An early Kufic Qur’an


This copy of the Qur’an in an early kufic script is most likely from the 9th century. Like earlier Qur’ans it was written on vellum.

What is kufic script?

The striking angular Arabic script known as kufic takes its name from the Iraqi town of al-Kufah, one of the earliest centres of Islamic learning, where the script is thought to have developed. Due to the script’s short vertical and elongated horizontal strokes it was written in a landscape (wide) format.

Kufic Qur’ans of the 9th and 10th centuries were also characterised by the introduction of signs to aid to pronunciation and recitation of the text. In this copy, they are in the form of red dots to represent the vowels and short black diagonal strokes to distinguish different letters of similar shapes. Green dots denote the letter hamzah (the glottal stop, similar to when the middle ‘tt’ sound is dropped in the word ‘butter’) and gold ornaments mark the end of each verse.

What does this Qur’an tell us?

This early kufic Qur’an thus exhibits the beginnings of elements of illumination and decoration that were so eminently brought to perfection in later Qur’ans. While beautifying the Qur’an manuscript can be considered as an act of religious devotion, the decorations on its pages have the additional function of facilitating the reading. Tajwid is an Arabic term that literally means ‘beautification’, but has come to refer to the art of reciting the Qur’an correctly. The pronunciation aids in this Qur’an show an early development of this art.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
c. 850
Usage terms

Public Domain. Please consider cultural, religious & ethical sensitivities when re-using this material.

Held by
British Library
Or 1397

Full catalogue details

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