Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #1 – Quran

I decided to take a break on my long new year weekend, so I am sorry I was not actively publishing my posts as I would normally do. Now I am back on my desk, and I have some time to post what I have studied on Islamic Art.

Notice that I have discontinued Gaga over Geometry Monday and replaced it with Imagining Islamic Aesthetics, so it covers more of Islamic art than just Geometrical designs. I also omitted the Monday part – so I can do it once a week, but not restricted to just one day.

Now, on to the post. The topic for today is Quran – The Islamic sacred texts.

Quran manuscripts have evolved and went so far from the Rashidien Calliphate to the present day, from the square angular lines of the Kufic script used for the writing of the sacred texts with no embellishments, to the curvy Thuluth script with gold leaf decorations. As with any Islamic item, and especially sacred items, they are almost always brilliantly decorative, with many of Islamic aesthetic condensed into one manuscript.

This is a 7th century Kufic Quranic manuscript, showing the seventh Sura (chapter) Al A’raf, verses 86 and 87. Note the simplicity of the script – this is how Quran originally looked like. There was no signs to help the reader to correctly recite it – however for the native Arabs, they can recite it correctly. Hence this manuscript is intended for the Arab Muslims, not for non-Arabs, since at that time, Islam have not spread any further than the Hijaz area of Saudi Arabia.

This is a page from the Quran, 9th Century. You can see at this time, signs for easier recognition were introduced in the form of dots. This, I think, Is the time where Muslim scholars were experimenting with various forms of signage and symbols to help non-Arab Muslims to read the Quran correctly. The script used is still the angular Kufic. However, it is more stylized now, with a little more curves along with the said dots and marks to signify one verse and the another.

An 11th Century Quran manuscript. The script is still Kufic, but it is more angular and have more sharp lines than the prior manuscripts. By this period, lines were used for annotation, whilst the dots for the individual characters are still preserved.  This presumably because non-Arab Muslims found this method to be the best for easy recitation of the Quranic scripts.

Quranic manuscript produced in Spanish Al-Andalus, 12th Century. Note the different script used – called Andalusian style. The manuscript is decorated heavily with gold coloured accents.

A manuscript off the Quran produced in Iran in the 14th Century. The script used is no longer the angled Kufic but the cursive Thuluth script – and this is how the Quran look like up till now. Look at the rich embellishment for this particular page of the Quran ; while not all Quran were done this way, most, if not all, Quran have pages embellished such as this, particularly done for the Al-Fatiha (the first chapter of the Quran) and five verses of the Al-Baqara (Second chapter of the Quran)

This post mainly focuses on Quranic manuscripts. However, we will see in depth about these scripts and its usage in other medias.



Filed under Imagining Islamic Aesthetic

4 responses to “Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #1 – Quran

  1. M.Nadim Islam

    I’m not suficient to read this site. There is no any information about aesthetics.

    • Salam M.Nadim.

      If you feel so, please browse the categories for more specific information. Since you are browsing the Imagining Islamic Aesthetics, which is pretty much introductions, maybe the Study, History or Observation categories will suffice. Looking forward to any building comments.

      Kind Regards,

  2. Roche

    What is the significance of the circular motifs in some of the texts?

    • Hello Roche!
      Which motifs are you referring to? If you are referring to the ones that are between the texts, those are to mark the different verses in that particular chapter. If you are referring to the medallions on the side of the pages, those are to mark the Juz’ or parts of the Qur’an. Hope that helps 🙂

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