135 results in English
Gulzar Calligraphic Panel
This calligraphic panel executed in black and red on a white ground decorated in gold contains a number of prayers (du'a's) directed to God, the Prophet Muhammad, and his son-in-law 'Ali. The letters of the larger words are executed in nasta'liq script and are filled with decorative motifs, animals, and human figures. This style of script, filled with various motifs, is called gulzar, which literally means 'rose garden' or 'full of flowers.' It usually is applied to the interior of inscriptions executed in nasta'liq, such as ...
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Holy Qur'an
According to Islamic belief, the Holy Qur'an was revealed by God to the Prophet Mohammad (570–632) by the Angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years. The Qur'an speaks in powerful, moving language about the reality and attributes of God, the spiritual world, God's purposes with mankind, man's relationship and responsibility to God, the coming of the Day of Judgment, and the life hereafter. It also contains rules for living, stories of earlier prophets and their communities, and vital insights and understandings concerning the meaning ...
"Munajat" of 'Abdallah Ansari
This calligraphic fragment includes a maxim drawn from the Munajat (Supplications) of the great Persian mystic and scholar Khwajah 'Abdallah Ansari (died 1088). The two lines describe the benefits of prayer and generosity. The two lines of text are executed in black nasta'liq script on beige paper and framed by delicate cloud bands on a gold illuminated background. The text panel is framed by a variety of borders and pasted to a sheet of purple paper decorated with gold interlacing flower motifs. Between and below the two main lines ...
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Letter to the Warring Tribes
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. In this work, the author, a scholar and religious leader, urges warring factions to make peace and live in peace. He supports ...
Safinah Fragment
This calligraphic fragment is the first page of an album in a longitudinal shape (safinah). At the top are a fine illuminated panel and finial (sarloh) with gold and blue flower and vine motifs. In the upper and lower corners, two gold and blue illuminated triangles (or thumb pieces) fill the spaces between the rectangular frame and the diagonal lines of text. The text is written in black nasta'liq on beige paper. It includes three bayts (verses) praising God and describing humans' inability to comprehend His power: "Praise ...
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Verses in Persian and Chaghatay
This calligraphic fragment includes a number of verses in Persian and Chaghatay Turkish (Turkish spoken in Central Asia). A continuous Persian lyrical poem (ghazal) is written in the top and bottom horizontal rectangular panels. Another ghazal appears written in diagonal in the right and left vertical columns. Both ghazals are by the famous Persian poet Shaykh Sa'di (died 1292) and address moral issues. In the central text panel, verses in Chaghatay Turkish are written in black nasta'liq script on beige paper, surrounded by cloud bands on a gold ...
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Ghazals of Asifi
This calligraphic fragment includes a variety of ghazals (lyric poems) from the Compendium of Poems (Divan) of the Persian poet Asifi. A student of the famous poet Jami (died 1492 [897 AH]) in Herat (present-day Afghanistan), Asifi remained in the Timurid capital city until his death (1517 [923 AH]), even during and after the Uzbek invasions. These particular verses on the fragment's recto and verso portray a lover's madness and his complaints about the pains of separation from the object of his affection. At the end of the ...
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Black Practice
This calligraphic sheet includes a number of diagonal words and letters used in combinations facing upwards and downwards on the folio. The common Persian cursive script nasta'liq is favored over the more "broken" shikastah script. These sheets--known as siyah mashq (literally “black practice”) in Persian--were entirely covered with writing as a means of practicing calligraphy and conserving paper. In time, they became collectible items and thus were signed and dated (this fragment, however, does not appear to be signed or dated). Many fragments such as this one were given ...
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Qur'anic Verses
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 10-11 of the 48th chapter of the Qur'an, entitled Surat al-Fath (Victory). This surah dates from the Medinan period and contains 29 verses. It describes how triumph comes from courage, faith, and patience if the believer stays true to God: anyone who violates His [God's] oath, does so to the harm of his own soul, and anyone who fulfils what he has convenanted with God, God will soon grant him a reward (48:10). The text is executed in Kufi script with black ...
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Qur'anic Verses
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 85-88 of the 6th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat al-An'am (The Cattle). This late Meccan surah describes the nature of God and how He reveals Himself. Verses 85-88 in particular describe a number of prophets such as Jesus, Elias, and Jonah as capable of guiding believers to the "straight path" (al-sirat al-mustaqim). The text is executed in Kufi script in black ink, at six lines per page, surrounded by a gold painted frame. Verses on the fragment's recto have worn off ...
