The origin of the Islamic style of writing goes back to the Nabati script of Aramaic origin. Kufic was developed from the Nabati script over the course of a historical process. Rough square script, which was used in the first years of Islam, was later developed in the city of Kufa. That is why the script was named Kufic. Kufic script was often used in writing copies of the Qur’an, inscriptions on tombstones, in business connections, exchanging letters and daily routines. Along with religious and social life, it found a wide area of use in the artistic sphere. Kufic script has been employed in three places: epitaphs, tombs and the belts of architectural structures. And the surfaces where the script is applied are stones, pargets, tiles, mosaic, plaster and brick.
Beautiful Kufic writings have also been engraved on the wooden parts of the mihrab (niche), minbar (pulpit), door and window sashes along with decorative motifs providing a great taste of art. Kufic script decoration has taken its place on metal equipment and objects like basins, trays, chandeliers, the alem (the crescent and the star on top of minarets), plates, swords and shields, ceramic and tile containers and on artistic souvenirs.
The Kufic Script has seen its most popular days between the 10th and 13th centuries. It has often been used during the times of the Great Seljuks and the Anatolian Seljuks. However the Ottomans did not show much interest in the Kufic script. The Kufic script has been used on some Ottoman period structures such as the Bursa Grand Mosque, the crown gate of the Bursa Green Mosque, the yard window of Istanbul Fatih Mosque, the Diwan of the Tiled Pavilion, the lower parts of the minarets of the Bayezid II Mosque, the Shepherd Mustafa Pasha Mosque, the tomb and belt writing of the Yıldız Mosque, the epitaph of the Grand Istanbul Post Office, the Archaeology Museum and Bank Note Printing House, and the mihrab of the Kağıthane Sadabat Mosque.
It varied according to the place it was written and its structure.
Kufic script is separated into different branches:
- Kufic script according to its structure
1) Simple Kufic: It is the Kufic script used in the east and west in the first years of Islam. The best examples are the Qubbatus Sakhra and the Tolonoğlu Mosque epitaph. There is not any decoration in this type of Kufic script.
2) Leafed Kufic: This type of Kufic has decorations like tree leaves.
3) Kufic on a decorated background: It is the type that has curved branches on its background. The best examples are found in Gazna in Iran and the Cairo Sultan Hasan Madrasa.
3) Braided Kufic: It has this name because some letters are braided. The earliest examples of this type go back to the 5th century AH. The oldest examples are found on the Radakan Castle in Iran (411 AH) and on the Kairouan Mosque in Tunis (431 AH). The most known and famous example is on the tomb of Pir Alamdar in Iran.
5) Geometric Kufic: It differentiates from others with its vertical and sharp lines. How it came into existence is unknown. It is very common in masjids in Iran and Iraq.
- Kufic script is separated into three types according to the place it is written.
1) Mashriq Kufic
2) Maghrib Kufic
3) Kayrawan Kufic
Maqili script: This is a writing style which does not have any roundness, is straight, vertical and angular. What makes the Maqili script different from Kufic is that it is completely straight, angular and geometric motifs are not written by pen but mostly drawn by means of tools. There is a toughness and absoluteness present in the Maqili script.