78 results in English
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 ...
The Spiritual Couplets
The most significant contribution of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (popularly known in Persian as Mawlānā, and in English as Rumi, 1207–73), the renowned poet and mystic of Iran, to Persian literature may be his poetry, and especially his famous Masnavi (The spiritual couplets). This work, which is said to be the most extensive verse exposition of mysticism in any language, discusses and offers solutions to many complicated problems in metaphysics, religion, ethics, mysticism, and other fields. Masnavi highlights the various hidden aspects of Sufism and their relationship to the ...
The Book of Kings
Shahnameh Baysonqori is a copy of Shahnameh (Book of kings) composed by the highly revered Iranian poet Abū al-Qāsim Firdawsī (940–1020). The importance of Shahnameh in the Persian-speaking world is comparable that of Homer’s epics in the West. The book recounts in verse the mythological history of ancient Persia and tales of the famous heroes and personalities of Iranian history, from legendary times to the 7th-century reign of Yazdgerd III, the last king of the Sassanid dynasty. The tales are based on earlier historical works, but are mixed ...
Anthology of Ḥakīm Ruknā Masīḥ
This diwan (a collection of poems in Arabic or Persian, usually by a single author) of Persian poems by physician and poet Ḥakīm Ruknā Masīḥ dates from 1638. “Ḥakīm” is an honorific for a wise man or physician. “Masīḥ” (the Christian), which appears elsewhere in the manuscript, was a pen name of the author. It is believed that the poems were dictated by the author to his calligrapher. The manuscript is in four sections, containing qasidas (odes), ghazals (lyric poems), rubaiyat (quatrains), and muqatta't (poetic fragments). The first two ...
Eulogy to a Ruler
This calligraphic fragment includes a central panel with a eulogy to a king written in the "hanging" ta'liq script. Except for one line in black ink, all other horizontal and diagonal lines are written in white and outlined in black. Above the text panel appears, divided into two columns, a bayt (verse) by the great Persian poet Niẓāmī Ganjavī (died 1202 or 1203) about the power of miracles. The bayt is in black nasta'liq script on beige paper. Around the text panel is a blue border inscribed with ...
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Ghazal by Sa'di
This calligraphic fragment contains a ghazal (lyric poem) by the Persian poet Shaykh Sa'di (died 1292 [691 AH]). The verses describe a lover's search for his beloved and his request that she show herself to him. The verses are written in nasta'liq script using white, light blue, red, and yellow ink on a blue paper. Rangin (colored) inks add variety to the composition and are found in a number of calligraphies produced during the 16th century. The corners left open by the intersection of the diagonal verses ...
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Verses by Jami
This calligraphic fragment includes verses composed by the Persian poet Jami (died 1492 [897 AH]), whose full name, Mawlana 'Abd al-Rahman Jami, is noted in the topmost panel. In larger script appears a ghazal (lyric poem) in which a lover sighs about the lack of news from his beloved. The central text frames are bordered on the right and left by illuminated panels and contain a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain) written in smaller script. The quatrain encourages true and eternal love of God rather than passing infatuations: "Every beautiful ...
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The Feast of Iskandar and Nushabah from Niẓāmī's "Iskandarnamah"
The painting on the recto and the text on the verso of this fragment describe an episode in Niẓāmī's Iskandarnamah (The book of Alexander the Great), the last text of the author's Khamsah (Quintet). In his work, the great Persian author Niẓāmī Ganjavī (1140 or 1141–1202 or 1203) describes the adventures and battles of Alexander the Great as he travels to the end of the world. On his way to the Land of Darkness, he visits the queen of the Caucasian city of Barda, Nushabah, in order ...
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Prayers for Safety and Success
This calligraphic fragment includes verses in Persian praying for the patron's personal well-being and the prosperity of his kingdom. The verses read: "May the world be (your) fortune and the firmament (your) friend / May the World-Creator (God) protect (you) / May all your works be successful / May God of the World look after you / May your heart and your kingdom be collected and well-frequented / May division stay far away from your realm." The verses are executed in black nasta'liq script on beige paper. They are framed by cloud bands ...
