Mir Ali of Tabriz

February 24, 2008


He was born in Herat, in the year 881 Hijri or 1476 AD. He is nicknamed the Qibla of the calligraphers. He was an Imam in a class of calligraphers, a skilled, highly important artist, he defined the rules of Taaliq (Farisi). Sultan Ali al Katib al-Mashady said in his poem in Farsi:

نسخ تعليق اكر خفي وجليست واضع الأصل خواجه مير عليست

Taaliq is also called “Nastaaliq” which means that at Mir Ali’s time, they were using Taaliq to copy most writings and letters, so it became known as Naskh Taaliq, and then many started calling it Nastaaliq, lightening it by omitting the foreign letter khaa.

It is said that the reason behind his invention of the new script was that he asked the Most High one day to favor him with the gift to create a new script. That night Ali bin Abi Talib (may God be pleased with him) visited him in his sleep, and told him to look carefully at a flock of a particular type of fowl, a duck in fact. And he took from their forms the rules of the new script he is known for.

Mir Ali derived Taaliq script from all the parts of the duck, making each letter a suitable shape: turning, hollowing out, curving, and extending the length, width, and breadth, the thick and the thin, the close and the near, where to grow, where to shrink etc… He was in fact unique in his time, alone in his era in this fine art. He has a lofty position and a deserved fame. Of course, he also introducted to this style many of the calligraphic geniuses that would come after him.

Mir Ali of Herat was a writer of poetry and prose, attracting attention. He stopped writing poetry under the name Katib because he was of Turkish origin and had some Turkish verse. He prepared the most calligraphers in Nastaliq before artistic support came, and he used to sign his writings or his calligraphy scattered here and there in the museums of the world as “Ali,” “poor Ali,” “Mir Ali,” “Ali al-Katib,” “Ali Sultani,” “Ali Husseini,” “Mir Ali al-Katib,” “Mir Ali Sultani,” “Ali Harwi (Herati),” “Ali Husseini Harwi,” “Ali al-Katib al-Sultani,” and that of course paved the way for a mix-up with him and other calligraphers.

He had many students that were raised by his hand. Among the names worth mentioning are Mir Mahmoud Baqir, Sir Mahmoud Shahabi, Mir Said Ahmed, Mir Hussein Bukhari, and Mir Jumla.

He died 951 Hijri, 1544 AD and was buried in Bukhara.

Taken from the book “Tarikh al-Khat al-Arabi wa Ialaam al-Khatateen” History of Arabic Calligraphy and Information About Calligraphers, by Ahmed Sabry. Translated by Josh Berer.


One Response to “Mir Ali of Tabriz”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    ها هي مترجمة كثيرة!

    I’ll definitely be reading through this stuff. Also, I just started up a blog about learning Arabic (the process, not the content) if you can, let me know what you think!


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