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Wall Hanging
This découpage panel in the shape of a closed altar piece includes a central roundel decorated with interlacing letters whose stems form a central six-pointed star. The round inscription is difficult to decipher, and may comprise a wise saying or a verse from the Qur'an. In the middle of the upper arch, a round hook suggests that it was used as a wall hanging. The extractive technique of découpage is known in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish as qit'a, or literally "cutting out," and artists specializing in this ...
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Mihrab Découpage Panel
This piece of white paper has been carefully cut out to produce an elaborate image of interlacing vines and flowers. In the central panel, two columns border the right and left vertical frame and appear to hold an almost baroque arch in which hangs a lamp. This motif may be identified as a mihrab, or the prayer niche in the qibla wall of a mosque (i.e., the wall facing Mecca), illuminated by a hanging mosque lamp. Above the mihrab, a rectangular frame contains the words Allah, Muhammad (peace and ...
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Diploma
This ijazah, or diploma of competency in Arabic calligraphy, was written by 'Ali Ra'if Efendi in 1791 (1206 AH). The top and middle panels contain a saying (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. It reads: "Secret charity quenches the wrath of the Lord. / The best of you is the best for his family. / The best of the followers is Uways." In the two lowermost panels are the signed and dated approvals of two master calligraphers, Mustafa al-Halimi and Husayn Hamid. Each section of writing appears on a separate piece ...
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Qur'anic Verses
This eighth century calligraphic fragment from the collections of the Library of Congress is most likely the oldest Islamic text in North America, one that could have been touched by the youngest companions of the Prophet Muhammad. The fragment includes verses 53-54 of the 34th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat Saba' (Sheba), as well as the first ten verses of the 35th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat al-Fatir (The originator). Surat al-Fatir is an early Meccan surah that deals with the mystery of creation and angels ...
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The Gift of the Followers of the Path of Muhammad
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. This work is about the Songhai Empire, one of the most important states in West Africa during the 14th and 15th centuries ...
Arabic Primer of Calligraphy
Muhammad Shafiq (died 1879) was a major Ottoman calligrapher who excelled in instructional calligraphic pieces. This particular work, filled throughout with intricate arabesque floral designs typical of the late Ottoman period, is in a notable Arabic calligraphic style, the naskhi script, which connects the Arabic letters to one another in a harmonious way. Of interest in this particular work is the binding, which reveals the origins of the manuscript. The typical flap is a hallmark of most valuable Islamic bindings throughout history. The covers are richly gilt in floral decorations ...
Contributed by Yale University Library
Qurʼān
This 19th-century manuscript Qur’an is in a Nashki script with diacritical marks in black. Nashki was the calligraphic style used for the most beautiful Qur’āns of the period, because of its small size and great delicacy. The first two pages are elaborately illuminated in green, blue, and red on a gold background. The titles of the surahs (chapters) are in gold. The borders are in gold, blue, and red. The colophon is illuminated in gold and colors. Probably of Persian origin, this Qur’an was copied in Arabic ...
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A Summary Explanation of the Pronouncements of the Scholars and Theologians
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. In this work, the author examines theologians' and scholars' approaches to various issues in Islamic law and society and offers an explanation ...
A Light Note on the Science of Writing and Inks
This manuscript in 20 folios contains two works. The first is a treatise by Muḥammad ibn ʻĪsā al-Ṭanṭāwī on writing tools and the craft of making ink. The work is organized in seven chapters. In the first chapter, the author briefly discusses the best type of reed pens to select for writing. In subsequent chapters, he explains ways to make red, black, and other kinds of ink, including how to write in gold. The treatise was completed on Friday, 1 Rabī‘ II 1268 AH (January 24, 1852). The second work ...
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The Burdah Poem
This illuminated small codex contains a famous poem in honor of the Prophet Muhammad popularly known as “Qaṣīdat al-Burdah” (The poem of the mantle), which was composed by Sharaf al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Būṣīrī (died 694 AH [1294 CE]). This copy was executed in a variety of scripts, probably in Iran, by Ḥabīb Allāh ibn Dūst Muḥammad al-Khwārizmī in the 11th century AH (17th century CE). The first page (folio 1b) of the manuscript features an illuminated rectangular headpiece with five inner panels of text executed in the following scripts: muhaqqaq (gold ...
Contributed by Walters Art Museum
Askiyah's Questions and al-Maghili's Answers [al-Maghili's Tract on Politics]
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. This treatise is about the Songhai Empire, which flourished in West Africa during the 14th and 15th centuries. It consists of the ...
The Important Stars Among the Multitude of the Heavens
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. This early 18th-century text was written to train scholars in the field of astronomy, a science that Islamic tradition traces back to ...
