Scribble (Karalama) in Islamic Calligraphy

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Mustafa YILMAZ

The art of calligraphy is a branch of fine art mastered by means of its own methods and principles in a teacher-student relationship. Calligraphy is a challenging way that requires long, patient work and spirituality. Throughout the Islamic history, the education and training of the art of calligraphy has been carried out in a deep-rooted discipline.

The most important feature of this art is that it is taught in master apprentice relationship.

The calligraphy exercises which are composed of letters or words and the calligraphers do to accustom their hands before they start writing or to avoid losing their sensitivity in their free time are called “Meşk” (mashk) or practise. No empty space is left on the paper, letters or words are written when the paper is straight or upside down and sometimes they are written on top of each other. Because they appear to be scribbled at first glance they are also called ‘karalama’ (scribble). All calligraphy artists, including the most famous ones, often felt the need to practice to maintain their dexterity and writing habits.

These exercises, where the calligraphers write down letters and words, sentences from various verses and hadiths, are writings that are often written on top of each other, freely, and in no order. These are the works of distinguishing the more beautiful writing from others, determining the ratio and harmony in writing, and developing a new style.

They are also good sources for the calligraphers of next generations to understand the artist. These scribbles which we call Meşk that have been put forward by calligraphers,

their not being satisfied with the mastership they acquired and their scribbling letters continuously cannot be explained as the fear of losing their hand’s skill. Intertwined, upside down, unreadable letters confront us with his talent that the calligrapher is not satisfied with, and his humbleness that does not accept mastery throughout his life.

Karalama (calligraphy scribble exercise) and Mashk (calligraphy practise) are a unique type of calligraphy for calligraphers. The fact that the examples of this type were illuminated and Karalama and Meşk of the great calligraphers were gathered together in muraqqas are proof of this.