Lord, make it easy and not difficult. Lord, make it result in good.”