The hurufiyya movement combines Arabic calligraphy with the principles of modern art. The movement started in the second half of the twentieth century but it has roots in Sufism, the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century practice of Islamic mysticism. Hurufiyya or letterism refers to the mystical quality of letters. It is related to traditions of Quranic calligraphy, Kufic script, and Jewish kabbalah.
The hurufiyya movement is geographically and stylistically diverse. It was pioneered by Madiha Omar, an Iraqi artist with widespread influence in the United States. Hurifiyya artists practice everything from pure calligraphy to “calligraffiti,” which combines calligraphy with graffiti and other street art techniques.
Image: Maidha Omar, Untitled (1978). Watercolour on paper. 31 x 44 cm. Barjeel Art Foundation.