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Nastaʿlīq (also anglicized as Nastaleeq; نستعليق nastaʿlīq) is one of the main genres 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 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).
Nastaliq 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, Baluchi, Uzbek, Turkmen, etc.), Pakistan (Punjabi, Urdu, Saraiki, etc.), India (Urdu, Rekhta, Kashmiri), and the Turkic Uyghur language of the Chinese province of Xinjiang, rely on Nastaliq. Under the name Taʿliq has also been 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.
After the Islamic conquest of Persia, Iranians adopted the Perso-Arabic script and the art of Arabic calligraphy flourished in Iran alongside other Islamic countries. Apparently, Mir Ali Tabrizi (14th century) developed Nastaʿlīq by combining two existing scripts of Nasḫ and Taʿlīq. Hence, it was originally called Nasḫ-Taʿlīq.
Nastaʿlīq thrived gradually, and many prominent calligraphists contributed to its splendor and beauty. It is believed 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 manner. 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.
The Mughal Empire used Persian as the court language during their rule over the South Asia. During this time, Nastaʿlīq came into widespread use in South Asia, including Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. The influence remains to this day. In Pakistan, almost everything in Urdu is written in the script, concentrating the greater part of Nasta’līq usage in the world. In Hyderābād, Lucknow, and other cities in India with large Urdu-speaking populations, many street signs and such are written in Nastaʿlīq. Also, The education system in India recognises Urdu as a language of preference to students who wish to opt it as their first language and the quality of the training is of high standards. The situation of Nastaʿlīq in Bangladesh used to be the same as in Pakistan until 1971, when Urdu ceased to remain an official language of the country. Today, only a few neighborhoods (mostly inhabited by Bihāris) in Dhaka and Chittagong retain the influence of the Persian and Nastaʿlīq.
And others: Mirza Jafar Tabrizi, Abdul Rashid Deilami, Sultan Ali Mashadi, Mir Ali Heravi, Emad Ul-Kottab, Gholam Reza Esfehani and Mirza Reza Kalhor.
And among contemporary artists: Hassan Mirkhani, Hossein Mirkhani, Abbas Akhavein and Qolam-Hossein Amirkhani.
Islamic calligraphy was originally used to adorn Islamic religious texts, specifically the Qur'ān, as pictorial ornaments were prohibited in Islam. Therefore, a sense of sacredness always hovered in the background of calligraphy.
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-Masq, a manual of penmanship, attributed to Mir Emad.