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Verses by Hilālī
This calligraphic fragment includes three distinct text panels all executed in Nasta'liq script: one written in black ink on blue paper, another in white ink on beige paper with two illuminated triangles (or thumb pieces) in the upper and lower corners, and a third (lowest on the page) written in black ink on beige paper. All three panels were cut out and placed together, provided with a gold frame, and pasted to a larger sheet of paper decorated with flecks of gold. The blue text panel includes verses composed ...
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Three Bayts (Verses) to a Loved One
This calligraphic fragment includes three bayts (verses) of poetry in the main text panel and ten verses around this panel, creating a textual frame decorated with gold vine and leaf motifs. The entire calligraphic piece is pasted to a paper decorated with blue geometric and vegetal motifs highlighted in gold. The central text panel is topped by an illuminated rectangular panel and includes a decorative triangle in the upper left corner. The verses in the central panel are written in nasta'liq script on a white ground decorated with ...
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The Seductiveness of the World
This calligraphic panel includes three rubā'iyāt (iambic pentameter quatrains) in nasta'liq script on beige or blue papers cut out and pasted onto a sheet from a muraqqa' (album) of calligraphies. The quatrain in the upper-left panel, executed in black on a cream-colored sheet decorated with vine motifs painted in gold, reads: “Everyone whose heart is seduced by the world / Avoid (him) because of the pride of his ignorance / Grab the hem of that (person) who, because of his greatness, / Has left behind the world and its dwellers.” The ...
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Beginning of Niẓāmī's "Iqbalnamah"
This illuminated folio continues the beginning of Niẓāmī Ganjavī's Iqbalnamah (The book of progress), the second of two sections in the last book, Iskandarnamah (The book of Alexander the Great), of the author’s Khamsah (Quintet). It follows the first two illuminated folios of the book and provides multiple subhan (praises) of the Creator, as well as a eulogy on Muhammad, the Lord of the Messengers. Niẓāmī introduces each of his five books with introductory praises of God and His Prophet before launching into a narrative. The verso of ...
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Colophon of Niẓāmī's "Sharafnamah" and Title Page of Niẓāmī's "Iqbalnamah"
This folio contains the last lines and colophon of the Sharafnamah (The book of honor), the first section of the fifth book of Niẓāmī Ganjavī's Khamsah (Quintet) entitled Iskandarnamah (The book of Alexander the Great). On the folio's verso appears the beginning of the second section of the Iskandarnamah called Iqbalnamah (The book of progress), arranged in an illuminated title page, which contains a heading written in white ink: Kitab Iqbalnamah-yi Shaykh Nizami, 'alayhi al-rahmah wa-al-maghfarah (The book of progress of Niẓāmī, mercy and forgiveness upon him). The ...
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Beginning of Niẓāmī's "Khusraw va Shirin"
This illuminated folio contains the introductory praise dar tawhid-i Bari (to God and His Unity, or on the Unity of the Creator) of the second book of Niẓāmī Ganjavī's Khamsah (Quintet), entitled Khusraw va Shirin. It continues the text of the first two folios of the book, also held in the Library of Congress, and thus completes the praise of God typically found at the beginning of each book of the Khamsah. This first section is then followed, as seen on this folio, by an examination of the istidlal ...
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The Fainting of Laylah and Majnun from Niẓāmī's "Khamsah"
This folio depicts a well-known passage from the tragic story of Laylah and Majnun described in the third book of Niẓāmī Ganjavī's Khamsah (Quintet). Forcibly separated by the animosity of their respective tribes toward each other, forced marriages, and years of exile in the wilderness, the two ill-fated lovers meet again for the last time before each is to die, thanks to the intervention of Majnun's elderly messenger. Upon seeing each other in a palm-grove outside of Laylah's camp, they faint from pain and extreme passion. The ...
