Morocco, Africa. Panel with calligraphy. 2005.97.46

Khatt Islāmi

Khatt Islāmi: Sacred Scripts from Islamic Africa

October 31, 2020 – August 1, 2021
Gallery 255
Free Exhibition

Arabic calligraphy is considered the highest form of art in Islām. This writing transmits the words of God as recorded in the Qur’an, Islām’s holy book. Over the centuries, calligraphers have created beauty inspired by their faith. The 16 artworks on display stem from Africa and date from the mid-1800s to today. They all incorporate Khatt Islāmi, “Islamic line” or “Islamic design”—calligraphic writings made by Muslims. These objects include writing boards that are used in education, healing, and protection; textiles; iron blades; and a vase, created by a contemporary Sufi artist.

Co-curated by Amallina Mohamed, curator at the Somali Museum of Minnesota, and Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers, curator of African Art and head of the Arts of Africa and the Americas at Mia; transcription and translation of the Arabic provided by Fahimeh Ghorbani, University of Toronto, in collaboration with Alam Saleh, Australian National University, Canberra; Fahimeh Ghorbani, Ayan Ahmed, Nahid Khan, and Dzenita Hadziomerovic also consulted on this exhibition.
Explore the artworks in the exhibition and read translations of their Arabic inscriptions.

Gallery Tour

Related Events

Virtual Family Day: Beautiful Letters

Sunday, December 13, 2020
10:00 am
Cost: Free
Is writing an art form? Yes! Many cultures around the world consider calligraphy, the art of handwriting, one of the most important forms of artistic expression.

Explore Here

Curators in Conversation: Khatt Islāmi

Curators of “Khatt Islāmi: Sacred Scripts from Islamic Africa”—Amallina Mohamed, of the Somali Museum of Minnesota, and Mia’s Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers—will explore the context of Arabic calligraphy and its connection to healing, education, music, and faith.

Watch the Conversation


One of the most widely practiced religions in the world, Islām is the belief that God is the lone creator, sustainer, and restorer of the world. The Arabic word Islām translates as “surrender;” Muslims surrender to the will of God.

Learn More


Khatt Islāmi is Arabic for “Islamic line” or “Islamic design” and refers to calligraphy, or beautiful writing. It is considered the highest form of art in Islām.

Learn More

Interviews on khatt Islāmi

Dr Fatima Lawson, Principal of Highwood Hills Elementary School, Saint Paul

Shoaib Siddiqui, Calligrapher, Minneapolis

Osman Ali, Founder and Director of the Somali Museum of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Sufi Singing

Muslims consider calligraphy to be the visual equivalent of reciting the Qur’an. Sign and sound are linked.
Morocco, Africa. Panel with calligraphy. 2005.97.46