Styles of Arabic Script

Perhaps the most distinctive – as well as the most uniting – mode of visual expression in Islam is the Arabic script. In the first centuries of Islam, copies of the Qur’aninfo-icon were written on parchment and a number of different styles of script became prominent. The term kufic, derived from the early Muslim city of Kufa where a particular variant of the angular style developed, came to be used generically to denote all angular scripts. While not an easy script to read, kufic provided great aesthetic delight. Over time, cursive hands took on a more exalted role and Qur’ans were written in naskh and muhaqqaq. Regional styles also flourished: in north India bihari was a favourite style for fine Qur’ans, while maghribi, the only cursive script which arose directly out of kufic, became the standard in the region which gave the script its name (the Maghribinfo-icon).  

Manuscript of a Qur'an, Egypt


Manuscript of a Qur’an, Egypt, possibly Fatimid, 10th century eastern kufic script in brown ink on parchment.


Miniature Qur'an

Miniature Qur’an Section and Binding, Persia, Timurid, 15th century, naskh script in black ink, on paper; gilt-stamped binding with foliate and floral motifs.

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Single Folio from a Qur'an, Tunisia


Single Folio from a Qur’an, Tunisia, probably Qayrawaninfo-icon, 10th century kufic script in dark brown ink on parchment.