Friday, December 19, 2008

Kufi is a font

This picture of 9th century Kufi Archaic on parchment, is a courtesy from Abdel Kadir and Muhammad Sijilmassi (2008), in their book entitled; The Splendour of Islamic Calligraphy. Published by Thames and Hudson: Printed in Italy. 

Natasha is a new friend from the UK, last night she asked: How come there is no explanation about Kufi here? This question came timely as we are in the process of gathering data to write and have it posted. Now that somebody is asking, so here it is.

Arabic scripts have seven major typology, namely Kufi, thuluth, naskh, Andalusia Maghribi, riq’a, diwani and ta’liq (or farisi). Kufi is the earliest Arabic priestly font, which is named after a city of Kufah, in Iraq, established around 641 A.D.  Here the font have been popularly used and went through refinements thus transforming it into an elegant script called Kufic or Kufi.

During the prophecy period of Muhammad (S.A.W.) since his forty years of age, he used to receive revelations from Allah S.W.T. through an angel names Jibrail. Because the prophet S.A.W. was illiterate, they were remembered and had it written down by his companions on animal hides, leaves, wooden pulps or whatever they could reach to write on.  The style of writing then was Kufi.

The kind of Kufi they wrote was not similar to what you see in this site. According to Mamoun Sakkal (, Kufi has five catogaries: 1. Early Kufi. 2. Eastern Kufi. 3. Foliate Kufi. 4. Knotted Kufi. 5. Square Kufi.

In 13 century Baghdad and it surrounding territories were invaded by Kublai Khan and his armies, the population was reduced instantly. Properties were burnt to the ground. Books were thrown into rivers, changed the colour of the flowing river with blood and ink, red and black.

Courtesy of Mamoun Sakkal

According to an Arabic Prof. Thomas  W. Arnold, from the University of London, (2006 ), in his book entitled; The spreading of Islam in the world through peaceful preaching, Published by Goodword Books Publication, printed in India: The destruction caused by the bloody invasion was far worse than the Jews holocaust by the Nazis during the 2nd world war in Germany. But, this aspect of history is never remembered until today.

Courtesy of Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia,
in their book entitled; 
Mightier than the Sword (page 113). 
This coin was inscribed with 'Shahadah' 
in Kufi script by the Monghuls. 
Testifying their conversion to Islam.

By the grace of Allah S.W.T. a century after, the Monghul’s King named Timor Khan converted to Islam. Kufi writing was widely used and developed into Kufi Square. This way of writing was found on their coins and appeared as ornaments on their buildings, plaiting and knotting.

This window is at Richard Abas's house in Sec. 14, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. 
He said, "When we did extensions to the house, we added one floor. 
at the stairs, we had a space which we did a sandblast on glass and stained glass. 
As fa as i know this is the only Kufi on glass that i am aware of! 
If you look from the outside you will get a reverse image, but it is near a roof 
and nobody gets to look in that way, so it was not an issue".

In the late 20th and early 21st century this territory of early civilization experienced more series of invasions by the US and its allies. Many of the remnants of the Monghul Empire and its legacy have perished to the ground by bombs.

Shukor Yahya found the artistic, flexibility and graphic elements in Kufi writing is very interesting yet challenging. He carefully choosed some significant Quranic verses for deliverance using this method of writing. It is something unique worthy of revival, besides the Kufi was not subjected to strict rules. So it gave Shukor Yahya virtually a free hand in the conception and execution of its ornamental forms.

This painting is entitled Al Fatihah (2007). AlFatihah Is the mother of all surahs in the Al Quran. Insofar the Kufi development is concern this is the first surah Al Fatihah written, designed and painted in Kufi - making this painting a mother of all paintings.
Emulsion on canvas. Measures; 150 cm X 78 cm. 
The meaning of surah Al-Fatihah (The Opening)

1. In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 2.Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. 3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful; 4. Master of the Day of Judgement; 5. You do we worship, and your aid we seek. 6. Show me the straight way; 7. The way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, those whose portion will not wrath, and who not go astray.        

Note: In Surah Al Fatihah there is cure to all illness. These seven ayats represents the Grand Quran.