Nastaʿlīq (also anglicized as Nastaleeq; نستعلیق nastaʿlīq) is one of the main script styles used in writing the Perso-Arabic script, and traditionally the predominant style in Persian calligraphy It was developed in Iran in the 14th and 15th centuries. Although it is sometimes used to write Arabic-language text (where it is known as Taʿliq or Farsi and is mainly used for titles and headings), it has always been more popular in the Persian, Turkic, and South Asian spheres of influence. Nastaʿlīq has extensively been (and still is) practiced in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan as a form of art. A less elaborate version of Nastaʿlīq serves as the preferred style for writing Persian, Kashmiri, and Urdu, and it is often used alongside Naskh for Pashto. Nastaʿlīq was historically used for writing Ottoman Turkish, where it is known as tâlik (not to be confused with a totally different Persian style, also called taʿliq).
Nastaʿlīq is the core script of the Persian writing tradition, and equally important in the areas under its cultural influence. Notably the languages of Afghanistan (Dari, Uzbek, Turkmen, etc.), Pakistan (Punjabi, Urdu, Saraiki, Kashmiri, etc.), India (Urdu, Rekhta), and the Turkic Uyghur language of the Chinese province of Xinjiang, rely on Nastaʿlīq. Under the name Taʿliq, it was also beloved by Ottoman calligraphers who developed the Diwani and Ruqah styles from it.
Nastaʿlīq is amongst the most fluid calligraphy styles for the Arabic alphabet. 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, called “qalam” (“pen,” in Arabic and Persian “قلم”), and carbon ink, named “davat.” The nib of a qalam is usually split in the middle to facilitate ink absorption.
Two important forms of Nastaʿlīq panels are Chalipa and Siah-Masq. 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-Masq (“inked drill”) panels however communicate via composition and form, rather than content. In Siah-Masq, repeating a few (sometimes even one) letters or words virtually inks the whole panel. The content is thus of less significance and not clearly accessible.
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