It’s the last week of Ramadan, so we thought it was the perfect time to resurface a post from this time last year. Read on to learn more about the ancient and modern scripts of the Arabic language.

June 28th marked the beginning of the month-long holiday of Ramadan. While some of you may be fasting and celebrating with extravagant feasts, we thought it would be fun to showcase some great Arabic scripts that we have in our collection. Not only did we discover a beautiful array of vector and photo work, but we also took note of the various styles and designs of each script.

There are several different types of script, but just a handful of basic ones from which the entire Arabic language stems. For instance, the universal Arabic writing typeface on computers is technically called Naskh. The oldest script, meanwhile, is known as Kufic; typically, scripts that differ in shape and size can be from entirely different time periods. Read on and browse through our Arabic Scripts Lightbox to learn more about the language’s roots.

The Kufic Script

arabic writing

5 Variations of ‘Bismillah’ by emran

arabic statue

Detail of a Capitol with Arabic Carvings by Massimiliano Pieraccini

This script is one of the staples in architectural Arabic writing, not to mention one of the oldest. It’s primarily found in stone-carved structures, and defined by its sharp angular qualities, which differ slightly from the more popularly known modern Arabic scripts. It was birthed in the city of Kufa in Iraq, which is where the name comes from. This script can be found on older Ottoman coins, and perhaps more noticeably, on the Iraqi flag.

The Naskh Script

naskh arabic scripts

Decorative Element from Warsaw University by Darq

“Naskh” comes from the Arabic root “nasakha,” which means “to copy.” This way of writing uses thin lines and round letters, making it easier to read. It is the most widely used script among the Arabic, Persian, Pashto, and Sindhi languages. You’ll notice that this script has fewer markings than most of the others, which is part of why it’s so widely used. The Kufic script preceded Naskh, as this one was easier to write out. It’s also the computer type that you’ll find when using an Arabic keyboard.

The Thuluth Script

The Thuluth Script

Islamic Art by Ebtikar

Thuluth is an older Arabic script that existed primarily in medieval times. Like many of the older scripts, it was used on mosques and in Koranic texts because of its longhand elegant appearance. Something you’ll notice in these writings is the use of markings above and below each of the letters. These are called Harakat, and they demarcate vowel sounds. The placement of the Harakat changes from script to script; for Thuluth, they are placed further away from the letters, which allows for more room to be creative and play with the placement of the characters.

The Nasta’liq Script


Arabic Manuscript by Pedro Talens Masip

While Nasta’liq is sometimes adapted for Arabic, it is mainly used as a Persian-Arabic script. Its style is different from most, mainly because of its upward slant to the right. The short verticals and long strokes make for a cursive Persian script also considered to be one of the most elegant. It combines the writings of its predecessor, Ta’liq (a slightly older script used mainly in royal and daily correspondence), and Naskh. It was prominent in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Diwani/Diwani al Jali Script

Diwani/Diwani al Jali Script

Repetition of Ramadan in Diwani Jali by Emran

The only difference between Diwani and Diwani al Jali is the markings found in the latter. This cursive script was developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks. Its complex lines and close lettering are part of what distinguishes it from other scripts; both types of calligraphy are more difficult to read because of letters that intertwine. The actual rules for Diwani were always confined to the masters and exceptional students of the Sultan’s palace, making it a script that was even more inaccessible in the days of its popularity.

If you like this post, check out our guide to Chinese scripts!

This story was originally published on July 11th, 2013

To view more of our favorite Arabic scripts and other Ramadan-inspired images, check out our full Lightbox »


Top Image: Ramadan Kareem Text by Allies Interactive