Arabic calligraphy is characterized by flowing patterns and intricate geometrical designs. This fine writing-which the Alexandrian philosopher, Euclid, called a "spiritual technique", has poured forth from the pens of Arabs for the last thirteen centuries.
In a broad sense, calligraphy is merely handwriting, a tool for recording and communicating; but in the Arab world it is an art. an art with a remarkable history, a form with great masters and revered traditions. Beauty alone distinguishes calligraphy from ordinary handwriting; writing may express ideas, but to the Arab it must also express the broader dimension of aesthetics.
Historians disagree on both the birthplace and birthdate of Arabic writing, but the most widely accepted theory is that it developed from Nabataean, a west Aramaic dialect which served as the international language of the Middle East from about the fourth century, B.C., until the seventh century, A.D. As the new Islamic faith emerged and spread, the Arabic of the Arabian Peninsula replaced Aramaic as the lingua franca of the area.
  several consonants were written with the same symbol; only later was a system of dots above and below the letters devised in order to differentiate among them. Finally, in 933 A. D., the final version of the written Qur 'an-the one which is considered authoritative even to this day-was completed.

Just as the Christian monks of Europe in the Middle Ages spent lifetimes writing and illuminating religious manuscripts, so, too, did the Arab forebears devote their lives to producing elegantly handwritten copies of the Qur 'an. Because Islam's monotheism discouraged the representation of human or animal forms, the calligrapher found artistic expression in highly stylized intricate and flowing patterns. Over a period of centuries, calligraphy remained a supreme art form, replacing design, painting and sculpture. Calligraphy, filled not only palaces and mosques, but clothing, carpets, decorative items and literary works. The artist could draw from any number of styles-kufic, thuluth and being the best known, naksh-depending, often, on the purpose of that inscription.

From the Dome of the Mosque of the Rock in Jerusalem to the great mosques of Isfahan in Persia, calligraphy decorated, enhanced and even helped to visually unify the greatest Muslim structures. The art of Arabic calligraphy was employed in many European churches as well, such as in Saint Peter's in Rome. The representations of Christian saints that beautify the Capella Palatina in Palermo (Sicily) bear inscriptions in kufic, the early Arabic script. Today, the calligraphic tradition lives on throughout the Arab/Islamic world in religious, educational, governmental and commercial architecture.

  As we have noted elsewhere, the Arabs had a highly developed oral tradition in poetry even before they had an alphabet. Poetry was composed and committed to memory and was passed on in this manner from generation to generation. Indeed, in the beginning, even the Qur 'an, the Holy Book of Islam and the Arabic language's crowning literary achievement, was committed to memory by professional memorizers who attended the Prophet Muhammad. For fifteen years after his death, it existed only in oral form.
The Caliph 'Uthman, 644-656 A.D., fearing dangerous diversity in such a method, ordered that an official recension be undertaken. In the seventh century, only consonants and long vowels were written; the short vowels had to be inferred by the reader. But even more confusing was the fact that
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