Muslim Calligraphy in the Subcontinent

Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta

Calligraphy may be described of writing beautifully with an aesthetic approach. Most of the art historians tend to relegate calligraphy to the status of craft, but it is certainly not so in case of Islamic calligraphy particularly the on practised in Arabic, Middle East, Iran, Central Asian, Pakistan and India. With ban on representation of living beings, all artistic sensibilities of Muslim artist converged on the art of writing, initially writing the words of God or of the Holy Prophet himself as heard from his mouth. Thus right from the early days of the 7th century A.D., writing Arabic was considered a pious act, and honour and sanctity of the ‘pen’ or Qalam was held high. No doubt, Muslim calligraphy is a linear art as its lacks in three dimensional effects of an art work but still, it has its norms and rules of handling the subject matter which are as strict as the norms of perspective.

The roots of Islamic calligraphy in the subcontinent lay in Arab countries and Iran. But the land which now forms Pakistan had already experimented several styles and systems of writing before the Muslim calligraphy reached here. However, it did not take any nourishment from earlier experiments or existing systems. It even made no attempt to destroy the indigenous system of writing. Instead, it developed side by side the indigenous ones and excelled all of them both in popularity and diversity. It soon adopted itself to the needs of provincial and regional phonetics and beautified itself according to local tastes and trends. Till very recently, the Muslim calligraphy was very popular both with the Muslims and non-Muslims.

The reason for this popularity lies in the fact that in the Muslim society a calligrapher always enjoyed a high social status. His was a pious profession, a prolific source of income. The kings, princes, princesses and noblemen always paid due respect to calligraphers. They always learnt this art from the best available masters and, more often than not, they themselves were good calligraphers. Ladies of the harems also did not lag behind their men in learning this skill.

In their capacity as farman navees, they were responsible for scribing documents of the royal orders, looking after libraries and supervising the preparation of manuscripts for the royal library. Some were deputed to teach calligraphy to princes, princesses and courtiers. In return princes provided patronage to the calligraphers.

History of Islamic calligraphy in Pakistan and India can broadly be divided into five periods:

  1. Coming of the Tide, Arab Rule

From Muhammad bin Qasim to Mahmud of Ghazna
(93-413 A.H./712 – 1022 A.D.)

  1. The Expansion Sultanate period

From Mahmud of Ghazna to Zahiruddin Babur
(413-932 A.H./1022-1526 A.D.)

  1. The Zenith Mughal Period

From Babur to Bahadur Shah Zafar
(932-1275 A.H. / 1526-1857 A.D.)

  1. Period of Captivity British Period

(1857 – 1947)

  1. Re-emergence After Independence

(1947 to date)

Coming of the Tide

The territory which now comprises Pakistan received the light of Islam during the first and second centuries Hijra from two different direction, i.e. from of Baluchistan and Sindh in the South and from the Frontier Province in the north-west. This period extends from the Arab rule to the conquests of Mahmud of Ghazna. During this period the Islamic rule was confined to Makran, Sindh and Multan. The Muslim calligraphy of this period was limited to stone inscription and manuscripts, very few of which are now extant. About 1978 a few charred folios of Holy Quran were discovered from the great mosque in the now ruined Arab city of Mansura near Shahdadpur in Sindh. This city was founded by the Arabs in the 8th century A.D. The only other evidence of his period are a few stone inscriptions in museums at Peshawar and Bambhore. The one in the Peshawar Museum was originally discovered in 1907 A.D. from the Tochi valley. This bilingual imscription a cursive Greek and kufic Arabic has been dated 243 A.H. during the reign of Caliph Mutwakkil Abbasi. Some Kufic inscription (dated 259-394) A.H. / 872-1003 A.D), have also been excavated from the site of ancient Debal now called Bambhore. These inscriptions have been cut neatly in stone in a superb and elegant Kufic script of momu monumental character of this period.

These few facts indicate that Islamic Script, at least the angular Kufic, was introduced in Pakistan in the early centuries of Islam as a parallel development with the rest of the Islamic world.

Expansion Period

The real foundation of Muslim empire of the subcontinent was laid by Mahmud of Ghazna (388-421) A.H./98-1030 A.D.) after final conquest of Lahore in 413 A.H. / 1022 A.D. by the end of the Sultanate period in 932 A.H. / 1526 A.D., the Muslim rule  in almost the entire subcontinent was well established. This snap of about five hundred years saw the succession of seven dynasties:-

  1. Ghaznavids (413-582 A.H. / 1022-1186 A.D.)
  2. Ghorids (543-612) A.H. / 1148 – 1215 A.D.)
  3. Slaves (602-689 A.H. / 1205-1290 A.D.)
  4. Khaljis (689-720 A.H. / 1290-1320 A.D.)
  5. Tughluqs (720-815 A.H. / 1320-1412 A.D.)
  6. Sayyids (817-847 A.H. / 1414-1443 A.D.)
  7. Lodhis (855-932 A.H. / 1451-1451-1526 A.D.)

and a brief interlude of Suri Pthans (946-962 A.H/1539-1554 A.D.)

During the Ghaznavid period, we meet numerous specimens of quality calligraphy in the form of manuscripts written in suls, tughra, babar, naskh and kufic amez suls. The first two styles were confined to monumental material (pen, ink and paper) were freely provided, On the site of the present-day Hassan Abdal there were schools of religious teaching under the charge of the military officer named Sarugh. Muhammad bin Idris Basri has been reported as a good calligrapher, poet, expert of naskh and Suls styles and renowned for his Quranic calligraphy. In his early days he stayed in Lahore but later he proceeded Delhi with the Ghaznavid ruler. He presented the copy of the Quran which was calligraphed with black ink on thin paper with golden border. The headings of the manuscript were in suls while the rest was in naskh. Another famous calligrapher named Ibn-i-Idris joined the Ghazanvid ruler at Dehli. Sultan Ibrahim bin sultan Masud (492 A.H. / 1098A.D.) was himself a good calligrapher. Among others, Najibuddin Abu Bakr, Jamaluddin Lahore and Abu Hamid were the well-known calligraphers of this period. We also know some stone inscription of this period in Ahmad abad (Kachi Mosuq) and some other places which reveal that during this period Kufic script was used in its developed from while naskh and still in its infancy and Kufic monumental style was replaced with cursive monumental style. The best example of the same is the cenotaph of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. Fragments of inscriptions found among the ruins of the tombs of Sultan Masud I and Ibrahim at Ghazna prove the use of ornamental and simple varieties of nsakh in the Ghaznavid period. The Italian archaeological mission in Afghanistan had discovered already a slab of stone at Ghazna bearing the name of Masud III. The calligraphy of this inscription shows some similarities with another inscription in the basement storey of the Qutb Minar in Dehli. The same mission in Pakistan has also discovered a Ghaznavid period inscription of this period from the mausoleum of Ghiasuddin Pir Balkhi is also preserved in Lahore Museum. It is dated 543 A.H. /1148 A.D. The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi in the most visible architectural symbol of the new rising power.

