Calligraphy, Orthography and Diacritical Marks Used in the Qur'an
The first and second copies of the Qur'an were written in Kufic script at the time of the Prophet. The very basic nature of the script, without diacritical marks, was suitable for the reciters, relators and scholars who had learned the Qur'an by heart, since only they knew the precise pronuniciation of the words. Others found great difficuity if they opened the Book and tried to read correctly. It was for this reason that at the end of the first century after Hijrah Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali, one of the companions of 'Ali, with the guidance of the latter, wrote out the rules of the Arabic language and on the orders of the Umayyad Caliph 'Abd al-Malik produced a Qura'nic text with diacritical marks. This, to a certain extent, removed the difficulty of reading the Kufic script.
Several difficulties remained, however; the diacritical marks for vowels, for example, were for a time only points. Instead of a fathah, a point was placed at the beginning of the letter and, instead of kasrah, a point below and, for a dammah, a point above at the end of a letter. This led to ambiguity. It was not till Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi set about explaining the maddah, i.e. the lengthening of certain words, the doubling of letters, the diacritical marks of vowelling and the pause, that the difficulty of reading script was finally removed.
Adapted from: "The Quran in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i"
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