The exhibition dedicated to Kufic script in the Qur'anic manuscripts is on view from March 5 until May 10, 2016 at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul.

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Throughout the history, Quran has been copied in different styles of Arabic script, from kufic or angular to rounded or cursive scripts. Kufic script was prevalent in the early period of Islam, and eventually formed a variety of decorative qualities which led to development of other styles. The exhibition shows the development of kufic script from the earliest transcriptions of Qur'an until the representative examples of manuscripts from the Ottoman period.

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

In order to protect and correctly convey the divine message to future generations Qur'an needed to be written in a clear and beautiful script that did not lead to any misreading and manipulation. Therefore, for centuries copies of Qur'an were prepared by most famous calligraphers that worked meticulously and expertly.

First used in Hijaz, Kufic script spread to Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and Spain after second half of 7th century. This script took the name of the area it was used such as Meccan in Mecca, Medani (or Hijazi) in Medina, Basri in Basra and was improved after Kufa became an important centre, receiving its generic name 'Kufic' afterwards. Different styles led to classification of Kufic writing as 'Eastern or Oriental Kufic' and 'Western or Maghrebi Kufic'.

image Qur'an Folio, Ummayad period, 8th century, Hijazi script, Verses: Ta-Ha 20 (115-135), Al-Anbiya 21 (97-112), Al-Hajj 22 (1-4) / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Qur'an, Abbasid period, 9th century, Mashreq Kufic, Verses: Al-Hadid 57 (20-22), Binding: Ottoman period, 18th century / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Juz, Abbasid Period, 10th century, Mashreq Kufic, Verses: Al-Baqarah 2 (8-81) / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Abbasid Period, 10th century, Mashreq Kufic, Verses: An-Nur 24-28, Binding: Safavid Period, 17th century / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Qur'an, Abbasid period, 993-94, Mashreq Kufic. Calligraphy by Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Yasin b. Isbehan, Verses: Al-An'am 6 (164-165) / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Kufic was the only script form used for writing Mus'haf until 11th century and as new calligraphy styles emerged, its use with other styles in writing religious, literary and scientific manuscripts as well as Mus'haf. Until end of 15th century, kufic script was used in inscriptions, tombstones and daily life objects, and as a large format script in architecture. Later on, it was preferred by calligraphers who wished to demonstrate their skills. It is still very popular, especially by contemporary calligraphers.

image Qur'an, Seljuk period, 13th century, Surah beginnings in Mashew Kufic, Verses: Al-Hijr 15 (93-99), An-Nahl 16 (1) / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Kufic Script in Memluk period (1250-1517) was used only on dedication pages and surah beginnings. Memluk sultans dedicated magnificent and large size Qur'an copies, leading to preparation of numerous Qur'an copies in this period. Elaborate Qur'an copies prepared by famous calligraphers Muhammad b. Suud es Safii, Isa b. Ebu Bekir b. Eyyub, famous illumiators Sandal and his students Aydogdu b. Abdullah el-Bedri and Ali b. Muhammed er-Ressam. Delicate, masterpiece quality copies of Qur'an were made in Jalaraid period (1340-1432) and Timurid period (1370-1507), where Kufic was also used on dedication pages and surah beginnings.

image Qur'an, Ilkhanid Period, 1338-39, Illuminated Plate, Al-Baqarah, Ayatul-Kursi in Kufic script / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image 14 / Qur'an, Mameluke period, 1313-14, Surah beginnings in Mashreq Kufic. Calligraphy by Shazi b. Davud b. Isa b. Abu Bakre b. Ayyub / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Juz, Timurid period, ca. 1430-40, Surah beginnings in Mashreq Kufic, Verses: Ta-Ha 20 (1-7) / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Qur'an, Timurid period, ca. 1430-40, Illuminated opening page, Surah beginnings in Mashreq Kufic / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Qur'an, Mameluke period, 14th century, Surah beginnings in Mashreq Kufic, Verses: Yusuf 12 (53-54) / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Art of calligraphy in Ottoman period (1299/1300-1922) was greatly advanced through Sheikh Hamdullah's (d.1520) establishment of a new ecole in al-Aqlam as-Sitta (Six Scripts), which would be followed for centuries. Similar to Sheikh Hamdullah's establishment of a new ecole, Ahmed Karahisari (d.1556) who was closer to Yaqut style, developed a new script design that would leave its mark on art of calligraphy and that is still not surpassed today, even after 500 years. Kufic script in the Ottoman calligraphy was employed in architectural elements and on dedication pages of manuscript. It is remarkable to see Kufic script's perpetuation in 16th century via Ahmed Karahisari's works.

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Album of Ahmed Karahisari, Ottoman Period ca. 1540-1550. Calligrapher: Ahmed Karahisari / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image Exhibition 'Kufic, Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book', Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, installation view / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

The exhibition 'Kufic - Splendid Calligraphy of the Miracle Book' is on view from March 5 until May 10, 2016 at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul.


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