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Kufic Design Rugs

Antique Rug Symbol – Kufic Motif

The Meanings of the Kufic Motif Design in Rugs and Carpets

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Antique Rug Symbols: Kufic Motif — Kufic refers to stylized, geometrically rendered and calligraphy like Arabic letters used as actual design elements mostly seen within borders of carpets. The calligraphy Kufic design was first seen in the seventh century in Kufa, the region from which the script gets its name.

This script was often used in holy texts and important manuscripts from the 8th-11th centuries, at which time more modern alphabets began to gain popularity. In addition to its use in carpets, Kufic has also been used as a decorative element on buildings, coins, and pottery. This motif is found on many antique Persian carpets, but is found on antique rugs from other origins as well.

Antique Tabriz Garden Design Persian Rug Kufic Script Nazmiyal

An example of Kufic script on a Tabriz rug.

Origins of Kufic Script

The origins of the Kufic script can generally be traced back to the tribes who lived in the northern Arabian Peninsula during the second century BC. More specifically, the Nabataean alphabet which they utilized appears to have been the most prominent and direct precursor to Kufic calligraphy. (Interestingly, these early writings generally did not have spaces between individual words, a feature that would mark a bit of difference from its subsequent offspring such as Kufic and other Arabic scripts in general). As is the case with most scripts, these early forms of writing were far more concerned with the innocuous than they were the ornamental: rudimentary tasks such as transcription were the aim, the festooning of various objects was not.

Over time, however, the evolving lettering became noticeably more beautiful, and may have even been considered somewhat relatively impractical as a tool meant strictly for recording historical events and recreating voluminous religious texts (such as the Qur’an).

What would ultimately become known as Kufic script proper, its name having derived from the ancient Iraqi city of Kufa where it was first noted in approximately the seventh century, featured many elaborate and physically lengthy characters. These characters, understandably, resulted in a very time-consuming transcription process. For example, the combination of the largely horizontal nature of Kufic lettering and the reality that manuscripts were not ruled could only have proven a truly daunting challenge for anyone seeking to produce a sufficiently reverential piece of work.

Kufic Script Calligraphy Nazmiyal

Another example of Kufic script calligraphy in a rug.

Afore-mentioned difficulties notwithstanding, Islamic scholars and scribes often took great pleasure in painstakingly creating many ornately rendered copies of the Qur’an in the flamboyant and impressively intricate Kufic calligraphy. (One such notable example included text that was written in actual gold, something which no doubt significantly added to the value and allure of this particular copy.)

Kufic script was never really simply functional or innately practical; it was, objectively speaking, decidedly artistic. It conveyed stories and historical accounts in a manner that would attract the reader not merely for the story or religious ideals being discussed, but rather the aesthetics of the written words themselves. Whereas utility would typically be the only real purpose for script, Kufic lettering truly defied such norms. It was and is functional art. That said, its eventual application as a decorative motif in pottery, coins, monuments, architecture, and yes, rugs and carpets, was only natural.

In fact, over the centuries Kufic script became an inescapably prevalent means of adorning many edifices and the like all across the entire Middle East. However, despite this ubiquity, its appeal has not been diminished or eroded in any way.

What has been true since its first known occurrences until the present day has not changed or wavered in any way: Kufic script’s visually arresting qualities make it a great choice for lending more than a fair share of mystique to even the most mundane of objects. Kufic script’s flair and purposeful elegance are truly undeniable. With Kufic the prosaic becomes intriguing, charming, and conversation-worthy. Rugs and carpets that would typically elicit a mere glance at best suddenly prompt not only second looks but third ones as well.

To further pique the jealousy (or perhaps the more genuinely benevolent interest) of your neighbors and visitors, one can even add some custom touches to a custom made rug. In that regard, it should be noted that shape, size, and color are all customizable as well in our Nazmiyal Collection custom rugs, thereby allowing for the creation of something truly unique. Your personal style plus the ancient Arabic calligraphy of Kufa is sure to result in not only a one-of-a-kind conversation starter but also a treasured family heirloom for years to come.

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