Name of Object:



Rabat, Morocco

Holding Museum:

National Library

 About National Library, Rabat.

Date of Object:

Hegira 3rd–4th centuries / AD 9th–10th centuries

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Parchment, brown ink.


Height 42 cm, length 36 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Fez (?).


Two books of this multi-volume Qur'an, of which pages 100 and 101 of book II are shown here, are the only ones kept in the Rabat National Library. On almost square pages, they are both in Maghrebi kufic script in brown ink on parchment. Although in the same style, the calligraphy in the two volumes is not the same, suggesting the work of two copyists. However, judging from the thickness of the lines, the roundness in the angles of the letters and the depth of the curves, the two styles belong to the same period and to the same Qur'an. Kufic script in the West started to differ from the oriental style in the second half of the AH 3rd / AD 9th century, evolving towards a style known as Maghrebi, which reached maturity two centuries later. This type of writing, which continued to obey Abu al-Aswad's archaic system of vocalisation, has no diacritical marks. Only the short vowels are represented (fatha, the letter A ; damma, the letter O, red dots over the line), kasra (the letter I, red dot under the line), and shedda (indicating the duplication of the letter) which today is written like a lower case w. The yellow and green round dots denote the vocal attack.
In this Qur'an, the titles of the suras lack any specific decoration. Only small golden rosettes framed by little dots, alternately blue and red, mark the separation between the verses, whereas the big rosettes, delicately adorned, embellish the verses in groups of ten. The written forms found in this specimen could link it to Zirid Qur'ans. Some very regular small punched holes in the upper margin of every page, where the word habus appears, prove that this book was brought as a pious offering to a shrine, probably in Fez.

View Short Description

This Qur'an transcribed on parchment was offered as a pious gift to a shrine. The square format and the archaic kufic script with its rounded angles are characteristic of the Maghrebi calligraphy of the period. The red dots and golden rosettes mark the vowels and the separation of the verses.

Original Owner:

Habus or waqf endowment

How date and origin were established:

Format and stylistic analysis of the script: archaic kufic style, codified for the system of vocalisation devised by Abu al-Aswad ad Du'ali (68 / 688) and adopted in the Muslim world from the 2nd–3rd / 8th–9th centuries. The calligraphy in these two volumes of the Qur'an is similar to the Western variant, known as Maghrebi.

How provenance was established:

This Qur'an is thought to be from Fez, as the town was the Idrisid capital and home of the Qarawiyyin university.

Selected bibliography:

Allouche, I. S. and al-Rajrari, A., Fahras al-makhtoutat al-arabiya al mahfouda fi'al khisana ai-amma bi Ribat al-Fath (inventory of Arabic manuscripts kept at the General Library of Rabat), 2 volumes (1921–53), Paris, 1958.
Al-Rassy, J. et Varichon A., De l'empire romain aux villes impériales: 6000 ans d'art au Maroc (catalogue), Paris, 1990.
Benjelloun-Laroui, L., Les bibliothèques du Maroc, Paris, 1990.
Dandel, E., Maroc: les trésors du royaume, catalogue, Paris, 1990.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.108–9.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.182–3.

Citation of this web page:

Naima El Khatib-Boujibar "Qur’an" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;ma;Mus01_F;3;en

Prepared by: Naima El Khatib-Boujibar
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: MO 04