The Arabic script was not greatly developed in the pre-Islamic era; it was not used much at this time because the Arabs usually committed things to memory. For this reason, the development of the Arabic script started with the advent Islam, when the Qur’an began to be revealed, and with Prophet Muhammad (SAW) asking his scribes to register everything they heard from him. Thus, the Arabic script evolved and became improved over time, leading to the creation of one of the most original Islamic arts, Islamic calligraphy. For centuries Muslims have been decorating their mosques and other places with beautiful calligraphic works that describe Nabi Muhammad’s (SAW) personality or useful advice on different topics.
Nabi Muhammad (SAW) first appeared in calligraphy through the hadith (sayings of the Prophet) books that were in manuscript form; in the early phases of the development of Islamic calligraphy these works discussed the acts of his sunnah (practices of the Prophet). They were then followed by manuscripts, known as the shama’il, which described his physical characteristics and his personality. Moreover, calligraphers also produced many collections of forty hadiths; such collections were made based on the famous hadith that promised a reward on the Day of Judgment for those who memorised forty hadiths from the Rasoolulah (SAW). In addition to these, there were calligraphic booklets that contained prayers and blessings for Nabi Muhammad (SAW). Another kind of classic calligraphic work consisted of manuscripts of his biography; the quality of the calligraphy, as well as the gilding and binding are excellent examples to this day of the art of calligraphy, and many can be found in different museums and libraries all over the world.
In addition to books, there are some albums that contain hadiths of Nabi Muhammad (SAW) which have been written, individually or in groups, in different calligraphic styles, on special pages known as qit’as.
Furthermore, sayings that contain the advice of Nabi Muhammad on different topics, written on plates or plaques, and those that contain a description of his physical and personal characteristics, known as hilya, have been part of Islamic calligraphy, particularly since the 18th century. Moreover, there are plaques on which his names and sayings can be found as well as the same being inscribed on the walls of mosques, temples, and dervish lodges in calligraphic forms.