Knowledge of the Movement of the Stars and What It Portends in Every Year
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. This collection of writings (date unknown) draws upon the Greco-Roman legacy of astronomy, with the addition of discoveries made by Muslim scholars ...
Explanations of Problems in Arithmetic with Examples
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. This commentary by the 18th-century scholar al-Rasmuki explains a work by the medieval mathematician al-Samlali. Using charts and examples of problems, the ...
Curing Diseases and Defects Both Apparent and Hidden
Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. This compilation of cures (date unknown) instructs the reader about methods of diagnosing and medicating the sick. The author explains the use ...
Bihari Qur'an
This folio contains, on the right side, verses 2–8 of Surat al-Kahf (The cave) of the Qur'an and, on the left side, verses 67–70 of the Surat Bani Isra'il (The children of Israel), also known as Surat al-Isra' (The night journey). The text is in Arabic with interlinear Persian translation in red ink. The borders include a commentary in Persian, written in black ink and laid out diagonally in the margin. On the rightmost margin of the verso appears a note cross-referenced to the sixth ayah ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Interlinear Qur'an: Surat al-Nisa'
The recto of this Qur'an fragment contains parts of the first three verses of the fourth chapter of the Qur'an, Surat al-Nisa' (Chapter of the women). At the top left side of the folio are the chapter title and the number of its verses (176) in bold gold Kufi letters. The title is in a gold-painted rectangular band ornamented with a gold medallion outlined in blue projecting into the left margin. Below the surah heading appears the first half of the first verse in large black muhaqqaq script ...
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Tughra of Sultan Ahmed III
This tughra (imperial emblem) belonged to the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III and appears on the verso of a 16th-century Safavid Persian single-sheet fragment of a Fal-i Qur'an, used for divination by means of letters selected at random. Ahmed III ruled from A.H. 1115–43 (A.D. 1703–30), so it is probable that the Qur'an came from southwestern Iran to the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul sometime in the 17th century. The largely effaced date of 1111 (1700) on the verso supports the hypothesis that the Qur ...
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Divination by the Qur'an
This single sheet of a Fal-i Qur'an lays out in rhyming Persian distichs (couplets) the means of fal (divination) by letters selected at random when opening to a page of the Qur'an. This folio originally was included at the end of a Safavid Persian Qur'an, immediately after the last surah (chapter), Surat al-Nas, and a closing prayer on behalf of the Prophet and his family. The layout of the divination text, the script, and the remaining original illumination in the text frame are typical of fals placed ...
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Interlinear Qur'an (5: 89-95)
This interlinear Qur'an fragment of Surat al-Ma'idah (The table/the repast) is believed to belong to a manuscript dating from A.H. 1207 (A.D. 1792–93). The Qur'an includes translation in Persian written in complete sentences in red ink between each verse of the Arabic original. The late 18th-century practice of translation (or even paraphrasing) reflects the development of the production of interlinear Qur'ans over the centuries. Some of the earliest bilingual Qur'ans include only word-by-word translations; this is especially the case for Qur ...
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Mirror Image of 'Ali wali Allah
This 18th-century Ottoman levha (calligraphic panel) depicts the Shi'a phrase “'Ali is the vicegerent of God” in obverse and reverse, creating an exact mirror image. The calligrapher used the central vertical fold in the thick cream-colored paper to trace the exact calligraphic duplication prior to mounting it on cardboard and pasting rectangular pink frames along its borders. Mirror writing flourished during the early modern period, but its origins may stretch as far back as pre-Islamic mirror-image rock inscriptions in the Hijaz, the western strip of the Arabian Peninsula. Engraving ...
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Qur'anic Verses (9:33-36)
The recto of this fragment contains verses 33–34 of surah (chapter) nine of the Qur'an, al-Tawbah (The repentance), also known as Surat al-Bara'ah (The immunity) from the surah’s opening word, as it is the only surah to which the introductory bismillah (In the name of God) is not affixed. These verses speak about how men must fight against pagan enemies and uphold their faith. In the upper left corner of the folio is a hizb (section) marker, consisting of gold and blue concentric circles, blue finials ...
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Qur'anic Verses (44:56-59, 45:1-4)
This Qur'anic fragment contains the last verses (44: 56–59) of the surah (chapter) al-Dukhan (The smoke). Its verso continues with the beginning of chapter 45, al-Jathiyah (The kneeling down). The theme of Surat al-Dukhan is how worldly pride and power fade to smoke in the face of spiritual truths and how men will meet God’s judgment in the Hereafter. The initial verses of al-Jathiyah discuss the material signs of God on earth, such as the presence of humans and animals. Below the chapter heading in gold, executed ...
