Arabic Script: Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations

Arabic Script: Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations

Paperback(Bilingual edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780789208798
Publisher: Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/2006
Edition description: Bilingual edition
Pages: 180
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x (d)

About the Author

Gabriel Mandel Khan is an official of the Jerrahi-Halveti Sufi Brotherhood in Italy and a member of the Cambridge Islamic Academy. He has published many works on Islamic history and culture and is also a well-known calligrapher, engraver, and ceramist.

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Arabic Script

Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations

By Gabriel Mandel Khan, Rosanna M. Giammanco Frongia

Abbeville Press

Copyright © 2006 Gabriel Mandel Khan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7892-0879-8

Excerpt from Arabic Script

The Letters of the Alphabet

Name: alif
Transliteration: the sign ’ or a.
Pronunciation: long a, as in fair (for special signs, see pages 90-91).

The first letter of the Arabic alphabet is the sign ’ (alif); it has a guttural sound.

In the art of reciting the Qur’an (tajwid), it has the characteristics of sonority, tonicity, and softening, and the antonymies of lowering and opening.

This letter is the module of the whole calligraphic system. Calligraphers vary its length, measuring it in square points, or dots (noqta), as for other letters. The width of the alif is one point, and its length can vary from three to twelve points; for example, in the naskhi it has a height of five points, in the thuluth, nine. From the length of the alif the diameter of a circle inside which all the other letters are written is also calculated. The characteristics of this letter are linearity (qawam), axiality (mihwari), balance (mu‘tadilan), and a straight stroke (muntasiban).

Because the shape of the alif resembles the numeral 1, it symbolizes the selfness of God as well as his unity. Thus, this letter take son the archetypal value of the whole alphabet, which it begins, and is thus also identified with Adam, the father of humankind (and thus any diacritical sign affirming this letter’s value is identified with Eve).

The three main positions of Islamic prayer are: standing, like the alif; kneeling, like the dal; and prostrate, like the mim. These three letters also make up the name Adm (Adam). According to the mystic Ibn Ata’Allah Abbas (d. 1309), “this name is derived from ulfa (good company), because it unites and agrees (ta‘lif) with the other letters.” For some sects, however the alif represents Satan, because like him “it does not bow” to God (alif mutaakhar al-Sujud).

Grammatically, alif is an interrogative particle (a Zaydun fy al-Bayti?: Is Zayd home?).

In the Huruf system, ‘ilm al-Huruf is the science of the secrets of the letters of the alphabet, also known as ‘ilm al-Abjad, or simiya’, from the Greek [points] (letter magic, used in mystical speculation and magical practices); alif represent the numbers one, and belongs to the element of fire.


Excerpted from Arabic Script by Gabriel Mandel Khan, Rosanna M. Giammanco Frongia. Copyright © 2006 Gabriel Mandel Khan. Excerpted by permission of Abbeville Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents from
Arabic Script:

Using the Calamus
The Letters of the Alphabet
The Supplemental Letters
Styles, Variants, and Calligraphic Adaptations

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