Calligraphy Qalam: An Introduction to Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Calligraphy

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Kufic


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Maghribi


(Pronounced “koo-fik”; Persian–Koufi)

Meaning

  • “Kufic” refers to the city of Kufa in southern Iraq. Although this style did not necessarily originate in Kufa, the name Kufic is commonly (if mistakenly) applied to the early scripts used to write the Koran

Uses

  • Kufic and its variants were used almost exclusively among early scripts for writing the Koran. Developed originally for writing on stone, this angular script was adopted for use in religious texts because of its formality

Timeline

  • Developed in the 3rd or 4th century A.D.
  • Used until almost the end of the 13th century
  • Kufic is mostly obsolete today because it is difficult to write any text of length. It is occasionally still used for titles of manuscripts or in architectural inscriptions

Distinctive characteristics

  • Angular letter shapes
  • Short, broad vertical strokes and long extended horizontals
  • Written on a horizontal baseline
  • Some early Kufic scripts did not use vowels or dots (diacritical marks) around letters
  • Colored dots were sometimes used around the letters to aid with pronunciation

Notes

  • Kufic is difficult to write because its letters must be drawn in with a pen rather than written as a series of pen strokes
Kufic image

Decorative kufic.

Kufic image

Plaited eastern kufic.

Kufic image

Early kufic script.

Kufic image

Kufic script.

Kufic image

Eastern kufic.

(pronounced “mah-gre-bee”)

Meaning

  • “Maghribi” means “western,” in Arabic and refers to the western Islamic world of North Africa and Spain, where this script (and its variants) developed

Uses

  • Maghribi was used for writing the Koran as well as other scientific, legal and religious manuscripts

Timeline

  • Developed in the 10th century
  • Still in use today in the western Islamic world, although its use is declining

Distinctive characteristics

  • Descending strokes have large bowls with sweeping curves (loops)
  • Strokes tend to be of uniform thickness
  • Often written in brown ink
  • Written on a horizontal baseline
  • Vowel markings are often flat rather than slanted
  • This script is derived from the earliest rounded script of the Arabian peninsula

Notes

  • The 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun said that in the Maghrib (West) calligraphers were trained to write whole words, while in the eastern Islamic world, they were trained to write separate letters. This difference may explain why the letter shapes in the maghribi script are different from the shapes preferred in the East; letters change shape based on the word they are in, rather than on a series of prescribed rules
Maghribi image

Maghribi script.

Maghribi image

Maghribi script.

Maghribi image

Maghribi script.

Maghribi image

Maghribi script.

Maghribi image

Maghribi script.