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Siyah Mashq
This calligraphic practice 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 to practice calligraphy while conserving paper. In time, they became collectible items and thus were signed and dated (this fragment, however, has no signature or date). Many fragments such as this one were provided ...
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Siyah Mashq
This calligraphic practice 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. This fragment, decorated with a blue frame and pasted onto a light-pink sheet painted with gold vine and flower decorations, bears a striking resemblance to another sheet in the Library of Congress. It appears that both sheets came from the same muraqqa (album) of calligraphies, which belonged to a patron who placed his ...
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Siyah Mashq
This calligraphic practice 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. The calligraphic exercise is executed in black ink on a background painted in brown. It is provided with a purple frame decorated with gold vines and a second plain pink frame. The framed composition is pasted onto a thicker blue sheet decorated with gold flower sprays. These sheets, known as siyah mashq (literally ...
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Siyah Mashq
This calligraphic practice 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. This fragment includes two individual leaves of siyah mashq (literally black practice in Persian) pasted together onto a single sheet of paper and provided with dark-blue and pink frames decorated with gold vine and leaf motifs. The fragment on the right also includes light-blue horizontal frames at the top and bottom on the ...
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Siyah Mashq
This calligraphic practice 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. This fragment, decorated with a blue frame and pasted onto a light-pink sheet painted with gold vine and flower decorations, bears a striking resemblance to another sheet in the Library of Congress. It appears that both sheets came from the same muraqqa'at (album) of calligraphies, which belonged to a patron who placed ...
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Bal'ami's Persian Translation of al-Ṭabarī's "Ta'rikh"
This fragment contains the beginning pages of the historical encyclopedia Ta'rikh al-Rusul wa-al-Muluk (History of prophets and kings) composed in Arabic by the celebrated historian al-Tabari (circa 223–310 AH/circa 838–923), later abridged and translated into Persian in 963 by the writer Bal'ami. The verso of the fragment continues the first two pages and includes a later note identifying the work as tawarikh-i Tabari-yi farsi (Histories of Tabari in Persian). The work includes a history of kings and dynasties from pre-Islamic times to the prophecy of ...
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Sa'di's "Gulistan"
This fragment includes the beginning of Sa'di's Gulistan (The rose garden) on its recto, as well as the work's final page on its verso. The first page includes the title of the work written in white ink on a blue background decorated with orange leaf spirals. The rest of the illuminated top panel contains interlacing flowers and gold panels on a blue ground. A didactic work in both prose and verse, Gulistan was composed in 1258 by the Persian poet and prose writer Shaykh Sa'di Shirazi ...
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Poetic Verses Offering Advice
This thin fragment is quite damaged by worm holes and has been pasted to a larger sheet for the purpose of preservation. Written in black Nasta'liq script tending towards Shikastah, the text begins with a ruba'i (iambic quatrain), continues with two tak bayt (single verses), and ends with a ghazal (lyrical poem) with the rhyming terminal sound sati. The verses are separated by diagonal lines in red ink, and the term aydan (also) at the top of the left column initiates the ghazal. These various poetical verses provide ...
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Fragmentary Verses
This calligraphic fragment is in very poor condition. The four verses of Persian poetry are interrupted by a number of large holes in the paper. A few words are still legible, however:  “[I want] to see your face again / Seeing your beauty... made my fortune / Hand... without end / [Their] presence made (my) heart and eye happy.” In the upper-right corner appears a pasted gold panel, while the lower-right corner contains the truncated name of the calligrapher, Safi al-Husayni. This calligrapher is otherwise unknown; he may have been active in Persia ...
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Fragmentary Persian Poem
This small calligraphic fragment includes one line of poetry describing a lover's secret passion: “Yesterday I passed by you quickly for fear of the others.” The text is executed in black Nasta'liq script on a brown piece of paper, and it is framed by cloud bands and placed on a gold background filled with subtle decorative motifs. Several illuminated panels frame the top and bottom horizontals, while two black and gold borders decorate the right and left verticals of the text panel. The composition is pasted to a ...
