The British Museum’s COMPASS collection of “around 5000 objects from the huge range of periods and cultures represented in the Museum” includes a nice feature called “Arabic Script: Mightier than the Sword”:

A defining feature of Islamic civilization has been its widespread use of writing. Writing has a profound significance because Arabic was both the language of God’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century AD and the script in which the Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims, was written down.
The Arabic language spread geographically with Islam. It was generally learned alongside local languages but the Arabic script often displaced local scripts. It has been used to write many languages, including Persian in Iran and Urdu in India. It is now the most commonly written script after the Roman alphabet.
From very early on Arabic script also began to be used for its decorative potential. Islamic art has, as a result, rightly been described as a ‘speaking art’. The objects in this tour have Arabic script inscribed upon them or are connected to the art of writing. Together they show the continuing importance of Arabic in the cultures of what we can broadly call the Islamic lands.

It includes sections on script styles, calligraphy, objects with writing (I particularly like the Earthenware bowl with Kufic inscription), and others; Islam in China and the Malay Peninsula includes an amazing example of Arabic calligraphy done in Chinese style, with a brush. Thanks to plep for the link.


  1. Very nice. Arabic script is fascinating; thanks for the links.

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