The Ghaurids shifted the capital from Lahore to Delhi. Their buildings in Delhi, Ajmer, Badayun, Hansi, Hisar and Kaithal present us with a variety of monumental calligraphy in excellent quality. The first, rather the earliest known musalla with its characteristic features, is now located at Khatti Chore, District Khanewal in the Punjab in the the shape of an elaborate arched niche put up in the centre of the perimeter wall of the mausoleum of Khaliq Wali. The monument, it might be emphasized, is unique on the soil of Pakistan. It is entirely built in brick and faced with cut-brick ornamentation in the beginning of the 7th A.H. / 13th A.D. century by a governor of Multan under Shihabuddin Ghauri.

Qutbuddin Aibak and Iltutmish

A close study of the calligraphy of the inscription on the lowest, second and fourth bands of the basement storey as well as on the second, third and fourth storey’s for the Qutb Minar the inscription on the gateway of Sultan Ghauri’s tomb at Manikpur, and inscription on the mihrab originally from Okhla, now preserved in Delhi Museum of Archaelogy, the inscription of the central arch of the Arhai Din Ka Jhonpra Mosque, Ajmeer and over the eastern entrance of the Jami Masjid, Badayun, reveal that although they are all done in suls, sometimes with ornamental flourishes, they show traces of Kufic characteristics. This style was also practiced in this region along with the whole of the Islamic world since the 7th/13th century. The bilingual inscription which refer to the erection of a gateway by Shamshir Khan of Rohtak pargana during Akbar’s period in the year 973/1565 received from Nawab ka Kotla, now exhibited in Lahore Museum (M-712) in one of the best example of the same script We may call this monumental script as Kufic amiz suls or the script of Mamluk dynasty. The monumental script as Kufic amiz suls or the script of Mamluk dynasty. The inscriptions of Qutb Minar (687 A.H. / 1191. A.D.) and Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque (592 A.H. / 1195-96 A.D.) are good examples of calligraphy of this period in the Mamluk style, whereas the inscriptions on the mausoleum of Iltumish are in refined Kufic amiz suls. In the beginning of the 6th century A.H., another calligrapher at Lahore named abul-Hasan Ali bin Umar Lahore has been reported. Sultan Nasiruddin Muhammad (644-664 A.H. / 1246-1265 A.D.) was himself a good calligrapher of the Holy Quran. The entrance on east side of the mausoleum of Nasiruddin Mahmud 1231 A.D., Delhi also represents Mamluk style having a monumental character. Two other known calligraphers of the Slave and Ghaurid dynasties are Qazi Fakharuddin and Malik Qawamuddin. Sultan Balban used to patronize calligraphers by paying them liberally for writing the Quran. His son Khan Shaheed was a good calligrapher and is claimed to have possessed an album of 20,000 couplets scribed in the handwriting of the best calligraphers of his time. We also find some tughras on the royal decress of Belban. Coins of this period and a few books including Tajul Madassir, Tarikh-i-Fakhr-i-Mudabbir, Adabul Harb vash-Shajat, Tabaqat-i-Naziri, Fowad-ul-Fawad, Tuhfatul – Wasilin, etc., for example were calligraphed in prevalent styles. The epigraphical evidence of the Balban period is now available on the tomb of Sheikh Sadan Shaheed (d. 674 A.H.) in district Muzaffargarh. Seven merlons decorated with cut and carved bricks in floriated Kufic with slightly cursive can still be seen in this monument.

Khalji Sltans

The reign of the Khalijis constitutes one of the most glorious periods in the development of architecture, literature and poetry in the subcontinent. Malik Alauddin and Shihabuddin were two well-known calligraphers of the Khalji period. Ziauddin Barni has mentined in his Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi a few illustrated, illuminated and profusely decorated manuscripts. Coins of the same period were scribed with legends in naskh and suld. One inscription of mughisuddin in Bayana is in excellent suls.

This period saw the culmination of bold, vigorous, elegant type of naskh and further development of the kind of naskh leading to the beautiful tughra style of Bengal. The styles of calligraphy represented by the inscription of this period generally fall into three classes, that is, Dehli imperial style, Bengal style and provincial style. The Delhi imperial style of the (Kufi amiz suls) which is characterized by boldness, vigour and elegance, reached its climax in the calligraphy of the Alia Darwaza inscription built in 710 A.H. / 1310 A.D. The development of Bengal style shows some features tending to tughra and have an affinity with the style of Bengal. We may refer here the inscription from Badayun dated 700 A.H. / 1300 A.D.. Its calligraphy in naskh exhibits a tendency of arranging the letters in such a manner as to produce a decorative effect. This tendency is particularly observed in the arrangement of the vertical shafts in a series of lines like a row of arrows, a prominent characteristic of a variety of tughra, late developed in Bengal. The epigraphs of the Rohtas Fort near Jehlam are good examples of the same style. The artistic merits of the style, in places away from the capital, diminish in proportion to their distance. “The script being fairly good at Hansi, becomes somewhat rugged at Bayana and altogether clumsy at Patna and Khuldabad. This remark by Dr. Yazdani about the provincial calligraphic style of Khalji period is only partially true.

Tughluq Period

Sultan Muhammad Tughluq was himself a calligrapher. According to Barni, during this period libraries were a necessary adjunct of mosques in every city. According to Farishta, Tughluq princes were given regular education in calligraphy.

Specimens of calligraphy of this period are found in various cities of the subcontinent e.g. the tomb of Shah Rukn-i-Alam at Multan is a good example of Kufic amiz suls on wooden panel. The alif or the upper portion of vertical storkes is thick while the lower portion or bends are slightly thin which represent the provincial type. This style was popular throughout the 13th and 14th  centuries. It has been used extensively to decorate the tomb of Bahauddin Zakariya and Shah Rukh-i-Alam. The ornamental Kufic amiz suls of the provincial type of this period is represented in the following inscription;

  1. The inscription dated 772 A.H. / 1370-71 A.D., Jami Masjid Kapadwanj, Gujrat (Inida) represents local influence; and Bhasi script influence on some characters of diwani or ta’liq is noticed.
  2. Inscription dated 721 A.H. / 1321 A.D. above the inner gateway of the northern entrance of the Jami Majid at Bharoach, Bombay, bears the name of Ghiasuddin Tughluq Shah.
  3. Inscription dated 723 A.H. / 1222 A.D. on tablet fixed into the wall of Hazrat Yaqub Dargaha near Kalyani.
  4. Persian inscription dated 770 A.H. / 1368 A.D. refers to the construction of a Mosque in the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq, inscribed by Hassan Jarjees, found at D.G. Khan, Pakistan, now in Lahore Museum (no.I-85)


During the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq one finds mainly three styles of calligraphy used in the inspcripations of the period, namely plain naskh, ornamental Kufi amiz suls, and Suls.

Sayyids and Lodhis

The Sayyid emperors mostly followed the traditional style of calligraphy for their inscriptions. Though their buildings were not vigorous or majestic but these were graceful. The style of calligraphy which was started in the Ghauri period applied to monuments with some deference and a different teachnique. They used wooden mould for the calligraphy and bold work in stucco fixed particular panels.

One of the examples of this style exist at the tomb of Musa Ahangar in Lahore. It was in vogue until the reign of Akbar. The inscription on the tomb of Khalilullah in Bidar (Karanatke), which dates back to the Bahmani Dynasty of the Deccan, is beautifully calligraphed in overlap suls against the foliate background by Mughisul-Qari al-Shirazi, having influence of famous Turkish calligrapher Yaqut Musta’simi. The inscription ca 983 / 1575-76 calligraphed by Hussain bin Ahmad Chishti in suls with Turkish influence in another example.

