Email: mahfouzi@mahfouzi-museum.com
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Founder of Speech

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent

The emergence of Islam demonstrated a great development in Arabian Peninsula where various Bedouin tribes lived. These tribes never settled i n an area had no sense of patriotism and had no relation with a specific society other than Mecca and Yemen where had show themselves as two pseudo-states in the south and the north. All Arabs, except Lakhmian and Ghassanian who were domiciled in Syria, lived separately from each other, had various accents and lacked any social or political unity.

With advent of Islam, all those scattered tribes got together quickly under the flag of Islam and formed a united nation with one religion, one language and one system.

All of a sudden, a united Islamic community with its own spiritual and materialistic feature emerged and caused all Arab nations, from southwest Asia to North Africa, become a united community.

Islam that had introduced itself by Holy Koran and its new and amazing training, affected non-Arab countries, like Iran, as well and had a drastic impact on the social and personal life of people.

Koran inscription began and continued since the prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) era.

The pivotal role of Koran with its various manuscripts that links the history of Islam from the past to the present, was formed from the outset of Islam and developed rapidly, so that it somewhat contained all Islamic sciences of that time.

When kufic script found a special place in the late3 rd Hijra century and turned in to an artistic –decorative writing alphabet, and by ever- increasing influence of Koran in social traditions, artistic talent of Muslims, on one hand and their submission for this divine book, led them to create the best and the most important Islamic artistic works of art. Koran's influence was to the extent it not only affected many books, manuscripts, poems and literature to handicrafts, also demonstrated Koran manifestations.''

Koran became focal point of all discussion and disputes among religions and Islamic sects, Muslims and followers of other religions as well as a base for quarrels of all those who called themselves Muslims.

Religious knowledge and holiness of Koran as well as its miraculous dimensions led Muslims to pay attention to safeguarding Koran manuscripts along with preserving its divine respect. Today all we know about initial art of Islamic bookmarking comes from the study of Koran manuscripts.

On the other hand, some writers and calligraphers have been engaged, professionally and earned their life by Koran inscription. Basically the more important a book, the more attention paid to its writing .Koran inscription was ultimate in precision.

Beside ecological conditions of Muslims in different centuries and their geographical diversity, Koran inscription and its diversity in calligraphy, decoration, type of paper and binding were directly affected by the political situation and the extent of credits given by the caliphs and kings. Therefore, koranic inscriptions may be applied, directly or indirectly, in studying many civilizations, sciences and skills.

With the furtherance of jurisprudence and Hadith (Narration) and by dividing religious disciplines into several new branches, other calligraphic styles sought to maintain koranic Art. In other words, the Muslims applied their experiences, obtained by Koran inscription, in other books, specially praying books, while combining such experiences with their literary renovations. An important part of illumination, decoration, book binding and other artistic styles are found in poetical works, praying books, narration and so on.

The present book, that cannot be called an introduction to Islamic Art and culture, but only tries to depict Muslims attempts in creating works of art indicating their spiritual love to Holy Koran and religious books. Needless to say, the book only contains some limited works of " Anthropology Encyclopedia center" and " the research Institute of History of Oriental Civilization" in other to pave the way for researches.

The book focuses on calligraphy in order to demonstrate the development of one of the most beautiful Islamic art.

With a glance at the history of calligraphy and writing, it must be said that during 1 st and 2nd Hijra Centuries, when Arabic alphabets were developing, calligraphy was not in the center of attention very much. As a result, it developed very slowly. However, Mamun and Barmecides are said to encourage calligraphy in the late 2nd Hijra Century. Naskhi script was preferred in correspondences but books were written by Kufic script. Kufic, learnt from Syrians, was the first Arabic script introduced a century before Islam by the Arab merchants who came from Hijra (present Kufa) and promoted it in Hijaz. Naskhi script was in common practice in Arabian Peninsula before Kufic script but was used in correspondences.

With regard to development of Kufic script by the 5th century, Koran inscription in Naskhi script is seen from the 4th century afterwards. Since the late 6th century, Naskhi script replaced Kufic script and the latter was merely used for inscription of chapter title. Developments of Naskhi script led to the fundamentals of Sols Script.

It is said Ibn Muqlah shirazi, a powerful minister in Abbasid era nicknamed Ghodvatolkottab, (killed in 328 Hira) invented a geometric alphabet names Mohaghagh script because of difficulties in Kufic script. He trained some people to write Koran by his invented script. He, then, invented Reyhan script and Sols Reyhan script, derived from Mohaghagh script.After that, he founded principles and fundamentals for Naskhi script. Since Naskhi script was based on arced and diagramed letters, the general public welcomed its clear and easy alphabet and because it was employed for Koran and praying books inscription, it gradually substituted Kufic script. However, chapter titles were written in Kufic script in order to seem more beautiful against its reading difficulty. Even some scripts such as Toqi script (for writing vital records and authorizations) and reqa script (for writing Orders) are attributed to Ibn Muqlah.

The first available Koran inscription in Naskhi script was done in Baghdad (391 Hijra) and the first Koran inscription in Mohaghegh script was performed in Iran (555 Hijra).

In The history of Islamic Art, some periods are distinguishable on account of employing Kufic script and its decorative alphabet. Moroccan and Andalusia styles, maintained in Morocco for Koran inscription, derived form Kufic script in Morocco before 5th Hijra Century, had been affected in lesser extent by prevalent calligraphy for non-Koranic scripts. Unfortunately, our knowledge regarding prevalent Arabic script in Spain and northwest Africa, prior to 5th Hijra Century, is mostly dependent on inscriptions.

There is Nastaliq script for Koran inscription in Iran during 9th Hija Century, but, it was merely used for literary and state correspondences.

The important point is that Arabic turned into a language of religion and civilization by the development of Islam and it was widely used in written and spoken language from the Atlantic Ocean to West India. Promoting Islam and its culture caused bookmaking techniques of the Middle East and Egyptian (before Islam), say skin and papyrus, became prevalent. Writing on skin was prevalent for at least five centuries in the eastern part and for eight centuries in the western parts of Islamic countries. Although using paper in the east dates back to ancient times, it was not applied, or at least was not used, for Koran inspection. The first paper Koran inscription dates back to the 4th Hijra century. Nowadays and after 14 centuries In the history of Koran inscription and in spite of availability of advanced printing and publishing industry, Koran and some other religious books are assigned to calligraphers and their bindings demonstrate nice illumination and artistic work.

It is as if Islamic motivation of Muslim artist makes them seek new and innovative techniques.

Despite our great distance with Islamic artists, we are trying to preserve such a classic rooted and traditional art and transfer it to the next generations.

I take this opportunity to appreciate and thank the valuable efforts of my friend, Dr. Hashemian , Head of "" The Research Institute of History of Oriental Civilization.", Who has been directly involved in the gathering , safeguarding and promoting Islamic heritage.

Undoubtedly, he is a pioneer in the preserving, safeguarding and disseminating written heritage and a great renovator who has contributed very much in collecting and organizing the works of art of Islamic civilization.

May God the Almighty bless all guardians of culture, Amen.

DR. Mohmmad Sadegh Mahfouzi
September 2008