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


The art of Arabic script calligraphy has been passed down from master to student for centuries. A master calligrapher is someone who has achieved a high level of skill in one or more scripts. He has also received a certificate or license (ijaza) verifying this skill.

There have been countless master calligraphers throughout history. Starting in the early 7th century with ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (600-661), the fourth caliph of Islam, we can trace the transmission of calligraphic skills to the present day through a living “chain” of calligraphers. Masters taught students, who then became masters and taught others. Different schools developed within this chain, each of which was founded by a leading and innovative calligrapher and was followed by others who refined and clarified the founder’s work.

To the right you will find a list of several key calligraphers whose work has played a central role in the development of this art form.

Want to learn more?

Check out our interactive timeline

Check out our interactive timeline!

Interview with Elinor Aishah Holland

This video is an interview with NY-based calligrapher Elinor Aishah Holland about how she became a calligrapher and the importance of calligraphy. Ms. Holland is a teacher of calligraphy in the Latin and Arabic scripts.

Interviews with student calligraphers

Image of a student calligrapher Image of a student calligrapher Image of a student calligrapher