Maulaha Jamali Kamboh and his son Sheikh Gadani Kamboh were the two renowned calligraphers of the short-lived Lodhi dynasty. This dynasty also established several libraries in the country. There are a few menumental inscriptions of this period in Bayana. One inscription done is suls of Sikandar Shah’s period was at the graveyard of Shah Fazl at Thanesar Mosque, but is now in the Lahore Museum. It is during this period that the famous calligrapher Abdullah Harvi (880 A.H. / 1475 A.D.) reached India where he is said to have calligraphed 45 copies of the Quran. Duirng the Sultanate period Kufi amiz suls or Mamluk style of calligraphy prevailed in the Islamic monuments of the Musslim world. Naskh was used, but not in very refined form for copying manuscripts. But the calligraphy of the Quran achieved very high standard. Particularly, the calligraphy of the 7th / 13th century Quran bears good position as compared to the calligraphy of the earlier period. One interesting innovation of the Sultante period, is the introduction of a new style of Arabic writing known as Khatt-i-Bahar (fig. 01) As a style of writing it was not confined to the copying of the Quran but its use in Bengal and Khatti-i-Bahar was very popular. The earliest dated manuscript of Khatt-i-Bahar bear the date 676 A.H. / 1277 A.D. which takes us back at least to the period of Balban (664-686 A.H. / 1265-1287 A.D.) of the Slave Dynasty. This script originated in Pakistan, and it was only in the 9th century A.D. that it leap out of its boundaries and reached Central Asia where it was named Suls-i-Turkistani. Bahar style of writing appears to have originated as a result of interaction of suls and naskh. Eric Schroedir derives it from khatti-i-Badi. ‘Dr. Waheed Qureshi calls it the branch of ta’liq which maintained its working relation with Kufi’s as well as naskh script, though keeping all the time its own individuality. However, it is more angular than circular. With the exception of two letters jim and ain, no letter is written below the horizontal line.

Zenith of Muslim Calligraphy

Mughal Period (932-1275 A.H. / 1526-1857 A.D.)

The Mughal rule saw the golden period of calligraphy in the subcontinent. Calligraphy was an inseparable part of the cultural life of Mughal India. Due to higher rate of literacy among the royalty and nobility, writing and copying of books of quality became a hobby of every person of means. Every new building was decorated with calligraphic panels. Only calligraphers were appointed for the translation of official business; and interiors of public and private buildings were decorated with the work of master calligraphers. Scholars having proficiency in calligraphy were appointed as tutors of princes and princesses and children of nobility. Contact and conflict with non-Muslim communities forced and encouraged Muslim scholars to write profusely and competitively. Thus every mosque, sanctuary and school became a centre of book production. All these factors led to the munificent patronage of calligraphers by all classes of society and enhanced their social prestige.

This is the golden period of Muslim calligraphy in South Asia and by far the most prosperous and productive one in the development of Muslim arts and crafts in the subcontinent. Both at the head and tail end of this dynasty we find kings Babur and Bahadur Shah Zafar as renowned in calligraphy. The former also invented an popularized his own style which Mulla Abdul Qadir Badayuni calls Khatti-i-Baburi. Jahangir, Shah Jahan and his four sons were good calligraphers. One of them, Prince Dara Shikoh, had a master calligrapher named Abdul Rashid Dailami as his tutor. The result of this patronage was that a galaxy of master calligraphers and artists from Iran and Central Asia as well as the local talent were attracted towards the Mughal Court. Large royal libraries containing big collections of books were established. Akbar established an independent department, called Aina-i-Taswir Khana, specially meant for compiling, decorating and illustrating books. It worked under the supervision of Khawaja Abdus Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali Tabriz., Monumental inscriptions were scribed on numerous monuments. A number of such inscriptions in Lahore belonging to Akbar’s period (e.g., Unchi Masjid, Bhati Gate), Begum Shahi Mosque, stone inscription of Masjid Kharasian, now in Lahore Museum were calligraphed by the Court calligrapher of Jahangir, Mir Abdullah Mushkeen Qalam. The same artist had also calligraphed another inscription on the cenotaph of Shah Begum, wife of Prince Saleem, in nasta’liq script dated 1012 A.H. / 1604 A.D in Khusrau Bagh at Allahabad, in the same pattern. Inscriptions dating back to Shah Jahan (Majid Wazir Khan and Maktib Khana in Lahore fort) and Aurangzeb (Badshahi Mosque), etc., are still extent, Besides, calligraphy was introduced and popularized on pottery, metalware, glazed tiles, papier mache, wood, etc. in Maharashtra Bidar, Golcanda Hyderabad and Bijapur. The work of Iranian masters under Turkish influence is a good example of the art that exists in the Golcanda Fort Makkiyat inscription by calligrapher Muhammad of Isfahan in 976 A.H. / 1559 A.D.

Nasta’liq script was introduced in the subcontinent for the first time during the Mughal period. This script was practiced at Panhala in an inscription relating to gateway and a reservoir by a noble, Malik Sikandar (917 A.H. / 1511-12 A.D.) It shows that in the 16th century the calligraphers of Dehli had accepted influence of the Deccan school of calligraphy. Soon, this younger, elegant and robust script almost replaced the naskh style which was confined henceforth either to writing of the Quran or the scripts of some other local languages such as Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu, etc. shikasta which was used for royal decrees, poetry, corresponding etc. was introduced and developed by Mirza Muhammad Hussain, the court calligrapher of Shah Jahan. Mirza Muhammad Ja‘far and Jalaluddin Yusuf of the same period were master of this style. The calligraphers of the Mughal period were greatly influenced by the Iranian experiments of the Mughal period were greatly influenced by the Iranian experiments and style, particularly in the form of circles, dots, composition and orthographical aids. The nasta ‘liq script reached it zenith as it developed technically and improved aesthetically. It was during this period that some of the master calligrapher were given the honour of letting them have their portraits at the end of the book calligraphed by them. Such portraits of Mirza Muhammad Hussain Kashmiri, Abdur Rahim al-Harvi and Mir Abdullah Mushkeen Qalam are well-known. This is the supreme honour which a country can give to its calligraphers. Some of them held the position of librarians in the royal libraries. Shah Jahan awarded Abdul Haq the title of Amanat Khan and also appointed him to a fairy high rank in the Mughal aristocracy. Amanat Khaan who was then probably in his sixties began to use his new title almost immediately as is known from his dated seal in one of the manuscripts surviving from the Imperial Library. Since he had designed the calligraphy for the tomb of Shah Jahan’s grandfather, it seems that he had been raised to the status of imperial calligrapher.

Such a patronage provided livelihood to calligraphers. This encouraged many scholars, artists and calligraphers to migrate from Iran and Central Asia and settle here with their kith and kin. Mir Abdullah Muskeen Qalam in Jahangir’s period, his son Mir Muhammad Saleh, and Abdur Rashid Dailam of Shah Jehan’s period were true examples of the same patronage.

