While in the West calligraphy is considered mainly penmanship, in the East it is one of the most important fine arts. Calligraphers were an essential requirement for any self-respecting court, and very often princes and nobles practiced calligraphy themselves. Moreover, prohibition against figurative art in mosques, and an emphasis put on literacy and knowledge by Islamic leaders imparted further importance to the written word in the Islamic world.
Broadly speaking, there were two distinct scripts in the early centuries of Islam: cursive script and Kufic script. For everyday purposes a cursive script was employed, while Kufic script was used for religious and official functions. Kufic went out of general use about the 11th century, though it continued to be used in the decoration of monumental religious buildings. About 1000 A.D., a new script - Naskh - was established. This has remained the most popular script in the Arab world. The other main styles were Tholth, Reyhan, Mohaqqaq, Towqi, and Reqa. The Arabic script was adopted in Iran soon after the Muslim conquest, and was enhanced and developed by the Persians soon after. In the 13th century, the Iranian scribes invented Taliq, and in the next century, Mir Ali Tabrizi, the most famous calligrapher of the Timurid period, created Nastaliq, a combination of Naskh and Taliq. Nastaliq is closely connected to Persian poetry and has played an important role in communicating poetic concepts to readers. Under the Timurid and the Safavid rulers, calligraphy experienced its highest stage of development. By the 16th century, Shinn was among the forerunners of calligraphk study and production in the Islamic world. In the 17th century, it was followed by Esfahan and then by Qazvin. The most famous calligraphers of the Safavid court were Mir Emad and Alireza Abbasi.
ALI REZA ABBASI
Ali Reza Abbasi (1565-1634) is one of the most important calligraphers of the Safavid Period. He was born in Kashan. As soon as he was a remarkable calligraph, he left Kashan for Isfahan. He was introduced to Shah Abbas, the first court. Soon he was honored with the title "Abbasi". He was busy at Shah's court, but soon left the court.
In 1610 he returned to court and worked there until his death. He died in 1634. He was also a wonderful miniature. A part of the lobby of the Ali Qapu Palace was decorated with stuccoes by his beautiful, unique miniatures. Much of his work can be seen in Iranian museums and major museums of the West, such as Louver and Metropolitan Museums.
Mir Emad (1556-1615) was one of the most famous Iranian calligraphers. Nostalgic calligraphy reached its zenith through wonderful works by Mir Emad. He was born in Qazvin and he was also trained there.
Mir Emad traveled to Tabriz to develop his knowledge and his art. He studied Tabrizi with Mohammad Hossein. He was invited to the court of Shah Abbas 1. He tried to train his son and his daughter as calligraphers, but his relatives did not reach as high as Mir Emad. A part of the inscriptions of the Shekin-Lotfollah Mosque was implemented by Mir Emad.
There was a sever competition between Mir Emad and Ali Reza Abbasi. Ali Reza Abbasi, though he was a great artist and calligraph, but his enmity against Mir Emad followed the execution of Mir Emad. To defame Mir Emad, he was accused of being Sunni. Several people were the first to be executed by the order of Shah Abbas. His innocent son and Mir Emad were two of these unhappy persons.