Calligraphy Qalam: An Introduction to Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Calligraphy uses interactive tools to interest new audiences in Arabic, Ottoman and Persian calligraphy.

Ibn Muqla
(885-940 A.D.)

Full name:

Abu ‘Ali Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali, known as Ibn Muqla (“Son of Muqla”)

What he did:

  • Codified the six scripts (al aqlam al-sitta) that became the foundation for the practice of calligraphy to come
  • Established a proportional writing system that used a circle with the diameter of the letter alif as its basis
  • Wrote extensively about the art of calligraphy and devised theories of letter shapes


  • Born in Baghdad
  • Became a scribe in the administration of the ‘Abbasid caliphate (750-1258)
  • Became head of the state library
  • Was made vizier (chief counselor) three times between 928 and 936, all under different rulers
  • Was imprisoned three times during periods of political turmoil
  • During one imprisonment, his enemies cut off his right hand. When released, he continued to work with great skill using his left hand
  • Finally, his left hand was severed, his tongue cut out, and he was cast into prison where he died

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Ibn Muqla's proportional writing system

Image of a circle with an alif in it

The six scripts

The six scripts of Ibn Muqla