Thus, calligraphy was practised almost everywhere in the Mughal empire. But gradually there developed certain regional centers outside. Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. Thatta in Sindh, Lahore and Multan in the Punjab and Kashmir and Deccan emerged as great centres of Muslim calligraphy. Some inscriptions in tughra style have been noticed in Gaur, Bengal, for example, one inscription record the construction of a citadel gateway by the ruler Borbak Shah, dated 871 / 1466-67, and another in Karnataka Jami Masjid inside the fort dated 985 A.H. / 1577-78 A.D. Each centre has the characteristics of its own region. Suffice here to say that Mir Masum Bhakkari (d. 1019 A.H. ) Mir Mahmud (d. 962 A.H.), Sheikh Mir Muhammad (d. 900 A.H. / 1582 A.D.) Sheikh Abdul Wahab (d. 990 A.H. / 1582 A.D.), Sheikh Bayazid Purani (d. 900 A.H. / 1494 A.D.) , Qutbuddin b. Mahmud, Abdur Raheem B. Hafiz Muhammad Rashid Siddique, Ahmad Ansari, Hassan b. Rukan Din, Tahir bin Hassan Sayyed Ali, Shaikh Muhammad Fadhil, Abdul Ghafoor Abdullah Darvesh Ali, Muhammad Ahsan, Habibullah, etc. are renowned calligraphers from Sindh, whereas sayyed Himayatullah Bulhari and Zakariya bin Ustad Muhammad bin Jiwan Multani (1009 A.H. / 1600 A.D.) were renowned calligraphers from Multan. Kashmir had a series of its brilliant calligraphers who were attached to the Mughal Court. Among these Muhammad Hussain Kashmiri Zarrin Qalam is well-known. The stone inscription (dated 976 A.H. / 1568 A.D.) from a well at Jandiala Sher Khan in district Sheikhupura seems to be in his style in Nasta’liq… and paper. They did calligraphy on a variety of material such as wood, papier mache and painting The reasons for rapid and tremendous development of the art of calligraphy during the Mughal period are not far to seek. The emperors patronized and practised this art; princees and princes learnt it from great masters, and countries and rich men followed their masters. As the libraries developed and the number of madrasahs increased the need for writing new and copying old books arose. This was a sure means of dissemination of knowledge and education.

The Mughal emperor, at times, were themselves good calligraphers. Babur himself was one of them. Humayun kept his library beside him even when he was fleeing for his life. Akbar was a great collector of books. He appointed regular staff to translate into Persian books from other languages and illustrate and illuminate them. Jhanagir, a great art lover and art connoisseur, was the first to give the little of Amirul-Umara to a Calligrapher named Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, and appointed him superintendent of the Royal Library. Similarly, all the four sons of Shah Jahan, particularly Aurangzeb and Dara Shukuh were accomplished calligraphers. Their sister Zaibun-Nisa, was also a good calligrapher. Important courtiers were also patrons of arts, letters and calligraphy, Bairam Khan, his son Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, Mun’im Khan Khan-i-Khanana, Faizi and Abdul Fazal outshone all others. Each of them had his own great collection of books and employed a number of writers, translators, copyists, calligraphers, book illustrators, book decorators, binders, etc. Besides, in far off places there were good libraries such as the library of Deccan, libraries of Muhammad Tahir, Wajihuddin and Sheikh Farid Bukhari in Gujrat and that of Sayyid Baghdadi in Surat. All this enthusiasm led to enhance book activities which provided livelihood and chance for imporved career to a number of calligraphers.

There was a post of librarian or kitabdar during the Mughal reign. Each type of documents contained a characteristic stamp or cancellation by the Kitbdar. On coronation days, selected books from the royal library were presented before the emperor who used to sign and stamp each of these with his own hand with the words arz deeda shud.

Mulla Wahidi and Muhammad Ali Kitabdar of Babur’s period; Sheikh Muhammad Manju and Mulla Surkh of Humayun’s period; Mulla Bilal, Inayatullah, Khawaja Sharif and Muhammad Hussain Khasmiri of Akber’s period; Muktab Khan, Abdullah Mushkeen Qalam and Mir Buzarg of Jahangir’s time; Abdullah’s son Mullah Saleh, Abdullah al-Hussain and Rahid Dailmi of Shah Jehan’s periods;and Sayyid Ali Jawahar  Raqam and Abul Fateh Kmil Khan of Aurangzeb’s period, etc. are only a few brighter among countless stars which from the vast galaxy of calligraphy of the Mughal period.

Till the 15th century A.D. Hindus of the subcontinent were still using birch-bark for writing their books. Paper was used only on the western Indian Coast near Gujrat. Muslims introduced use of paper for writing books and popularized it. It revolutionized the book activities. Use of finer quality of paper not only ensured better quality of books but also encouraged the painters, illustrators, decorators, ect., to show their worth in the form of book decorations. Paper of quality (mansinghi) and silky paper were supplied by Sialkot which, otherwise tool, was a renowned literary centre. Rangpur, Karianwala and Nikapur, the suburbs of Sialkot were renowned for paper manufacturing.

Akbar constituted a special branch where all crafts of book-making were taught. There was 111 illustrators in this office. By 1641 A.D., there were about 24000 manuscripts available in the Royal Library.

A book written during Akbar’s reign, was and is still considered to be a standard work of book production. During the 10th / 16th century, people started collecting albums of specimens of calligraphy by eminent calligrapher. Numerous such albums are still extant in several museums of Europe, America and Asia. Muraqqa‘-i-Jahangiri, and album prepared by Jahangir, contained numerous specimens of Mir Ali Harvi and was decorated by the artists of the Court. Similarly, ‘Muraqqa ‘-e-Dara Shukuh contained specimens of calligraphy by Abdullah Al-Husainin. A small album belonging to Bakhtawar Khan (d. 1096 A.H. / 1685 A.D.) and containing specimens of calligraphy by Sayyed Ali Jawahar Raqam, Muhammad Amin Mashahdi, Muhammad Baqir, Muhammad Ismail Aqil, etc., is preserved in Dehli Museum. Similarly, a beautiful album of calligraphic specimens of important calligraphers of the Mughal court (Akbar to Augrangzeb) is now in the Lahore Museum.

Besides the royal patronage, the art of calligraphy owes its development to religious institutions i.e. mosques, sanctuaries, educational institutions and mausoleums. Besides their normal functions, there were attached with them schools where calligraphy was a compulsory subject. Most of the scholars, religious leaders, saints and artists were themselves good calligraphers.

Muslim architecture in India and Pakistan reached its zenith during the Mughal period. Most of the monuments of this period at Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Delhi, Gwaliar, Lahore, Kashmir, etc. contained stone inscriptions in all prevalent style --- suls, naskh, Kufic, ta‘liq, nasta‘liq, etc. Most of these inscriptions were cut in marble slabs and words were filled in with black stone. Examples of calligraphy in glazed tiles, fresco, stucco and stone in relief and on wood also abound.