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Surat al-Nas and Du'a
This fragment contains on the top line the last two verses of the final surah (chapter) of the Qur'an, Surat al-Nas (Chapter of mankind). This chapter extols seeking refuge in the Lord from Satan, who, like al-jinn (the spirits), whispers evil things in the hearts of people (116:5–6). The verses at the top of the folio are separated by two verse markers shaped like gold disks with five blue dots on their peripheries. Immediately below the last verse appears a prayer in five lines praising God, the ...
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Safavid Qur'an (2:11-27)
This fragment contains verses 11–21 from the second surah (chapter) of the Qur'an, al-Baqarah (The cow), which continues with verses 21–27 on the fragment’s verso. Al-Baqarah appears immediately after the introductory chapter al-Fatihah (The opening) and, with a total of 286 verses, is the longest chapter in the Qur'an. Its name derives from the parable of Moses and the cow mentioned in 2:67–71, in which is taught that people should not put forward excuses to justify disobedience. The surah is early Medinan and ...
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Bismillah and Qur'anic Verse (81:1-14)
This Qur'anic fragment includes the bismillah (In the name of God) and verses 1–14 of surah (chapter) 81, al-Takwir (The folding up). These verses constitute some of the most graphic descriptions in the Qur'an of Doomsday and the associated reversal of natural phenomena. The sun folds up, stars fall from the sky, mountains vanish, oceans boil over, and a blazing fire is kindled. Souls are sorted out and men’s deeds weighed so that “each soul may know what it has put forward” (81:14). The fragment ...
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Qur'anic Verses (107-9, 110-112)
This Qur'anic fragment’s recto includes surahs (chapters) 107–9: al-Ma'un (The assistance), al-Kawthar (The abundance), and al-Kafirun (The unbelievers). The last chapters of the Qur'an tend to be Meccan and quite short, thus several can fit onto one page. They deal with sincerity in devotion and true worship and warn of persecuting men of different faith. The chapter headings are written in thuluth script. The top heading for al-Ma'un is executed in white ink, rather than gold outlined in black, and states that it is ...
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Qur'anic Verses (4: 94-100, 100-105)
This fragment contains verses 94–100 of the fourth surah (chapter) of the Qur'an, al-Nisa' (The women). The surah addresses the social problems faced by the Muslim community and the need to establish law and order through regulated communal practice. It deals largely with women, orphans, inheritance, marriage, and family rights. These particular verses recommend leaving places hostile to Islam and praise believers who keep their faith when abroad. The verso of the fragment includes verses 100–105 from the same surah, which discuss religious duties during periods of ...
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Anonymous Arabic and Persian Poetic Verses
This fragment contains an Arabic poem in eight verses in the center panel and Persian poetical verses in small rectangular registers arranged around the central panel and pasted above a light blue background. The Arabic poem stresses Muhammad’s ability to provide intercession for his community on the Day of Judgment. It is a kind of praise or request directed towards the Prophet that is seen in a number of other calligraphic panels meant either for public display or included in albums of calligraphies. The Arabic and Persian verses are ...
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The Opening
This calligraphic panel includes the bismillah (In the name of God) at the top, followed by the Qur'an's first surah (chapter), al-Fatihah (The opening). The surah introduces the Qur'an by praising God and asking for his guidance to the right path. On the last line, the Fatihah panel is signed by a certain 'Aliriza and dated A.H. 1241 (A.D. 1825). The entire specimen is calligraphed in dark brown naskh (cursive) script on a beige paper, which is framed by a series of alternating gold and ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
Qur'an Carpet Page
This folio contains an opening carpet page of a Qur'an. It is the first of five folios belonging to a dispersed Qur'an manuscript in the collections of the Library of Congress. Together with another folio, this folio constitutes the double-page illuminated frontispiece of a beautiful, albeit damaged, 14th-century Mamluk Qur'an. This folio contains verses 76–78 of the 56th chapter of the Qur'an, al-Waqi'ah (The inevitable), contained in the top and bottom rectangular panels of the double-page illuminated frontispiece. The next folio continues the inscription ...
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The Cow
This folio includes, below an illuminated rectangular panel, part of the last verse of the Qur'an's first chapter, al-Fatihah (The opening). Below the last line of al-Fatihah appears the title, executed in gold and outlined in black, of the Qur'an's second chapter, al-Baqarah (The cow). The heading states that the chapter consists of 287 verses. After the chapter heading follows an initial bismillah (In the name of God), the mysterious letters alif and mim, and the first verse: “This is the Book; without a doubt, in ...
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