The Quran is written in Arabic, and the language’s flowing script
is not just a way of writing, but also a form of art. Calligraphy grew
in part because of religious restrictions on representational art and
Muslim’s love of arabesque, the flowing repetition of multiplying
and interlaced patterns, which represents the infinite. When created in
calligraphy, a simple word or proverb can become an intricate, abstract
design so complex as to be almost unreadable.
The traditional instrument of the Arabic calligrapher is a reed pen called the qalam, which is used by dipping into a variety of colored inks. Some calligraphers weave together letterforms or separate words using different colors; in some cases, gold or silver leaf is applied.
Calligraphy is often pen and ink on paper, but it can also be woven into painting, carvings, and other two- and three-dimensional works. Modern artists continue to experiment with new materials and techniques, but they all revolve around love and reverence for the written word.
Throughout Pakistan’s history, government and businesses have often hired artists to paint calligraphic murals for buildings. Usually the source material is Islamic literature, but sometimes it is secular poetry. By the 1970s, Calligraphy was so popular nearly every artist in Pakistan had worked in the art form. While Calligraphy’s popularity has declined since the 1980s, it continues to have a central role in Islamic culture and Pakistani visual arts.