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Verses from Niẓāmī's "Divan"
This calligraphic fragment includes several verses from the Divan (Compendium of poems) by Niẓāmī' (1140 or 1141–1202 or 1203). After a beginning invocation to God, the verses describe how certain things and people fulfill particular roles in the world: “(For) every idol that they fashioned / They sewed a robe the size of its body / Not everyone can be the confidant of power / Not every donkey can carry Jesus.” The verses are executed in dark-brown ink on a beige paper framed by a blue border. The text is pasted to ...
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Praise (Madh) to 'Ali
This calligraphic fragment includes four lines of Shi'i poetry encouraging the talib (seeker) to derive spiritual knowledge of God by means of understanding the Prophet's son-in-law, 'Ali. The verses read: “Oh seeker, search for the secret of Truth (God) from (His) Names / From the Name, search the epitome of What is Named / From the essence of 'Ali recite the name of the Exalted One / And from the name of 'Ali search the favor of the Lofty One.” These verses draw on the symbolic dichotomy between al-ism (the name ...
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Military Document
This sanad (document) is in the form of a namah (letter) written in black Nasta'liq script and outlined in cloud bands on a gold background. The letter is from a ruler to a certain Mirza Yadigar, from whom he requests military assistance. In response, the ruler sends a reputable fighter named Mirza Qilich (qilich means "sword" in Turkish) to the ruler. Known as Rustam-i Zaman (the Rustam of his day, Rustam being a great Persian hero) because of his fighting prowess, Mirza Qilich provides military assistance to vanquish the ...
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Quatrain on the Virtue of Patience
This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba’i (iambic pentameter quatrain), on the need for endurance. The verses read: “I went to the doctor, asked about my severe pain / (And) what could he do for my lovesickness / He ordered as a drink the blood of liver and water of the eye / I said: ‘What kind of food (is that)?’ and he answered: ‘You must eat liver.’” The doctor recommends his lovesick patient to jigar khwurdan (endure, literally, “eat liver”) the pains of love, as there is no medicinal potion that will ...
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Verses on Perceived Value
This calligraphic fragment includes a Persian poem that describes how luxury goods such as semi-precious stones and furs are devoid of any inherent worth. Beginning with an invocation to huwa al-muizz (God, the Glorified), the verses read: “I suppose your throne is made of crystal and jasper / Everyone who has an eye knows that they are just stone / That seat made from weasel and ermine (and with) a banner / To those who sit in wicker is but skin.” The calligrapher Muhammad Mahdi Husayni states that he has written these lines ...
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Insha'
This calligraphic fragment belongs to a series of 22 literary compositions or letters written by the calligraphers Mir Kalan, Khan Zaman (son of Khan Khanan), Qa'im Khan, Lutfallah Khan, and Mahabat Khan. Judging from the script (Indian Nasta'liq), a seal impression bearing the date 1113 AH/1701–2, and a letter mentioning the city of Jānpur in India, it appears that these writings were executed in India during the 18th century. The calligraphies are typically written a hasty Nasta'liq on white paper, framed in blue, and pasted ...
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First Page of Sa'di's "Bustan"
This calligraphic fragment consists of the first seven pages of Bustan (The fruit garden), a famous and beloved work composed by Shaykh Sa'di (died 691 AH/1292) in 1256–57. The work contains histories, personal anecdotes, fables, and moral instruction. This copy of Bustan may have been produced in India during the 17th century. The back of the second page includes a note supporting this provenance, as it states that the work was written by 'Abd al-Rashid Daylami, one of the famous calligraphers active at the court of the ...
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Two Bayts (Verses) on Modesty
This calligraphic fragment includes two bayts (verses) of poetry that describe the desire of unidentified antagonists to break or humble the beloved: “They want to break the wild-eyed / They want to break the black-eyelashed / They want to break the heart from the spirit / They want to break the objects of beauty.” In these verses with repetitive phrasing, the beloved ones or objects of beauty—the kajkulahan (literally, the "ones wearing crooked helmets,")—are the target of violence and animosity. Written in black Nasta'liq script on orange paper decorated with ...