During the Mughal period, their developed certain centres of calligraphy. Lahore topped the list. Emperor, princes and nobles made it their residence. Scholars, artists and calligraphers were attracted towards this city. Abdullah al-Hasni, Miran Sayyid Sadr, Abdur Rashid Dailami, Maulana Munir Lahori, etc., all renowned calligraphers, resided in Lahore at least for a part of their lives, Once when Prince Salim entered Abdul-Fazl’s house at Lahore he noted that about 40 calligraphers were writing the tafseer of the Holy Quran. Several famous manuscripts such as Yusuf Zulaikha and Zafar Nama scribed by Abdur Rahim; Jami-ut-Tawarikh of Rashiduddin Fazalullah were written and calligraphed in Lahore. There are numerous monuments in Lahore on which the Mughals have left their beautiful inscriptions in different styles. Lahore Fort, Begum Shahi Majid, Tomb of Anarkali, Mausoleums of Jahangir and Asaf Khan, Masjid Kharasian, Masjid Muhammad Saleh Kamboh, Masjid Wazir Khan, Masjid Kharasian, Masjid Muhammad Saleh Kamboh, Masjid Wazir Khan, Chauburji Gateway, Gulabi Bagh Gateway, the Mosque and Mausoleum of Dai Anga, etc., bear good examples of the Mughal period calligraphy in stone and glazed tiles.

The Mughuls had learnt the chronogram system from Iran. They applied this system aesthetically to mosaic tiles in fresco work as well as in divisions for the application of inscriptions. During the Mughal period, suls and nasta’liq styles of calligraphy were applied to these monuments and the selection of the inscriptions conformed to the nature of monuments. Often selective verses from surahs al-Hashr, Nuh, Al-Muminun, Taha, Tauba, Yaseen, Ibrahim, al-Mulk, Waqia, al-Baqara, Al-i-Imran. Ayat-ul-Kursi, were calligraphed for the purpose. Another point to be noted is that the families of artisans and calligraphers like Mir Abdullah Mushkeen. Qalam, his two sons Mir Muhammad Saleh and Muhammad Mumin, Latifullah Mohaddis and Ustad Ahmad resided in Lahore. The city of Lahore was divided into sections and each section was reserved for a specific craft or art.

During the Mughal period, even non-Muslims could not remain unaffected by this wonderful medium of expression. Many Hindus artists attained the distictions of being renowned calligraphers. Raja Todar Mal, Pandit Jagan Nath, Chandar Bhan Munshi, Rai Manohar Das, Rai Pran Nath, Lacchman Singh, Ghayyuri, Raja Unaid Singh, Raja Sher Singh, Raja Anand Ram Lala Durga Parshad, Shankar Nath and numerous others mastered in various styles of Muslims calligraphy, particularly in nasta ‘liq and shiksta style.

With the downfall of the Mughals and occupation by the British, the art of calligraphy, along with other arts also declined. Royal patronage waned and the nobility was incapacitated. Tastes also changed. With the invention of the printing press, a final blow was delivered to this art. Paradoxically, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the press also provided livelihood to countless calligraphers. But what was art, gradually turned into a craft. For sometimes, states and their nawabs and rajas turned out to be the sole protectors of this art. But this could not go for long. Though the British Government gradually tried to replace Arabic and Persian with English in official matters, yet they were wise enough to realize the social and religious significance of these languages and their scripts for the Muslim society. The Fort William College, Calcutta and Dehli College did everything to protect and patronize these languages and their scripts.

Most the Mughal period calligrpahers were masters of seven styles, but in the early 20th century, most of the calligraphers were skilled in one style i.e. nasta’liq. Due to limited patronage and appreciation, only Lucknow, Dehli and Lahore could retain their identity as centres of calligraphic activities. But due to lack of communication between the three cities, each developed its own peculiarities in the field of calligraphy and finally there turned out to be three different schools of calligraphy.

Lucknow School

Though the Lucknow school proper started with Nawab Shujaud Daula
(1166-1188 A.H. / 1752-1774 A.D.), the third Nazim and first Wazir of Awadh, yet its real development started under Nawab Asafud-Daula (1188-1213 A.H. / 1774-1798 A.D.) In every field of culture including calligraphy, the Nawabs of Awadh tried to create a mini-Mughal state of Lucknow. Most of the calligraphers of Lucknow School were followers of Rashid Dailmi. Prominent among them were Munshi Chandar Bhan (d. 1083 A.H. / 1672 A.D.), Mir Muhammad Ata Hussain Murassa‘ Raqam, Hafiz Nur Ullah Lahori, Qazi Niamat Ullah Lahori, Hafiz Ibrahim and his sons Hafiz Saeeduddin, Munshi Abdul Majid and Munshi Hadi Ali, Pandit Munsa Ram Kashmiri, Munshi Shamasuddin Ijaz Raqam etc. Besides Munshi Hamid Ali, Muhammad Ashraf and Qul Muhammad were also renowned in naskh style.

During the same period manuscripts were prepared in skikasta style. Hindu writers especially those belonging to the Kaisth families, patronized the shikasta style of writing. Among them, Lachmi Narain, Kanwal Das, Kanwar Prem Kishore, Rai Anand Ram, Pandit Raja Umaid Singh, Luchman Singh, Lala Durga Parshad, Rai Sidh Singh, Shankar Nausari, Shankar Nath, are well-known.

Munshi Chander Bhan of Lucknow School was a disciple of Abdur Rashid Dailmi in nasta‘liq script and Kifait Khan in shkista script. Chander Bhan died at Lucknow in 1083 A.H./1672 A.D. He contributed the famous manuscript of Chahar Chaman. Next to him was Mir Ata Hussain who was the author of Chahar Darvish. During the reign of Nawab Asafud-Daula the art of calligraphy flourished a great deal. Three prominent figures in calligraphy came to Lucknow namely, Hafiz Nur Ullah, Abad Ullah Baig and Qazi Naimat Ullah Lahori, all from Lahore. Nawab Asafud-Daula gave them a high status. Qazi Naimat Ullah was appointed as tutor of Prince of Awadh for lessons in calligraphy. Hafiz Nur Ullah, on the other hand, was appointed as court calligrapher of Awadh.


Munshi Hamid Ali Murassa‘ Raqam was the disciple of Munshi Hadi Ali. The latter had learnt the art of calligraphy from Mir Akbar Ali of Kalpi. At the same time he learnt nasta’liq from Hafiz Ibraim who had acquired this art from his father Hafiz Nur Ullah. Hakim Mahmud Ali Khan Mahir has mentioned that Munshi Hamid Ali Murassa‘ Raqam was the disciple of Hafiz Ibrahim. However, the preface of Qat’at Jawahar Speaks that Munshi Hadi Ali was a teacher. Abdul Halim Sharar, who was a contemporary of Munshi Hadi Ali was a teacher. Abdul Halim Sharar, who was a contemporary of Munshi Hamid Ali Murassa‘ Raqam, writes:

“At present, in nasta’liq, Munshi Shamsuddin Ijaz Raqam and Munshi Hamid Ali Murassa ‘Raqam are famous. Both are pupils of Munshi Hadi Ali. In Addition  to these two, Munshi Sarab Singh Diwana, Mian Wajih Ullah and Muhammad Abbas are well-known calligraphers. Among Kaisths and Kashmiris, the better known calligraphers are the pupil of Munshi Sarab Singh Diwana and they outnumber others. Among the pupil of Hafiz Ibrahim, the famous ones are his sons; Sa’dud-Din and Abdul Majid Kharita Nigar. Besides, Munshi Hadi Ali, and Munshi Pandit Mansa Ram Kashmiri, held a distinguished position in tughra writing besides nasta ‘liq. Munshi Shamasuddin Ijaz Raqam was a pupil of Munshi Hadi Ali. He wrote several booklets on the art of calligraphy. Most of the calligrapher of today are his pupils. He also worked in Gulab Singh (now the Government Printing Press), Lahore. There he worked on a new style which is called Directory or the Official style. Munshi Abdul Ghani Nathu Katib left behind him a great name by virtue of a very notable achievement. His chief pupil was Munshi Din Muhammad who is still alive and active, though very old.


