Posted on 05/19/2012 by __socrates

The letters of Muslims are distinguished by several peculiarities, dictated by the rule of politeness. “The paper is thick, white, and highly polished; sometimes it is ornamented with flowers of gold and the edges are always cut straight with scissors. The upper half is generally left blank; and the writing never occupies any portion of the second side. The name of the person to whom the letter is addressed, when the writers is an inferior or an equal. and even in some other cases, commonly in the first sentence, preceded by several titles of honor: and is often written a little above the line to which it appertains, the space beneath it in that line being left blank: sometimes it is written in letters of gold, or red ink. A king, writing to a subject, or a great man to a dependent, usually places his name and seal at the head of his letter. The seal is the impression of a signet (generally a ring, worn on the little finger on the right hand), upon which is engraved. the name of the person, commonly accompanied by the word His (i.e. God’s) servant,’ or some other words expressive of trust in God, &c. Its impression is considered more valid than the sign-manual, and is indispensable to give authority to the letter. It is made by dabbing some ink on the surface of the signet, and pressing this upon the paper: the place which is to be stamped being first moistened, by touching the tongue with a finger of the right hand, and then gently rubbing the part with that linger. A person writing to a superior, or to an equal, or even .an inferior to whom he wishes to show respect, signs his name at the bottom of his letter, next the left side or corner, and places the seal immediately to the right of this; but if be particularly desire to testify his humility, he places it beneath his name, or even partly over the lower edge of the paper, which consequently does not receive the whole of the impression.” (Lane’s Arabian Nights, vol. i, p23.)

Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam