Collection of Prayers for the Prophet Muhammad


This North African manuscript dating from the early to mid-18th century is a prayer book, Wardah al-juyūb fī al-ṣalāh ʻalá al-Ḥabīb (Collection of prayers for the Prophet Muhammad). Prayers for the Prophet Muhammad have a special place in Muslim devotional life. They were first enshrined in the Qurʼan: verse 56 of chapter 33 al-Aḥzab (The combined forces) tells Muslims that “Allah and His angels confer their blessings on the Prophet,” and calls on the believers to do the same. From speeches to book introductions, devout Muslims often begin with some form of these prayers to bless what they are about to do, but it was only in the late ninth century that these prayers developed into their own genre. The first work that was solely dedicated to them is thought to be Faḍl al-ṣalāh ʻalá al-Nabī (The virtue of praying for the Prophet) by Maliki judge Ismaaʻiil ibn Ishaq al-Jahdami (815 or 816−895 or 896). Other prayer books followed, including the famed Dalāʾil al-khayrāt (The guide to benevolent deeds) by Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (died 1465). By the mid-14th century, this genre appeared to have become particularly popular in the region of present-day Morocco. Imam Ibn Marzuq, who lived during the reign of Marinid sultan Abu Al-Hassan 'Ali ibn 'Uthman (1331–51), remarked that during the celebrations of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in the Marinid lands “Prayers for the Prophet reach a peak, a marvel that one sees in the land of the Maghrib.” This work, written in Maghribi script, is a compilation of selections chosen by ʻUmar ibn ʻAbd al-ʻAziz al-Jazuli from Dalāʾil al-khayrāt and a second work entitled Riyāḍ al-anwār (The gardens of lights) by another Jazuli author, who otherwise remains unknown. The manuscript contains a lengthy introduction specifying the spiritual rewards associated with the prayers, followed by a total of 42 prayers that vary in length between one sentence and a few pages, written on thick cream laid paper, with faint chain lines. The scribe, Mukhtar ibn Muhammad, whose name is given in the colophon, has used black ink with rubrication, with some rubrics and titles in gold, maroon, or green ink. Catchwords appear on rectos. The manuscript is illustrated with several full-page geometric designs and elaborately decorated ʻunwan panels in multiple colors throughout. Folios 12b and 13a have facing illustrations in decorative borders; 12b shows a mosque interior with two gold platforms leading to a larger gold platform with a vessel containing flowers, and 13a shows steps leading to the minbar (pulpit) on the left.

Last updated: September 2, 2015