Munshi Hamid Ali, a disciple of Hafiz Ibrahim and disciple and son of Qazi Naimat Ullah, Maulana Muhammad Ashraf, Maulavi qul Muhammad, Mirza Ahmad Ali bin Mirza Khair Ullah Farman Navis and the disciple of Mirza Khair Ullah, Naimat Ullah, Khalifa Bakhsh Ullah and Mir Nisar Ali were the prominent figures in naskh script.

Calligraphers of Shikasta Script

Mirza Ahmad Tabatabi Kitabat Khan, Mir Sayyed Ali Khan, Haji Qasim, Hafiz Muhammad Khurshid, Muhamad Nasiruddin and Muhammad Baha Ullah were good calligraphers in shikasta style. Allama Tafazzul Hussain Khan was also a master of Shikasta script. Hafiz Muhammad Baqir Zarrin Qalam, Munshi Abdul Latif and Munshi Abdur Rehman were also good calligraphers.

Commercial Period

East India Company established printing press at Fort William, Calcutta, This was the same period when the type of nasta’liq was introduced by Gilchrist, and the development at the press introduced manual arts. Nawab Ghaziuddin Hyder (1814-1827), started his own printing press. Through this press some well-known books (such as Haft Qulzam) were printed. But most of the people rejected this type, although it had given a base to other private printers. Haji Mustafa Khan established Matba-i-Mustafai and printed rare books with paper made at Kalpi. This tempt some of the calligraphers to come back to the field of calligraphy. Thus, copy writing was started as a tough competition. The art of calligrapher gradually rejuvenated and this started a race among printing presses for services for the master calligrapher. Of course, the standard was not the same as before.

At the same time Mataba-i-Masihai was set up at Kanpur, while another press was owned by Muhammad Hussain. After this Haji Abdur Rehman established Matba-i-Nizami at Kanpur and Munshi Rahmat Ullah became the founder of Nami Press. Munshi Blika Ram Ghur Licknvi was the calligrapher of Nami Press.

Khati –i-Ma‘kus

During the stone plate printing, at times some words lost their original shape or were demage or cracked, required to be correct in their positions with retouching. Hence the art Khatti-Ma‘kus was invented at Lucknow.

At the initial stage his practice was restricted to retouching or correction on stone but after sometime many calligraphers of Lucknow were capable of reproducing the matter on the stone in ma’kus style. Books and posters were also calligraphed in ma kus directly. Munshi Ja’far Hussain was a good ma’kus Navis who worked in Matba-i-Mustafai. During his period, severalof his students adopted ma’kus style. Munshi Sayyed Ali Hussain was another calligrapher of the same style. This style of calligraphy was shifted to Lahore within a short passage of time.

Dehli School

During the Sultanate period two major changes occurred. Firstly, the capital was shifted from Lahore to Dehli. Secondly, the Islamic state expaned from Dehli to Central Asia. For the same reason, the calligraphers, painters and other artists shifted from Lahore to Dehli. In the meantime several monuments were built in Dehli and adorned with the Quranic calligraphy, the best example of which is Qutb Minar and Tomb of Sultanate Iltutmish.

During the same period, not only the monuments but the metalwere, glazed pottery, papier mache and wooden objects were also adorned with the same magnificent art. A number of manuscripts were produced. Maulana Shabbirddin Harvi (952 A.H. / 1545 A.D.) lived in Dehli during the reign of Babur and Calligraphed the epigraphs of the tomb of Hazart Nizamuddin Aulia. During the reign of Humayun (937-963 A.H. / 1530-1556 A.D.) The famous name of the Dehli School of calligraphy include Muhammad Hussain Kashmiri Zarrin Qalam, Raja Todar Mal, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, Mirza Aziz Kokaltash, Muhammad Yusuf Kabuli, Abdul Rahim Ambarin Qalam, Mir Masum Kandhari, Hussain bin Ahmad Chishti, Abdullah Mushkin Qalam. Prince Dara Shukuh, Muhammad Sharif, Prince Parviz Ishaq, Shihabi al-Harvi, Abdul Karim, Abdul Haq, Amanat Khan, Ahmad M’amar, Abdur Rashid Dailami, etc. They were eminent calligraphers of Mughal period relating to Lahore and Dehli Courts. During the British period due to lack of patronage, the adoption of English as official language and as a medium of instruction, hundred of calligraphers and scribers were thrown out of jobs. However, introduction of printing in general and naskh type printing in particular by the First William College Calcutta for printing Arabic books saved at least one style of writing from adverse effects, Even the press could not eliminate it. Newspapers in Urdu and naskh opened new opportunities for calligraphers. The new era was a challenge for the calligrapher. They accepted it. However, there was on big change -- the art of calligraphy new entered an era of commercialism. Scribing the initial copies of books of all types, newspapers, periodicals and posters was the only recourse left with the calligraphers of the subcontinent. Thus is this field, there was very little chance of showing their expertise and real potential. However, the world is never devoid of devoted people. The art of calligraphy too had its devotees and patrons. Thus, despite these vicissitudes, a group of sincere and selfless calligraphers continued to work for the promotion of this art and the betterment of their co-professionals. It is due to their sacrifice and evdeavour that art of calligraphy still thrives.

In the 20th century. Sayyed Amiruddin Mir Panjakash, the founder of Dehli School. Introduced a new ink. Maulvi Mumtaz Ali Nashat Raqam was another calligrapher of the same period who has reported that Mir Panjakash was the court calligrapher of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. He was murdered in 1848 A.D. by the British. Munshi Abdul Hafiz, Maulavi Muhammad Saleh, Maulvi Pir Bakhsh, Munshi Muhammad Ja’far and Agha Mirza were also calligraphers of the Holy Quran. The eminent disciples of Mir Panjakash Dehlvi were Munshi Rahim Ullah and Munshi Raziuddin. The Iranians did not yet know how to make this ink. Towards the close of the 19th century. Muhammad Din, originally belonging to Dhab Wala Distt: Gujranwala, arrived in Dehli. Here in 1894 was born to him an illustrious son Muhammad Yusuf. Later, he laid the real foundation of Dehli school of calligraphy. He was also committed to become a teacher in inscription at the Viceroy’s House, India Gate and North and South Block of the Secretariat in Delhi. After independence, Muhammad Yusuf migrated to Pakistan where he died in 1977 in Karachi.

