Friday, September 21, 2018

Nastaliq Fonts and Islamic Ligatures Supported on New iPhone XS and XS Max

Apple's iPhone XS and XS Max with iOS 12 went on sale at stores across the United States today Sept 21, 2018.

Silicon-Valley based Pakistani-American Mudassir Azeemi was among the first to check out the new Urdu support features in Apple iOS 12 that came with the new iPhones. Mudassir has been working with both Apple and Google mobile operating systems to support Nastaliq Urdu fonts and Islamic ligatures such as  and   on their smartphones.

Here's what he reported yesterday:

"When I was filing bugs related to #Urdu and #Nastaleeq (about to be implemented) on iOS Devices in

2015. I requested Apple to include the word ligature. That ligature is calligraphic version of salutation on Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him and proper display of word Allah ﷲ. Guess what? It’s there! I just came to know about it today. I feel that Apple is the only company that really listen to you and make sure a superb experience for its customer. ﷲ ﷺ There are few more added : Alayhe Assallam ؑ, shorter version of Sallallahou Alayhe Wassallam ؐ, Rahmatullah Alayhe ؒ and Radi Allahou Anhu ؓ. PS: This is introduced in iOS 12. I just verified it."

History of Nastaliq on Apple:

It all started when Apple included nastaliq font in iOS 9 Beta 1 after a persistent campaign by Mudassir Azeemi. Unfortunately, it was later dropped in the released version of iOS X.  But Mudassir continued his efforts which bore fruit with iOS 11.  Apple has since dropped naskh in default mode and support only nastaliq in native mode for rendering Arabic, Persian and Urdu languages.

Naskh vs Nastaliq:

Apple today supports naskh font which are used for Arabic, Persian and Urdu. Most Urdu lovers, however, prefer the beauty of nastaliq font. Here's how South Asian writer Ali Eteraz describes the two fonts:

"Looking at the (rendering of the two fonts), the discerning eye may immediately realize why naskh trumps nastaliq on digital devices. With its straightness and angularity, naskh is simply easier to code, because unlike nastaliq, it doesn’t move vertically and doesn’t have dots adhering to a strict pattern. And we all know how techies opt for functionality. Utility being the mother of expansion, naskh is quickly phasing out nastaliq on the web. BBC-Urdu and Urdu Voice of America both use naskh; so does Alarabiya Urdu. And if you want to write an SMS in nastaliq, you must use naskh as well. Same holds true for social media: Facebook, naskh; Twitter, naskh; blogs, naskh."

Use of Image Files:

Nastaliq lovers like Pakistan's Jang Media Group and others have not given up on their preferred script. Instead of using naskh, they have resorted to using uploaded image files for publishing content on their websites.

Other Platforms:

Unfortunately, none of the other operating systems support nastaliq in native mode yet. They all support naskh which is becoming the dominant font for Urdu along with Arabic and Persian. However, Mudassir Azeemi believes that Apple's decision to only support nastaliq in native mode will influence all operating system vendors and social media apps like twitter and Facebook to start using nastaliq as default for Urdu.


Apple iOS 12 operating system that came installed with the new iPhones supports Nastaliq Urdu fonts and Islamic ligatureApple's decision to drop naskh and include nastaliq as the default font for Urdu, Arabic and Persian is likely to have a major impact on all operating systems and social media platforms. It's welcome news for Urdu lovers like Ali Eteraz and Mudassir Azeemi who have been deeply unhappy with what they describe as "the death of the Urdu script".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Saving Urdu in its Birthplace

Smartphones to Close Digital Divide in Pakistan

Pakistan Mobile Broadband Speeds Fastest in South Asia

Pakistani-American Foundation Releases Khan Academy's Videos in Urdu

Cemendtaur's Book Launch at Urdu Academy in Silicon Valley

US Mining Urdu Content on Facebook, Twitter

Sesame Street Adapted For Pakistan in Urdu

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

1 comment:

Urdu speaker said...

I am commenting late but: Naskh is very hard to read. Thats why Nastaliq is used in all all Urdu newspapers and never Naskh. And all those Urdu websites that use Naskh are hard to read for the audience hence its unpopularity. The coder who prefers Naskh for functionality it forgetting that the end user defines if its good for use or not and not the coder/ designer. This type of coder is making a recipe for failure.