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Arabic Calligraphy

             Many people in the Western world have difficulty understanding the special status of calligraphy in Asia and the Middle East. For the East Asians and Muslims, however, calligraphy has more status than any other art form, although the reasons are quite different. For the Chinese and Japanese, the written word is virtually a window on the soul of the communicator--a reflection not merely of skill but rather of the very character and cultivation of the person wielding the brush. For the Muslims, on the other hand, the written word is an instrument of God's will. The result in both cases is a rich artistic tradition.
             Calligraphy reached a high degree of perfection in the Islamic world, where representational art was spurned and Arabic script offered rich possibilities for creative fantasy (Art of Islam: Language and Meaning, 47).
             Oral tradition was paramount among the Arabs in pre-Islamic days, and poets were the memory of their tribe. Then the Arabs felt the need to write down their stories, first simply as an aide-memoire, using only a few signs. With the advent of Islam in the seventh century A.D. writing began to be important because it gave visual form to the word of God. The Qur'an, the first book written in Arabic, played a key role in its development and the evolution of calligraphy. Princes and princesses practiced copying out the Sacred Book in beautiful script. .
             Precise practices were laid down. The writing instrument was the calamus, a sharpened reed still used by calligraphers. The method of sharpening it was most important, for it varied with different scripts. The ink was prepared with meticulous care and (like the calamus) in strict secrecy. .
             Ink was of many colors including black, brown, yellow, red, blue, white, silver, and gold. Black and brown inks were often used, since their intensities and consistencies could vary greatly. Many calligraphers provided instructions on how to prepare ink, while others implied that their recipes were guarded secrets.

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