Karachi School

When Muhammad Yusuf migrated to Karachi in 1947, the Dehli Schcol followed in his footsteps. Among his pupils Abdul Majid Dehlvi had the honour of inscribing on the Mausoleum of Quaid-i-Aam. Yousuf’s sister Fatima-tul-Kubra was also a renowned calligrapher in nasta’liq and naskh. Other names which deserve mention are anwari Dehlvi, Syed Imtiaz Ali, Shafaqat Ahmad and Abdul Rashid Rustam Qalam. The Best known calligrapher of Karachi School, today is Sayyid Shah Ghulam Muhammad Qadiri, better known as Mustajab Raqam, who had migrated from Deccan. He had played a significant role in inventing Urdu type machine.

Lahore School

Lahore has always been an important centre of calligraphy. But instead of developing a style of its own, it corroborated with the imperial style in Dehli. After the decline of Mughal rule in India, Lahore turned to be the capital of Sikhs. The Court of Raja Ranjit singh was again centre of art and artisans. The Sikhs destroyed the Mughal collections and complex of monuments in Lahore and, at the same time, they never showed interest in constructing new monuments of their own. Nevertheless, even this disturbed period withnessed many good calligraphers. On the same subject Dr. R.P. Srivastava writes:

“Some Kashmiri Brahmin artists and calligraphers migrated to Lahore after the conquest of Kashmir by Raja Ranjit Singh in twenties of nineteenth century. They were welcomed at Lahore with open arms by the Court of Ranjit Singh. One such was Pandit Daya Ram Kaul ailas “Tota”. His son was Pandit Raja ram Kaul alias “Tota”. The father and son both worked at Lahore with great success.’’

For a fuller list of calligraphers of Sikh period one may to turn to the pages of Tarikh-i-Lahore by Kanahya Lal. The founder of the Lahore School of Calligraphy was Imam Verdi d. 1880) who originally migrated from Kabul and reached Lahore via Kashmir. The renaissance of nasta’liq was led by him (fig.02). Some of his specimens are preseverd in Lahore Musum. His Gulistan-i-Sa’di is preserved in the National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi, while a treatise scribed by him is preserved in the Lahore Fort. He revolutionized the nasta’liq style which is still being followed without much change. Col. Halroyd collected the calligraphic exercise from said Ahmad Aimanabadi at Lahore and had them printed in London for the students of calligraphy under the title: “Qita’al-Imam Verdi”. The other important contribution of Col. Holroyd for the development of nasta’liq style is that he introduced here “the Directorate Script”.

Directorate Script

It came into existence due to Col. Holroyd. He wanted that school text books be written in some simple style without the flourishes and decorative strokes of the ordinary calligraphy, and like English within two parallel lines, with each letter almost equal in size to the other. He asked a local publisher, Munshi Ghulab Singh of Lahore, to get him in Lahore the best calligraphist of the country. Munshi Shamsuddin Ijaz Raqam was invited from Lucknow for this purpose. But he could not pull on with Col. Holroyd and left Lahore. Ghulab Singh then called a local calligraphist, Nathu Katib, and Col. Holroyd explained to him what he wanted. He drew paralledl horizontal lines and explained that all letters must be confined within those limits. Then he drew parallel vertical lines and explained that no letter must exceed these limites though some will have to be narrower than others. Finally, he asked for regular spaces to be left between periods, and some helpful punctutin to be introduced. Nathu Katib developed the same style as per directions and met these requirements. His style came up to the best standard of calligraphy as well. It was simple and easy to read and has since become good style of School text books and is known as’sarkari style.

Among his contemporaries, Said Ahmad Aimanabadi too had a great number of followers. His son Hafiz Nur Muhammad and his pupil Munshi Abdul Ghani alias Nathu Katib were renowned calligraphers of their time. The veteran calligrapher of Lahore Haji Din Muhammad (d. 1971) was a pupil of the letter. The greatest name in the field of calligraphy of the subcontinent in the 20th century is that of Abdul Majid Parvin Raqam (1901-1949). He was also from Aimanabad. He introduced some startling innovations and improvements in the style of Imam Verdi and gave nasta’liq a beautiful and delicate form. (fig.03) Most of the calligraphers of the Punjab contemporary of Parvin Raqam was Tajuddin Zarrin Raqam (1906-1955). On principle, he followed Parvini style but this, in no way, diminishes his own importance as a master calligrapher of the 20th century. (fig.04) Muhammad Siddique Almas Raqam (1907-1972) from Jamkai Cheema, near Sialkot, also excelled in nasta’liq style.

Besides the above, there was a group of calligraphers at Lahore who, instead of practicing nsata’liq, confined themselves to copying of the Holy Quran in naskh style. Maulana Qasim Ludhianvi and his son Munshi Muhammad Shafi, Maulahna Muhammad Abdullah Warsi, his son Maulana Muhammad Inayat Ullah and Pir Abdulu Hamid had been prominent in this class.

Hardly has any district in the Punjab or even Pakistan itself contributed in the field of calligraphy more than Gujranwala district. It still figures head and shoulders above any other city or region in producing top-ranking calligraphers. Apart from the city proper, several villages of district Gujranwala, such a Aimanabad, Adil Garh, Kot Waris, Jandiala, Kailian Wala, Sodhra and Ghariala are renowned for giving the country the maximum number of quality calligraphers. The founder of Delhi (now Karachi) School, Muhammad Yousuf Dehlvi and the founder of the present-day Peshawar School. M.M. Sharif and the founder of the Lahore School, Abdul Majeed Parvin Raqam, all originally hailed from Gujranwala district.

There is a long list of calligraphers from these places, but to mention only a few they include Said Ahmad Aiminabadi and his three sons and Abdul Majeed Parvin Raqam and his son; Abdullah Warsi and his family from Waris Kot; Abdur Rehman Kailani from Kailwanwala Sharif; Muhammad Yusuf Dehlvi and his sister Fatima-tul-Kubra from Jandiala, Maulana Abdur Rashid Adali from Adal Garh and Munshi Ahmad Ali Minhas, his nephew M.M. Sharif, Sharif’s son Aftab Ahmad from Rasul Nagar, his pupil Muhammad Shafi Anwar from Lahore, (fig.05) his son Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta (fig. 06) and Attia Ashraf (fig. 07).

Even the present day Lahore is fortunate in having some of the top ranking calligraphers of Pakistan. Among old masters, names of Munshi Khushi Muhammad Nasir Qadiri (1918-1993), Haji Muhammad Azim (1919-1997) and Sufi Khurshid Alam Khurshid Raqam are worth mentioning. But by far two greatest names in Pakistani calligraphy today are Late Hafiz Muhammad Yousuf Sadeedi (1927-1986), a master of seven styles (Khattat-i-Haft Qalami), and Sayyid Anwar Hussain Nafiz Raqam, who also excels in seven styles. Each of them has a long line of followers.


M.M. Sharif, also known as Sharif Artists, laid the foundation of Peshawari School of calligraphy. He was nephew of Maulvi Ahmad Ali Minhas, a renowned calligrapher of Gujranwala City. M.M. Sharif innovated several styles in calligraphy and gave the words a beauty of their own. His son Aftab Ahmad is trying his best in upholding the traditions of his father in the field of calligraphy on paper, total ceramics, etc.


