Art and Music


Written by andrewphilips

The literary pearls of Mirza Ghalib, the popular Urdu shayarof Delhi, have long cast a spell on listeners in poetry recital sessions. Recently, his profound couplets have aired on latenight radio programmes, and shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to Urdu shayari. One can also come across on the Internet rather cheap-looking backdrops with his poetry written on them. Wouldn’t it be more suitable to give his poetry a more artistic treatment? How about blending the art of calligraphy with Ghalib’s poetry? Why should not his deep, intense words be given a stroke of sublime calligraphy? Welcome to the word of Ghalib poetry art frames, whereinhis mesmerising words are written in calligraphic style, often accompanied by his sketch on the side. In the absence of a sketch, a backdrop that matches the theme of the poem is used.

The calligraphic style used for inscribing in Urdu is Nastaliq, which originated in the courts of Persia in 15th centuryAD after the region was subdued by Muslims. In Nast’aliq font, letters slope from right to left, giving a ‘hanging’ or ‘ta’liq’ appearance to the script. It was originally devised to write the Arabic script but with time it started being used for primarily writing Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, Kashmiri and Pashto. Nastaliq font was applied in transcribing court papers, and was used by Mughal empire in India for official correspondence.

It is the standard font used for writing Urdu in South Asia. Even though Urdu, as it comes from Arabic, can be written in other calligraphic fonts such as Diwani, Tughra and Thuluth, which are mostly used for Islamic calligraphy art, it looks best in Nastaliq. Or perhaps we like it more in the Nastaliqfont as it has always been inscribed in it.

Nastaliq works as well because it is less ornate than other styles and takes up less space. This means one can inscribe anlong Urdu poem on a small sheet of paper and stick it above their desk.

Is it appropriate to include the calligraphy of Urdu poetry or shayariwithin the larger realm of Islamic calligraphy art? Well, if the poetry draws inspiration from or dwells on Islamic teachings, it can be included in Islamic calligraphy art. But if there is nothing religious about it, then there is no reason why it should be included in Islamic calligraphy art. One must also remember that there are non-Muslim Urdu poets too, like FiraqGorakhpuri. Indeed, some Urdu poetry may even be considered to border on blashphemy.

Since, as a matter of fact, Mirza Ghalib’s poetry was non-religious, Ghalib poetry art frames should not be included in Islamic calligraphy art.

However, there are some Urdu poets such as Allama Iqbal whose poems would be philosophical and religious, though it’s difficult to say whether they should be included in Islamic calligraphy art. Islamic calligraphy, in its purest form, is the calligraphy of verses from the Quran. One should be very careful of including anything within it.

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