This image of a lion originates from Lahore, Pakistan and is part of a rich tradition of zoomorphic calligraphy. This practice, developed in the sixteenth century, employs the flexibility and beauty of Arabic script to delineate living forms such as tigers, parrots, ostriches and cockerels. This is done without disobeying religious injunctions that prohibit their direct depiction.
Texts themselves might constitute verses from the Qur’an and include puns relating to the ‘word-picture’, particularly in Shia iconography. A famous example contains a prayer to Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, also known as Haidar or ‘lion’.
Information from the Tate Gallery, UK.
By Khaled al-Saa'i
You can find more of Khaled al-Saa'i's work here.
Visit an Arabic calligraphy exhibit here.