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  • Writer's pictureRaghad Bushnaq

The History of Printing the Quran

Printing the Quran begins in the 16th century, with the introduction of printing technology to the Islamic world. The first printed Quran in Venice was produced by Paganino de Paganini in 1537. Paganini was a well-known printer and publisher in Venice, and he had the Quran printed in Arabic using movable type, which was a relatively new printing technology at the time.

Unfortunately, the printed Quran contained a large number of errors, including missing and misplaced verses, incorrect spellings, and inconsistent diacritical marks. These mistakes caused outrage among Muslims who saw it as a desecration of their holy book.

It is not clear whether Paganini closed his business as a result of the controversy or for other reasons, but it is known that he faced financial difficulties in the years following the publication of the Quran. Additionally, the printing of the Quran was not approved by the Catholic Church, and it is possible that Paganini faced pressure from Church officials to cease his printing activities.

In any case, the publication of the flawed printed Quran in Venice remains a significant event in the history of printing and Islamic culture, highlighting the importance of accuracy and attention to detail when it comes to religious texts.

The first copy of the Quran, printed in Venice 1537

Over the following centuries, printing presses were established throughout the Islamic world, and the Quran was produced in a wide range of formats and styles.

When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt in 1798, he brought with him a printing press and a team of printers to establish a printing industry in Egypt. One of the printers, named Antoine-Laurent Castellan, was tasked with setting up the first printing press in Cairo.

After Napoleon's departure from Egypt, the printing press was left behind and fell into the hands of local rulers. In the early 19th century, Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Egypt, decided to establish a modern printing industry in Egypt to support his efforts to modernize the country. He commissioned his son Ibrahim Pasha to travel to Europe to learn about printing technology and bring back the necessary equipment.

Ibrahim Pasha traveled to Italy and studied printing techniques there, including at the printing press in Tain. He then returned to Egypt with modern printing equipment, including the printing press left behind by Napoleon's team, and established the first modern printing press in Egypt in 1820. The press was used to print various materials, including books, newspapers, and official government documents, and was later used to print the Quran in Egypt for the first time.

This development had a significant impact on Islamic printing and publishing, allowing for the mass production and distribution of the Islamic texts to a wider audience. The printing of the Quran in Egypt marked a turning point in the history of Quranic publishing, as it paved the way for the mass production and distribution of the holy book to Muslims around the world.

One of the most significant developments in the history of Quranic printing was the introduction of lithography in the 19th century. Lithography, a technique that involves using a flat stone or metal plate to transfer ink to paper, allowed for the production of high-quality Quranic texts that were more affordable and accessible than ever before. Lithographed Qurans became popular throughout the Muslim world and helped to spread Islamic knowledge and scholarship to a wider audience.

Today, the Quran is available in a wide range of formats, including printed books, digital editions, and audio recordings. The text remains central to the Islamic faith and is studied and recited by millions of Muslims around the world. The history of dividing the Quran into chapters and verses, as well as the history of printing the text, are essential parts of the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the Muslim world.

The use of lithography for printing the Quran was particularly popular in the Ottoman Empire, where it was introduced in the early 19th century. Lithographic editions of the Quran were produced in Istanbul, Cairo, and other cities throughout the Ottoman Empire, and were widely distributed throughout the Muslim world.

In the late 19th century, the technology of printing the Quran began to shift to the use of movable type, a printing technique in which individual letters and characters are arranged and locked into place, and then used to print copies of a text.

Movable type printing of the Quran was first introduced in India in the late 19th century, and quickly spread to other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. The use of movable type allowed for faster and more efficient production of printed editions of the Quran and helped to standardize the text.

Today, the printing of the Quran is a major industry in many Muslim countries, with countless editions and translations available in a variety of languages and formats. The printing and distribution of the Quran is a sacred duty by Muslims, and is viewed as a means of spreading the message of Islam to people all over the world.

Handwriting the Quran

There have been many famous calligraphers throughout history who have written the Quran in beautiful scripts. One of the most famous ones is Ibn Muqla, the calligrapher credited with the development of the Naskh script, lived in Baghdad during the Abbasid era and died in 940 CE.

Ibn al-Bawwab, another famous calligrapher, lived in Baghdad during the 11th century CE.

Yaqut al-Musta'simi was a 13th-century CE calligrapher who lived in Baghdad.

Ahmad al-Tifashi was a 14th-century CE calligrapher who lived in Tunisia.

In the 20th-21st century, handwriting the Quran has become less common due to advancements in technology and the availability of printed copies. However, there are still some individuals who choose to handwrite the Quran as a form of devotion and to honor the scripture. In some Islamic cultures, calligraphers and artists may also handwrite verses of the Quran for decorative or artistic purposes. Additionally, there are organizations and initiatives that promote the practice of handwriting the Quran as a means of preserving the traditional art and skill of calligraphy.

Sheikh Uthman Taha was a calligrapher from Syria who is known for his contributions to the art of handwriting the Quran. He was born in 1934 in the Syrian city of Aleppo and began studying calligraphy at a young age. He later moved to Damascus, where he continued his studies under some of the most prominent calligraphers of the time.

Sheikh Taha's style of calligraphy is known for its balance between tradition and innovation. He was able to create a style that was both contemporary and respectful of the centuries-old tradition of Quranic calligraphy. His work has been described as "restrained and elegant," with a focus on clarity and legibility.

In the 1970s, Taha was invited to Saudi Arabia to work on a project to create a new edition of the Quran. This project, known as the "King Fahd Quran Printing Complex," aimed to produce a high-quality printed version of the Quran that was both accurate and aesthetically pleasing.

Taha was responsible for designing the calligraphy for this edition of the Quran, which was published in 1984. The edition is considered a masterpiece of Quranic calligraphy and has been widely praised for its beauty and elegance.

It took Sheikh Uthman nearly three years for copying a Mushaf and an additional year for proof-reading and reviewing.

Taha continued to work on other projects related to Quranic calligraphy throughout his life. He passed away in 2018 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he had lived for many years.

Meet Sheikh Uthman Taha, the renowned calligrapher, who has single-handedly written the Mushaf al-Madinah

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