Lahore was the main centre of the spread of this art. During the Sultanate period the monumental script of this area was no less important than the other Islamic areas. During the Mughal period, this art was patronized on a large scale. It is due to this art that a few other supporting crafts like hand-made paper, pen-cases, miniature painting, border making, etc. also developed. Muslim calligraphers were always active in creating masterpieces of calligraphy in the form of epigraphs, libraries, cons, etc.



  1. Ahmed Nabi Khan, Al-Mansurah, A Forgotten Arab Metropolis in Pakistan, Department of Archaeology and Museums, Govt. of Pakistan, Karachi, 1987. P. 68.
  2. Muhammad Shafi, “Hindustan ka Qadeemtareen Arabi Khatab”, Oriental college Magazine, vol. 18, no. 4, August, 1942, pp.44-45, Dr. Ahmed Hassain Dani, “Tochi Valley Inscription in Peshawar Museum”, Ancient Pakistan, University of Peshaar, 1964.
  3. Muhammad Abdul Ghafoor, “Fourteen Kufic Inscriptions of Bambhore, The Site of Daybul”, Pakistan Archaeology, no. 3, 1966, p.65.
  4. Saifur Rehman Dar, Islamic Calligraphy, Lahore 1982, p. 16
  5. Tariq Masud, Muraqqa-i-Khat, Lahore Museum, Lahore 1982, p.31.
  6. Aijaz Rahi, Tarikh-i-Khattati, Idarah-i-Saqafat Pakistan, Islamabad, 1986, p. 146.
  7. Tariq Masud, Muraqqa-i-Khat, op. cit., p. 32)
  8. Abdullah Chaghatai, “Sultanat Mahmud Ghazanvi key Mazar ka Khatab; Oriental College Magazine, vol. ii, no.1, p. 153.
  9. Mustafizur Rehman, Islamic Calligraphy in mediaval India, University Press Ltd., Bangladesh. 1979, p. 24.
  10. Dr. Abdur Rehman, “Anushtigin of the Raja Gira Mosque Inscription:, Journal of Central Asia, Islamabad, vol xi. No. 2, December, 1988, pp.33-38 and Umbarto Secrrato, “Excavations at Raja Gira Swat: A Preliminary Report”, Pakistan Archaeology, no. 10-22, 1974-86, pp.57-62.
  11. Dr. Sharif Rahman Dar, “The Earliest Dated Inscription in Lahore”, The Nation, Lahore, October 24, 1986.
  12. Dr. Ahmad Nabi Khan, “Two Musallah Mehrabs of Thirteenth Fourtheenth Centuries at Kabirwala and Pakpattan”, Pakistan Archaeology, no. 24, 1989, p. 242.
  13. Epigraphia Indo Moslemica (E.I.M.) 1911-12, pl. II, III, IV.
  14. Ibid., 1911-12, pl. v, vii
  15. Ibid., 1911-12, pl. xvi, no.1
  16. Ibid., 1911-12, pl xvii
  17. Ibid, 1911-12 pl. xxii
  18. Ibid., 1911-12, pl. xxix
  19. Aijaz Rahi, Tarikh-i-Khattati, op. cit., p. 416.
  20. Anthony Welch, Quran Epigraphy: Its bearing on the history of art. New Dehli, 1985, Pl. 243-244, p. 264.
  21. Saifur Rahman Dar, Islamic Calligraphy, Op. cit., p.144.
  22. Syed Sabahuddin Abdul Rehman Jmai, Bazam-i-Mamulukia, Azamgrah, 1954, p. 246.
  23. Talib Hussain “A Magnificant Monument of the Balban Period”, Pakistan Times, June 5, 1987, p.1.
  24. Mustafizur Rehman, op.cit., pp. 30-31.
  25. Ziauddin Barni, Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, vol. ii, Aligarh, 1958, p. 143.
  26. Abu Qasim Farishta, Tarikh-u-Farishta (Urdu tr.) Sh. Ghulam Ali & Sons, 1974, p.426.
  27. Dr. Ahmad Nabi Khan, Multan: History and Architecture, Institute of Islamic History, Culture & Civilization, Islamabad University, 1983, p. 335.
  28. Epigraphia Indica Arabic and Persian Supplement, (EIAPS), 1962, pl. v (a), list 174, Begley, p. 48.
  29. EIM 1927-28, pl. viii, list 54, Bagley, p.58.
  30. Saifur Rehman Dar Islamic Calligraphy, op. cit., p. 18.
  31. Muhammad Shujauddin, “Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan ka Kutab Khana”, Oriental College Magazine, vol 22, no.3, May 1946, p.20.
  32. Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta, “Two Undated inscriptions of Akbar Times”, Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan. Vol. xxxi, no.4 Oct 1994, pp.37-44.
  33. Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta, “Epigraphy of Masjid-i-Khrasian. The Earliest Extant Nastaliq Inscription from Lahore”, Lahore Museum Bulletin, vol. iii, no. 2, July-Dec., 1990, pp. 77-89.
  34. EIAPS 1916, pl. xxx(b), list 172, Begley, p. 94.
  35. EIM 1913-14, pl. xix (a), list 16, Begley, p. 76.
  36. EIAPS 1964, pl. xiv(c), list 184.
  37. Mustafiz ur Rahman, op. cit., p. 31.
  38. The Seal dated 1402 just a few weeks after Amanat Khan relieved his new title. The manuscript is in the British Library add. 16704 (Begley, 284).
  39. Muhammad Saleh Kamboh, Amal-i-Saleh, Majilis-i-Taraqqi-i-Adab, Lahore 1072, vol. iii, p. 84
  40. Abdullah Chaghatiai, Sarguzashat-i-Khat-i-Nasta’liq, op. cit., p. 187.
  41. W.E. Begley “Monumental Islamic Calligraphy from India, Islamic Foundation Illinois, 1985, p. 60.
  42. EIAPS 1963, pl. xxxi (b), list 182.
  43. Muhammad Shafi, “Sindh ke Ba’z Katbey, Sukkur, Bakher, Rohri”, Oriental college Magazine, vol. 13, no. 4, August 1937, pp. 95-96
  44. Abdul Ghafoor, Calligrahers of Thatta, Institute of Central & West Asian Studies, University of Karachi, 1978, pp. 61-62.
  45. R.P. Srivastava, Art & Archaeology of Punjab, Sundeep Parkashan, Dehli, 1990, p.162.
  46. Tariq Masud, op. cit., p. 24.
  47. Muhammad Shaujauddin, op. cit., p.18
  48. Dr. Abdullah Chaghatia, op. cit., p. 102.
  49. Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta, Epigraphy of Masjid-i-Khrasian, op. cit., pp.77-89
  50. Tariq Masud, op. cit., p. 25,
  51. Abdul Majeed Salik, Muslim Saqafat Hindustan Main, Idara-i-Saqafat-i-Islamia, Lahore, p. 226.
  52. Tariq Masud, op.cit., p.25.
  53. Lahore Museum MS-1451. See Tariq Masud, “A Rare Album of Calligraphy in Lahore Museum, Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan, vol. xvii, no. 4, 1980, pp. 40-50.
  54. Hafiz Mahmud Sherani, “Maulana Abu Barkat Munir Lahore”, Maqalat-i-Hafiz Mahmud Sherani, vol. vii, Majilis-i-taraqi-i-Adam, 1972, p. 444-450.
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