Welcome to the Blog!


Calligraphers, artists, others—welcome to this blog, where I will share ideas and commentary about the world of Arabic script calligraphy. New posts will appear when the spirit moves me, but probably about once a month. Visit often and let me know what you think.—Mohamed Zakariya


My wife the editor says we should say something about possible inconsistencies in the material on this site, such as varying transliterations and inconsistent use of apostrophes and capitalization in script names, as well as use of italics on foreign words. We’ve tried to handle these issues but are bound to have missed a few. Please bear in mind that many of the essays and other materials were written at different times for different publishers with different house styles. Please bear in mind, too, that rather than adopt the monolithic Arabic transliteration template, I experiment with features from other traditions, such as Turkish and French.

A Note on Words and Spelling

My training has been in the Ottoman Turkish school of Arabic script calligraphy. Many of the technical words relating to this calligraphy are the same in Arabic and Turkish, but to me, the Turkish words are the most comprehensive and accessible for both the specialist and the generalist. Although many of these terms are of Arabic or Persian origin, the Turkish form is given here and on the pages of MohamedZakariya.com. Note, however, that the Turkish alphabet includes letters that are not always available on most Western computers, and we have therefore, reluctantly, given the letters without their diacritical marks. Also, certain letters are pronounced differently in Turkish than in English:

·     c is pronounced j

·     c with a cedilla accent is pronounced ch, as in cheese

·     s with a cedilla accent is pronounced sh, as in ship

·     i with no dot is pronounced oddly, so don’t worry about it if you see it somewhere

·     j is pronounced like the s in pleasure or the g in gendarme


That said, here are definitions of some of the most commonly used terms in this art:

Ahar—sizing applied to paper

Aklam-i sitte—the six scripts

Besmele—the first sentence in the Quran, “In the name of God, Whose mercy is comprehensive, Whose mercy is specific”

Celi (Arabic Jeli)—large version of a script, as in Celi Sulus, Celi Talik

Divani—a script evolved from old Talik in Turkey, reserved for official documents and now an artistic script

Divit—portable inkwell and penholder

Ebru—Turkish-style marbled paper

Hadis (Arabic Hadith)—Traditions, sayings, and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad recorded by his companions

Halkari—a type of illumination; literally, “work in dissolved gold”

Hat (Arabic khatt)—calligraphy


Hilye—a levha composed of a text describing the Prophet Muhammad or other historical personalities


Icazet—permission or authorization or even license

Icazetname—document certifying the holder to practice as a professional

Istif—a composition in which the letters interlace and stack

Kalem—pen, reed pen

Kalip—stencil made by piercing the contours of a design with tiny holes; the design is reproduced by placing the kalip over a fresh sheet of paper and pouncing it with charcoal dust or chalk powder

Kita—small, rectangular calligraphic work, horizontal or vertical; kitas generally use two scripts, one large and one small, or, in the case of Talik, one script only

Koltuk—“armpit”; rectangular or triangular spaces in kitas, levhas, and hilyes that allow for the arrangement of longer lines of a larger script with shorter lines of a smaller script

Levha—calligraphic panel for large works

Lika—wad of raw silk used in an inkwell to absorb and hold ink

Makta—pen-cutting slab

Mesk (pronounced meshk)—lesson or practice work

Mufredat—the beginner’s first group of lessons, consisting of single letters and then letters in pairs; these lessons teach spontaneity, proportion, and shape

Murakkaa—a calligraphic album

Murekkebat—these lessons, which follow the completion of the mufredat, consist of texts (usually poems) calligraphed by an old master such as Sevki Efendi; they are models of how to assemble words and sentences.

Mushaf—the Quran in a single volume, or codex

Nesih (Arabic Naskh)—one of the six scripts, a small style favored by Turkish calligraphers for copying the Quran and endowment deeds, texts, and so on; Nesih is the basic script for legible writing and the model for the great 19th and 20th century type fonts

Serlevha—symmetrical double page of illumination opening a Quran

Sulus (Arabic Thuluth)—one of the six scripts, larger than Nesih, favored by calligraphers for more monumental writing

Talik (also spelled Taliq or called Nestalik/Nastaliq)—a script developed beyond the six scripts and written without vowelling; used mostly in poetry and simple inscriptions

Taklid—precision imitation as a method of education

Tezhib—the art of illumination

Zer-efsan—gold flecks applied to a border to give it articulation

Zer-endud—painting in gold against a background color

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Mohamed Zakariya Arabic Calligraphy - Islamic & Arabic Calligrapher