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Ibn Muqla – Master Calligrapher

885-940 A.D.

Full name: Abu Ali Muhammad Ibn Ali, known as Ibn Muqla (“Son of Muqla”)

What he did:

  • Codified the six scripts (al aqlam al-sitta) that became the foundation for the practice of calligraphy to come
  • Established a proportional writing system that used a circle with the diameter of the letter alif as its basis
  • Wrote extensively about the art of calligraphy and devised theories of letter shapes


  • Born in Baghdad
  • Became a scribe in the administration of the ‘Abbasid caliphate (750-1258)
  • Became head of the state library
  • Was made vizier (chief counselor) three times between 928 and 936, all under different rulers
  • Was imprisoned three times during periods of political turmoil
  • During one imprisonment, his enemies cut off his right hand. When released, he continued to work with great skill using his left hand
  • Finally, his left hand was severed, his tongue cut out, and he was cast into prison where he died

(Text from

It was in the 3rd century AH (9th-10th century CE) that the master calligrapher Ibn Muqla perfected his theory of “proportioned script” (al-Khatt al-Mansoub), by which the basic letter-shapes of written Arabic could be controlled. Ibn Muqla’s work was a major milestone in the history of Arabic penmanship. The principles he laid down transformed Arabic script from rudimentary Kufic strokes to a harmoniously structured art form. The order and beauty which Ibn Muqla devised as visual criteria for the formation of Arabic letter-shapes constituted, first and foremost, an act of worship. The art form into which he converted the execution of written Arabic was one considered truly compatible with preserving and conveying the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Quran.

The six scripts


The detail and order which Ibn Muqla brought to Arabic script extended to the reed pen which, according to his teachings, must be cut in a special, clearly delineated way. For over ten centuries, Arabic calligraphers continued to cut their pens and execute the formal strokes, curves, and dots of written Arabic according to Ibn Muqla’s precepts.


The Six Scripts

1. Naskh

2. Thuluth

3. Muhaqqaq

4. Rayhani

5. Tawqiâ € ~

6. Ruqaâ € ~ a



The manuscripts of Ibn Muqla



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3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Dear team,
    As I was browsing the web in search for an appropriate image of the six pens in Arabic proportioned writing, I stumbled upon your website and noticed that the sixth image you posted is of the Ruq`ah script and not Riqa` or Ruqa` pen; it’s a common mistake to make and I thought I would point it out because Ruq`ah comes to be during the Ottoman period and is considerably different from Ruqa`.
    Also, The image of Tawqi` seems to be more of a sloppy Muhaqqaq rather than a dynamic and intricately curved Tawqi`.
    I would have suggested some references but will need to search for them. I would gladly do that for you if need be!
    with warm wishes,

  2. Thank you for the information. We deeply appreciate it. Also, if possible for you, please do provide the references so that the post can be updated in light of those references.

  3. Hello again,
    I’m sorry this took a while but I found a good tawqi’ image online:
    see Folio 27a

    As for the Riqa’, in the Metropolitan Museum website you have a good example:

    And they also have a nice example of the 6 proportional pens:

    I hope this helps!
    all the best,

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