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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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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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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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 ...
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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 ...
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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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