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ISO 15924 Aran, 161
مرا عهدیست با جانان که تا جان در بدن دارم
هواداران کویش را چو جــــــــان خویشتن دارم
حافظ شیرازی

Nastaʿlīq (Persian: نستعلیق‎, from نسخ Naskh and تعلیق Taʿlīq) is one of the main calligraphic hands used in writing the Persian alphabet, and traditionally the predominant style in Persian calligraphy.[1] It was developed in Iran in the 14th and 15th centuries.[2] It is sometimes used to write Arabic-language text (where it is known as Taʿlīq or Persian and is mainly used for titles and headings), but its use has always been more popular in the Persian, Turkic and Urdu sphere of influence. Nastaʿlīq remains very widely used in Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and other countries for written poetry and as a form of art.[citation needed]

A less elaborate version of Nastaʿlīq serves as the preferred style for writing in Kashmiri, Punjabi and Urdu, and it is often used alongside Naskh for Pashto. In Persian it is used for poetry only. Nastaʿlīq was historically used for writing Ottoman Turkish, where it was known as tâlik[3] (not to be confused with a totally different Persian style, also called taʿlīq; to distinguish the two, Ottomans referred to the latter as taʿlīq-i qadim, "old taʿlīq").

Nastaʿlīq is the core script of the post-Sassanid Persian writing tradition, and is equally important in the areas under its cultural influence. The languages of Iran (Western Persian, Azeri, Balochi, Kurdi, Luri, etc.), Afghanistan (Dari Persian, Pashto, Uzbek, Turkmen, etc.), Pakistan (Punjabi, Urdu, Kashmiri, Saraiki, etc.), and the Turkic Uyghur language of the Chinese province of Xinjiang, rely on Nastaʿlīq. Under the name taʿliq (lit. “suspending [script]”), it was also beloved by Ottoman calligraphers who developed the Diwani (divanî) and Ruqah (rık’a) styles from it.[citation needed]

Nastaʿlīq is amongst the most fluid calligraphy styles for the Arabic script. It has short verticals with no serifs, and long horizontal strokes. It is written using a piece of trimmed reed with a tip of 5–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in), called qalam (pen-قلم, in Arabic and Persian قلم), and carbon ink, named davat. The nib of a qalam can be split in the middle to facilitate ink absorption.[citation needed]

Two important forms of Nastaʿlīq panels are Chalipa and Siah-Mashq. A Chalipa ("cross", in Persian) panel usually consists of four diagonal hemistiches (half-lines) of poetry, clearly signifying a moral, ethical or poetic concept. Siah-Mashq ("black drill") panels, however, communicate via composition and form, rather than content. In Siah-Mashq, repeating a few letters or words (sometimes even one) virtually inks the whole panel. The content is thus of less significance and not clearly accessible.[citation needed]


Persian Chalipa panel, Mir Emad.
In print:
بودم به تو عمری و ترا سیر ندیدم
از وصل تو هرگز به مرادی نرسیدم
از بهر تو بیگانه شدم از همه خویشان
وحشی صفت از خلق به یکبار بریدم

After the Islamic conquest of Persia, the Iranian Persian people adopted the Perso-Arabic script, and the art of Persian calligraphy flourished in Iran as territories of the former Persian empire. Apparently, Mir Ali Tabrizi (14th century) developed Nastaʿlīq by combining two existing scripts of Nasḫ and Taʿlīq.[4] Hence, it was originally called Nasḫ-Taʿlīq. Another theory holds that the name Nastaʿlīq means "that which abrogated (naskh) Taʿlīq".[citation needed]

Nastaʿlīq thrived, and many prominent calligraphers contributed to its splendor and beauty. It is believed[by whom?] that Nastaʿlīq reached its highest elegance in Mir Emad's works. The current practice of Nastaʿlīq is, however, heavily based on Mirza Reza Kalhor's technique. Kalhor modified and adapted Nastaʿlīq to be easily used with printing machines, which in turn helped wide dissemination of his transcripts. He also devised methods for teaching Nastaʿlīq and specified clear proportional rules for it, which many could follow.[citation needed]

The Mughal Empire used Persian as the court language during their rule over South Asia. During this time, Nastaʿlīq came into widespread use in South Asia. The influence continues to this day. In Pakistan, almost everything in Urdu is written in the script, constituting the greatest part of Nastaʿlīq usage in the world. The situation of Nastaʿlīq in Bangladesh used to be the same as in Pakistan until 1971, when Urdu ceased to remain an official language. Today, only a few people use this form of writing in Bangladesh.[citation needed]

Nastaʿlīq is a descendant of Nasḫ and Taʿlīq. Shekasteh Nastaʿlīq (literally "broken Nastaʿlīq") style is a development of Nastaʿlīq.[citation needed]

Notable Nastaʿlīq calligraphers[edit]

Example showing «خط نستعلیق‬» (Nastaʿlīq script) written in Nastaʿlīq.

And others, including Mirza Jafar Tabrizi, Abdul Rashid Deilami, Sultan Ali Mashadi, Mir Ali Heravi, Emad Ul-Kottab, Mirza Gholam Reza Esfehani, Emadol Kotab, Yaghoot Mostasami, and Darvish Abdol Majid Taleghani.[citation needed]

And among contemporary artists: Hassan Mirkhani, Hossein Mirkhani, Keikhosro Khoroush, Abbas Akhavein and Qolam-Hossein Amirkhani, Ali Akbar Kaveh, Kaboli.[5]


Islamic calligraphy was originally used to adorn Islamic religious texts, specifically the Qur'an, as pictorial ornaments were prohibited in Islam. Therefore, a sense of sacredness was always implicit in calligraphy.[citation needed]

A Nastaʿlīq disciple was supposed to qualify himself spiritually for being a calligrapher, besides learning how to prepare qalam, ink, paper and, more importantly, master Nastaʿlīq. For instance see Adab al-Mashq, a manual of penmanship attributed to Mir Emad.[citation needed]

Nastaʿlīq typesetting[edit]

An example of the Nastaʿlīq script used for writing Urdu

Nastaʿlīq Typography first started with attempts to develop a metallic type for the script, but all such efforts failed. Fort William College developed a Nastaʿlīq Type, which was not close enough to Nastaʿlīq and hence was never used other than by the college library to publish its own books. The State of Hyderabad Dakan (now in India) also attempted to develop a Nastaʿlīq Typewriter but this attempt failed miserably and the file was closed with the phrase “Preparation of Nastaʿlīq on commercial basis is impossible”. Basically, in order to develop such a metal type, thousands of pieces would be required.[citation needed]

Modern Nastaʿlīq typography began with the invention of Noori Nastaleeq which was first created as a digital font in 1981 through the collaboration of Mirza Ahmad Jamil TI (as Calligrapher) and Monotype Imaging (formerly Monotype Corp & Monotype Typography).[6] Although this was a ground-breaking solution employing over 20,000 ligatures (individually designed character combinations) which provided the most beautiful results and allowed newspapers such as Pakistan's Daily Jang to use digital typesetting instead of an army of calligraphers, it suffered from two problems in the 1990s: (a) its non-availability on standard platforms such as Windows or Mac OS, and (b) the non-WYSIWYG nature of text entry, whereby the document had to be created by commands in Monotype's proprietary page description language.

Windows 8 was the first version of Microsoft Windows to have native Nastaʿlīq support, through Microsoft's "Urdu Typesetting" font.[7]

Google has an open-source Nastaliq font called Noto Nastaliq [8]. Apple provides this font on all Mac installations since Mac OS X High Sierra. Similarly, Apple has carried this font on iOS devices since iOS 11 [9].


In 1994, InPage Urdu, which is a fully functional page layout software for Windows akin to Quark XPress, was developed for Pakistan's newspaper industry by an Indian software company Concept Software Pvt Ltd. It offered the Noori Nastaliq font licensed from Monotype Corporation. This font, with its vast ligature base of over 20,000, is still used in current versions of the software for Windows. As of 2009 InPage has become Unicode based, supporting more languages, and the Faiz Lahori Nastaliq font with Kasheeda has been added to it along with compatibility with OpenType Unicode fonts. Nastaliq Kashish[clarification needed] has been made for the first time[clarification needed] in the history of Nastaʿlīq Typography.[citation needed]

Shekasteh Nastaʿlīq[edit]

Shekasteh or Shekasteh Nastaʿlīq (Persian: شکسته نستعلیق‎; "cursive Nastaʿlīq", or literally "broken Nastaʿlīq") style is a successor of Nastaʿlīq.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Sheila Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.

External links[edit]


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