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A close up to the Arabic inscription on the frame of the Mihrab in Kufic script from Madrasa Imami originally located in Iran (1354-55).
Kufic script, 8th or 9th century (Surah 48: 27–28) Qur'an.

Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Kufic developed around the end of the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name, and other centres.[1]


Kufic script used in a copy of the Qur'an

The Qur'an was first written in a plain, slanted, and uniform script but, when its content was formalized, a script that denoted authority emerged.[2] This coalesced into what is now known as Primary Kufic script.[2] Kufic was prevalent in manuscripts from the 7th to 10th centuries.[citation needed] Around the 8th century, it was the most important of several variants of Arabic scripts with its austere and fairly low vertical profile and a horizontal emphasis.[3] Until about the 11th century it was the main script used to copy the Qur'an.[1] Professional copyists employed a particular form of Kufic for reproducing the earliest surviving copies of the Qur'an, which were written on parchment and date from the 8th to 10th centuries.[4] It is distinguished from Thuluth script in its use of decorative elements whereas the latter was designed to avoid decorative motifs.[5] In place of the decorations in Kufic scripts, Thuluth used vowels.[5]

Ornamental useEdit

Kufic is commonly seen on Seljuk coins and monuments and on early Ottoman coins. Its decorative character led to its use as a decorative element in several public and domestic buildings constructed prior to the Republican period in Turkey.

The current flag of Iraq (2008) includes a kufic rendition of the takbir. Similarly, the flag of Iran (1980) has the takbir written in white square kufic script a total of 22 times on the fringe of both the green and red bands.

Square or geometric Kufic is a very simplified rectangular style of Kufic widely used for tiling. In Iran sometimes entire buildings are covered with tiles spelling sacred names like those of God, Muhammad and Ali in square Kufic, a technique known as banna'i.[6]

"Pseudo-Kufic", also "Kufesque",[citation needed] refers to imitations of the Kufic script, made in a non-Arabic context, during the Middle Ages or the Renaissance: "Imitations of Arabic in European art are often described as pseudo-Kufic, borrowing the term for an Arabic script that emphasizes straight and angular strokes, and is most commonly used in Islamic architectural decoration".[7]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Arabic scripts". British Museum. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b Jazayeri, S. M. V. Mousavi; Michelli, Perette E.; Abulhab, Saad D. (2017). A Handbook of Early Arabic Kufic Script: Reading, Writing, Calligraphy, Typography, Monograms. New York: Blautopf Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 9780998172743.
  3. ^ Wilson, Eva (1988). Islamic Designs for Artists and Craftspeople. New York: Dover Publications. p. 11. ISBN 048625819X.
  4. ^ "The Spirit of Islam: Experiencing Islam through Calligraphy". UBC Museum of Anthropology. Archived from the original on 8 November 2002. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  5. ^ a b Jazayeri, S. M. V. Mousavi; Ringgenberg, Patrick; Michelli, Perette E.; Chaharmahali, Ali M.; Jazayeri, S. M. H. Mousavi (2015). Kufic Inscriptions of the Historic Grand Mosque of Shoushtar. New York: Blautopf Publishing. p. 120. ISBN 9781511537995.
  6. ^ Jonathan M. Bloom; Sheila Blair (2009). The Grove encyclopedia of Islamic art and architecture. Oxford University Press. pp. 101, 131, 246. ISBN 978-0-19-530991-1. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  7. ^ Mack, p.51


  • Mack, Rosamond E. Bazaar to Piazza: Islamic Trade and Italian Art, 1300–1600, University of California Press, 2001 ISBN 0-520-22131-1
  • Wolfgang Kosack: Islamische Schriftkunst des Kufischen. Geometrisches Kufi in 593 Schriftbeispielen. Deutsch – Kufi – Arabisch. Christoph Brunner, Basel 2014, ISBN 978-3-906206-10-3.

External linksEdit