The script is characterized by rounded letter forms, extended horizontal features, and final open curves below the baseline. It also differs from Mashreqi scripts in the notation of the letters faa (Maghrebi: ? ; Mashreqi: ?) and qoph (Maghrebi: ? ; Mashreqi: ?).
The Maghrebi thuluth script was appropriated and adopted as an official "dynastic brand" used in different media, from manuscripts to coinage to fabrics. The Almohads also illuminated certain words or phrases for emphasis with gold leaf and lapis lazuli.
Waves of migration from Iberia throughout the history of al-Andalus impacted writing styles in North Africa. Ibn Khaldun noted that the Andalusi script further developed under the Marinid dynasty (1244-1465), when Fes received Andalusi refugees. In addition to Fes, the script flourished in cities such as Ceuta, Taza, Meknes, Salé, and Marrakesh, although the script experienced a regression in rural areas far from the centers of power. The Fesi script spread throughout much of the Islamic west. Octave Houdas [fr] gives the exception of the region around Algiers, which was more influenced by the African script of Tunisia.Muhammad al-Manuni [ar] noted that Maghrebi script essentially reached its final form during the Marinid period, as it became independent of the Andalusi script. There were three forms of Maghrebi script in use: one in urban centers such as those previously mentioned, one in rural areas used to write in both Arabic and Amazigh languages, and one that preserved Andalusi features. Maghrebi script was also divided into different varieties: Kufic, mabs?t, mujawhar, Maghrebi thuluth, and musnad (z'mami).
The reforms in the Saadi period (1549-1659) affected manuscript culture and calligraphy. The Saadis founded centers for learning calligraphy, including the madrasa of the Mouassine Mosque, which was directed by a dedicated calligrapher as was the custom in the Mashreq. Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur himself was proficient in Maghrebi thuluth, and even invented a secret script for his private correspondences. Decorative scripts flourished under the Saadi dynasty and were used in architecture, manuscripts, and coinage.
Maghrebi script was supported by the 17th-century Alawite sultans Al-Rashid and Ismail. Under the reign of Sultan Muhammad III, the script devolved into an unrefined, illegible badawi script (? ) associated with rural areas. Under Sultan Suleiman, the script improved in urban areas and particularly in the capital Meknes. Meanwhile, Rabat and Salé preserved some features of Andalusi script, and some rural areas such as Duk?la, Beni Zied, and al-Akhmas excelled in the Maghrebi script.
After Muhammad at-Tayib ar-Rudani [ar] introduced the first Arabic lithographic printing press to Morocco in 1864, the mujawher variety of the Maghrebi script became the standard for printing body text, although other varieties were also used.
Page of a lithographed book in mujawhar script, circa 1896.
Mabsout () script, used for body text and to write the Quran, similar in usage to the eastern Naskh.
A hand-drawn phrase in Maghrebi mabsout. It reads: "? ? ? " which means something similar to "A fine line increases the truth in clarity."
Mujawher () cursive script, mainly used by the king to announce laws. This is the script that was used for body text when lithographic prints started to be produced in Fes.
Thuluth Maghrebi () script, formerly called Mashreqi () or Maghrebized Mashreqi ( ) a script inspired by the Mashreqi Thuluth script. It is mainly used as a decorative script for book titles and walls in mosques. It was used as an official script by the Almohads.
Musnad (?) script, or Z'mami () script, a cursive script mainly used by courts and notaries in writing marriage contracts. This script is derived from Mujawher, and its letters in this script lean to the right. Because is difficult to read, this script was used to write texts that the author wanted to keep obscure, such as texts about sorcery.
One of the prominent ways Maghrebi scripts differ from scripts of the Arabic-speaking East is the dotting of the letters faa (?) and qoph (?). In eastern tradition, the faa is represented by a circle with a dot above, while in Maghrebi scripts the dot goes below the circle (?). In eastern scripts, the qoph is represented by a circle with two dots above it, whereas the Maghrebi qoph is a circle with just one dot above (?), similar to the eastern faa. In fact, concerns over the preservation of Maghrebi writing traditions played a part in the reservations of the Moroccan ulama's against importing the printing press.
Qurans in Maghrebi scripts
Blue Qur'an, 9th to early 10th-century, from either al-Andalus or Tunisia.
^Chejne, A.G. (1993): Historia de España musulmana. Editorial Cátedra. Madrid, Spain. Published originally as: Chejne, A.G. (1974): Muslim Spain: Its History and Culture. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, USA
^García Jaén, Antonio; Al-Susi, Muhammad Ibn al-Husayn; Marruecos (Protectorado Español); Delegación de Educación y Cultura (1949). Tariq ta'lim al-jatt. Tetuán: Niyaba al-Tarbiya wa-l-Taqafa. OCLC431924417.