Anufo artist, Togo,
Tunic, c. 1900,
Gift of Thomas Murray in honor of Roger Hollander 2013.57

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. The uniqueness of Islamic calligraphy lies not only in its ability to transmit the Qur’an, Islām’s holy book, but also in the endless beauty and creativity developed by calligraphers. The calligraphers who created the works on view had different levels of technical skill, since they include both students and virtuosos.

Besides communicating the content of Islamic texts, sacred scripts also have the capacity to purify and heal, to protect, and empower—through the power of God’s words. In some practices of Islām, one finds calligraphed phrases, numbers, and symbols on writing boards used by healers, and on garments and talismans worn for protection.