I am trying to figure out how the original (Kufic Script) Quran would have handled the case of words at the end of the line being too long to fit. In English, we sometimes add hyphenation like this:

This is a really long sentence with lots of extreme-
ly long words, of course.

But what do you do in Arabic? This seems to be an open problem for the W3C:


Does Arabic script text use hyphenation? If so, is the use of hyphenation language-specific?

What are the rules? Are there any general rules that transcend all languages?

I am in particular wondering about the original Quran, which didn't have vowels or diacritics of any kind, but seems to have used spaces at least between words. I would like to know what to do when the word is too long at the end of the line. Can you just "break" the word wherever? Or are there specific rules on how it can break? In English, some "breaks" are more preferred over others, some breaks wouldn't make much sense:

This is a really long sentence with lots of e-
xtremely long words.

This is a really long sentence with lots of extremel
-y long words.

This is a really lon-
g sentence with lots o-
f extremely long words.

I don't know what the rules are even for English (in detail), but I'm wondering (a) if there are detailed rules for this written down somewhere for Arabic (specifically the early Kufic script Quran), and (b) if so, generally what they are and where I can find more info. If there aren't, then what is the convention used in the original Qurans? Right now I am just cutting the word off it's too long right at the "too long" point, and moving to the next line, but sometimes this means 1 letter is on the next line which seems like a no-no.

  • 1
    When writing with hand we move entire word to next line if it will not fit. If it is necessary to split then break it only at non-joining letters like after د ا ر و
    – Harun
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 6:14
  • For this we may need a source: an old qur'an or at least a source that reports about it I think among the ancient scholars abu 'Amr ad-Dani has seen most copies of the original Mushafs 'Othman ibn 'Affan has sent out to the major cities of Islam.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 9:35

1 Answer 1


If we took the presented texts on this website as an evidence they seem to agree to what Harun is suggesting in his comment:

  1. For example in the second image you may find at the end of the second line: enter image description here the beginning of verse (20:15) enter image description here

    where the word:


    has been split and only the letter alif is left in the second line, while the third line begins with the rest of the word:


  2. In the same image the 6th line ends with a split of the name of the prophet Musa () (verse 20:19): Today we would write it

    يا موسى

    In the orignial script the alif was left out and would have been looking more like:


    enter image description here Now in our case it looks like:


    enter image description here

  3. We also see that this 7th line ends with a split word which is at the beginning of verse (20:21): enter image description here


    was split into:


    As "ذ" was not specified at the time the last letter is a "د".
    "خذ" itself (as the imperative of the verb "أخذ") is an independent word, but as it refers to something (in this case to Musa's staff) it would be regarded as unusual to split the word here.

  4. The last letter in the following line (line 8) is the first letter of verse (20:22): enter image description here


    was split into:


    Note that "اضمم" actually is the imperativ of the verb "ضم" so in this case the letter "و" is strictly speaking not a part of the word as it is a simple "and" and -in my humble opinion- a totally independent letter which is not part of the word that follows it. But in many search engines today you won't find this verse if you separated the two words as the "و" usually is added to the following word be it a "verb" or a "name".

The above examples may show that any "letter" which can be written in a word which interrupts the continuation by taking off the pen can be used to split a word in order to complete the word in the next line (without the use of any hyphen or other punctuation mark) those letters may be:

  • ا (alif) أ آ إ...
  • د (dal) or dhal: ذ (which only existed in the recitation)
  • ر (ra') or (zaay) ز (which only exited in the recitation)
  • و (waw)

Finally note that all these word-splits are avoided in actual and more modern qur'an copies.

As in (modern) Arabic a word must be written completely it is not allowed to split it as this would cause ambiguity (the examples 3. and 4. above may give a hint for that). For the posted qur'an fragments there might be reasons as to why the scribes split some words the major reason for that might be that the qur'an was and still is transmitted orally so the orthographic correctness was not the main focus. And therefore with the necessary background knowledge one would be able to distinguish split words from "normal" text. A second reason might be the limited resources of material like papyrus etc. so it was essential to split words to use less "paper" material. ...

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