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Ghazals by Sa'di
This calligraphic fragment includes a number of ghazals (lyrical verses), composed by Shaykh Sa'di (died 691 AH/1292). Many of these verses express the pain at separation from a friend and exhort faithfulness to one's companions. Sa'di's name appears in one of the verses at the very bottom of the right column. The text is executed in black Shikastah script and is surrounded by cloud band motifs on a background covered with gold leaf. The central gutter separating the main text panel into two columns is ...
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Laylah and Majnun Meet in School from Niẓāmī's "Khamsah"
This calligraphic fragment describes the first encounter between the star-crossed lovers Laylah and Majnun when they are children in school, as described by Niẓāmī Ganjavī (1140 or 1141–1202 or 1203) in the third book of his Khamsah (Quintet). In the story, Qays (also known as Majnun) is sent to school by his father to learn to read and write. One day, however, young Qays notices a lovely girl with hair that is laylah (literally as black as night) and falls deeply in love with her. The layout of this ...
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Ruba'i of Ḥāfiẓ
This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), by the famous Persian poet Ḥāfiẓ (died 791/1388–89). Beginning with an invocation to God as the Glorified (huwa al-'aziz), the verses read: “Those who turn dust to gold by the gaze, / Could they also glance at me from the corner of (their) eyes? / Hiding my pain from pretentious doctors is better. / May they cure (me) from the treasury of the invisible.” Ḥāfiẓ uses the metaphor of al-kimiya (alchemy) to describe a man's painful and ardent desire ...
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Quatrain on Separation
This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), that uses hyperbolic expressions to describe the all-consuming affection and pain of separation from a loved one. It says: “If I were to write an explanation of (my) wishes / A fire would burn up the reed of (my) pen, / And if I were to speak again of the burden of separation / The (upright) shape of the nine skies would hunch over.” The verses are executed in black Nasta'liq script on a beige sheet of paper. The text panel is ...
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Three Bayts (Verses) on Worldly Desires
This calligraphic fragment includes three bayts (verses) of poetry in Persian that describe the true meaning of life in verses that read: “In this ancient monastery built in olden days / Strange that man's substance is so neglected / If he were to spend his whole life with riches / He would not know their value until they are lost / In this house of sandalwood and ebony / Sometimes (there is) mourning, at others a wedding.” The poem describes the world as an ancient monastery and a house of sandalwood and ebony. The ...
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Ruba'i of Ḥāfiẓ
This calligraphic fragment includes an iambic pentameter quatrain, or ruba'i, by the famous Persian poet Hafiz (died 791 AH/1388–89). The verses read: “Those who turn dust to gold by the gaze, / Could they also glance at me from the corner of (their) eyes? / Hiding my pain from pretentious doctors is better. / May they cure (me) from the treasury of the invisible.” Hafiz uses the metaphor of al-kimiya (alchemy) to describe a man's painful and ardent desire to witness the realm of God, where earthly dust turns ...
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'Id (Feast Day) Poem
This calligraphic panel includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), signed and dated in the lower-left corner by the calligrapher Mir Muhammad Salih: “written by Mir Muhammad Salih, 1225” (AD 1810). Although little is known about the calligrapher, the date proves that this work dates from the early 19th century. The text is executed in black (Indian) naskh script on a beige sheet of paper, framed in a blue border decorated with gold leaf and vine motifs. Before the quatrain begins, a short invocation of God that reads "he is ...
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Quatrain on Divine Mercy
This calligraphic fragment includes a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain), a few words of which are lost due to water damage. The poem begins with an invocation to God as "Ya Malak al-Muluk" (the King of Kings) and then praises God's mercy as a torrential rain, which allows humans to find fana' (annihilation) in the Divine. This spiritual blossoming resembles the growth of plants on the surface of a hard stone. On the back of this fragment appears the inscribed attribution "Mawlana Sultan Mīr ʻAlī," intended to identify the ...
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