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Kufa (الكوفة al-Kufa in Arabic) is a city in Iraq, about 170 km south of Baghdad, and 10 km northeast of Najaf. It is located on the banks of the Euphrates River. The estimated population in 2003 was 110,000.

Along with Karbala, and Najaf, Kufa is one of three Iraqi cities that are of great importance to Shiite Muslims. The city was the location of the capital of Ali ibn Abu Talib.

Kufa was the site of the Sassanid city of Suristan and at the time of the Sassanids was a part of the Middle Bih-Kavad province of Persia.

The Arab quarters of city were established in 638, about the same time as Basra, by Arab armies that were fighting the Sassanid Persians. After Ali ibn Abu Talib became caliph, he moved his headquarters and capital to Kufa as he prepared for battle with Muawiyah who was leading a revolt from Syria. Ali was killed in the city, and buried in the nearby city of Najaf. After Muawiyah became caliph, Kufa served as a base for the supporters of Ali, and later its inhabitants would house his son Hussein.

In the mid-8th century, the city was taken by the Abbasids who made it a temporary capital while Baghdad was being constructed. At this time, Kufa was an important learning center, and is where the kufic script was developed, the earliest script of the Arabic language. As the scholar al-Qalqashandi maintained, "The Arabic script [khatt] is the one which is now known as Kufic. From it evolved all the present hands." The angular script which later came to be known as Kufic had its origin about a century earlier than the founding of the town of Kufa, according to Moritz in the Encyclopaedia Of Islam. The kufic script was derived from one of the four pre-Islamic Arabic scripts, the one called al-Hiri (used in Hira, a city a few miles to the north). (The other three were al-Anbari (from Anbar), al-Maqqi (from Mecca) and al-Madani (from Medina)). The famous author of the Kitab al-Fihrist , an index of Arabic books, Ibn al-Nadim (died ca. 999), was the first to use the word 'kufic' to characterize this script, which reached a state is decorative perfection in the 8th century, when surahs were used to decorate ceramics, for representations of nature were strictly forbidden under the Islamic regime..

Even after the capital was moved to Baghdad, Kufa remained in an important position. However, it began to come under constant attack in the 11th century and eventually shrunk and lost its importance.

In the last century, the population of Kufa has begun to grow again. It continues to be an important pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims.

Last updated: 08-17-2005 14:47:22
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12