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Kashida (Persian: کشیده; "extended", "stretched", "lengthened") is a type of justification in some cursive scripts related to Arabic. In contrast to white-space justification, which increases the length of a line of text by expanding spaces between words or individual letters, kashida creates justification by elongating characters at certain points. Kashida justification can be combined with white-space justification.
The analog in European (Latin-based) typography (expanding or contracting letters to improve spacing) is sometimes called expansion, and falls within microtypography. Kashida is considerably easier and more flexible, however, because Arabic-Persian scripts feature prominent horizontal strokes, whose lengths are accordingly flexible.
For example, alħamdu and Raḥīm with and without kashida may look like the following:
Kashida can also refer to a character that represents this elongation (ـ) – also known as tatweel or taṭwīl (تطويل taṭwīl) – or to one of a set of glyphs of varying lengths that implement this elongation in a font. The Unicode standard assigns codepoint U+0640 as Arabic Tatweel.
The kashida can take a subtle downward curvature in some calligraphic styles and handwriting. However, the curvilinear stroke is not feasible for most basic fonts, which merely use a completely flat underscore-like stroke for kashida.
In addition to letter spacing and justification, calligraphers also use kashida for emphasis and as book or chapter titles. In modern Arabic mathematical notation, kashida appears in some operation symbols that must stretch to accommodate associated contents above or below.
Kashida generally only appears in one word per line, and one letter per word. Furthermore, experts recommend kashida only between certain combinations of letters (typically those that cannot form a ligature). Some calligraphers who were paid by the page used an inordinate number of kashida to stretch contents over more pages.
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