The Qur’an (from the Arabic qara’a, ‘to read aloud’ or ‘to recite’) is the holy text of Islam and contains the revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad from God during his life. Transmitted orally at first, it was written down by the Prophet’s companions around the mid-7th century, providing the basis for the Qur’an that is used today.
The bifolio presented here (Qur’an, 3:55&57), datable to the late 9th century, exemplifies the ‘monumental’ quality of the earliest written copies of this text. Distributed over three lines per page and executed in bold kufic, the verses are broken into syllables that regularly alternate with empty spaces, with red dots used to indicate vowels. While the result is a balanced and attractive layout, the lack of diacritical marks, which are used in Arabic to distinguish the single letters, and the inability to tell where a word ends and where another begins, makes the reading of the verses especially hard. Hence, scholars have suggested that Qur’ans with these features were meant to assist those who had already memorized the text with its recitation.
These pages belong to a multi-volume Qur’an associated with Amajur (governor of Damascus between 869 and 877) that was donated as waqf or charitable gift to a mosque in Lebanon.
George, Alain Fouad, ‘The Geometry of the Qur'an of Amajur: A Preliminary Study of Proportion in Early Arabic Calligraphy’, Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World, 20, (2003), passim, illus. p. 4 fig 1-2, p.p. 6-9 figs 4-24
A term denoting various styles of angular Arabic script. Emerged in the early centuries of Islam, kufic soon became the preferred hand to copy holy texts.
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