Calligraphy means “the art of writing Arabic script in a beautiful way (hüsn-i hat)”. The art of calligraphy has developed for centuries within the framework of an aesthetic understanding in accordance with this description. Encyclopedias defined the word calligraphy as “Fine writing, the art of writing in moderation, generally adhering to aesthetic rules”.
The calligraphy, first used by the Arabs, has become the common value of the Islamic ummah a few centuries after the migration and has gained the character of the Islamic calligraphy. Researches on Arabic inscriptions belonging to the centuries before Islam revealed that the Arabic writing system was originally a continuation of Nebat script, linked to the Phoenician script.
The Arabic script, which took various names before and after it spread to Mecca and Medina, first started to be called cezm. The writing, which took the name Medeni in Medina, was divided into two styles over time. The one whose vertical letters were long and inclined from right to left was called Mail, and the horizontal letters extensively called Meşk. After Hz Ali made Kufa the center, the writing made great progress here and gained the name Kufi. After this date, the word Kufi gained a general meaning and was used instead of the writings such as Mekki and Medeni from the birth of Islam to the Abbasid period.
The use of Kufi took 150 years during the Abbasid period. Ibn Mukle, the famous vizier and calligrapher of the Abbasids from Baghdad, was able to come up with a system that determined the main dimensions of writing thanks to his knowledge of geometry. He adopted dot, elif, and circle as a standard measure for the beauty of letters. Within these measures, he set forth the methods and rules of six kinds of scriptures called muhakkak, reyhani, sülüs, nesih, tevki and rika. All of these were called aklam-ı sitte. These six types of writing were developed by the Arabian Calligrapher Ali B. Hilan, who was also raised in Baghdad a century later. The writing, which progressed a little more every day on the path of development, became more beautiful with the efforts of the Abbasid Caliph Yakut Al-Musta`simi 200 years later.
After the Abbasids were erased from the stage of history in 1258, the superiority in writing passed into the hands of Turkish and Iranian calligraphers. Even though Iranian calligraphers wrote aklam-ı sitte according to their own understanding, they did not leave Yakut’s style. Ottoman Turks, on the other hand, established a superior school in the art of calligraphy that was impossible to reach. In the 16th century, Sheikh Hamdullah, who was regarded as the father of Ottoman-Turkish calligraphers, brought a beauty and maturity that could not be reached until then. During the reign of Sheikh Hamdullah, thuluth and naskh from aklam-ı sitted were spread rapidly because they were suitable for Turkish taste and only naskh calligraphy was started to be used in mushaf writing. Since those who were brought up after Sheikh Hamdullah acted with the effort to write like him, the success of the calligraphers became known as “He wrote like a Sheikh” or “Şeyh-i sani”. This continued for over 150 years.
In the second half of the 17th century, Hafız Osman put forward a distinctive calligraphy style by subjecting the style of Sheikh Hamdullah to a selection. While Hafız Osman’s path to the art of calligraphy continued with all its majesty, a century later, İsmail Zühdü and his brother Mustafa Rakım created their own accents inspired by his writings. As in the writings of thuluth and naskh, Mustafa Rakım reached the top of all calligraphy styles, especially with the perfection of stacking, and he succeeded in transferring Hafız Osman’s style from sulus to celi. Sami Efendi, who came after Mustafa Rakım, gave a new direction to Mustafa Rakım Efendi’s path by applying the thuluth letters of İsmail Zühdü to celi.
After Istanbul was conquered by the Turks, it became the immortal center of calligraphy. This fact, which is undeniably accepted in the whole Islamic world, has been expressed in the best way with the following words: “The Quran was sent down in Hejaz, it was read in Egypt, it was written in Istanbul.” The whole Islamic world rushed to Istanbul to learn the art of calligraphy.
Some of the Turkish calligraphers who became masters; Sheikh Hamdullah, Ahmed Karahisari, Hafız Osman, Mustafa Rakım, Mahmut Celaleddin Efendi, Yesarizade Mustafa İzzet Efendi.