Ladders of Prophecy


This 16th century manuscript in Ottoman Turkish seeks to provide an encyclopedic overview of the life, times, and unique characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad. Included in its 720 pages of text are stories of early prophets mentioned in the Qurʼanand in Muslim tradition, information about Muhammad’s contemporaries, and lists of firsts associated with persons, events, and words. The author makes frequent use of hadiths from al-Bukhari, Abu Da’ud, and al-Tirmidhi. He cites the teachings of Sufi masters, such as Hasan al-Basri (died 728), the extreme ascetic Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Shibli (died 946), and Abu al-Hassan al-Kharaqani (died 1033). The work is intended for instruction and reflection and uses short, easily remembered quotations. Its general method is to present a hadith in Arabic and then provide translation and commentary in Turkish. Quotations in Arabic from the Qurʼan or the hadiths are often signaled in red ink, as are personal names and significant points. Extended commentaries relate to stories of personalities familiar from the Bible and persons and events from Muhammad’s lifetime. The manuscript displays a Sufi or mystical reverence for the Muslim declaration of faith and the name and person of Muhammad. The text is full of biblical stories touching on Creation and historical events preceding the advent of Islam as they relate specifically to Muhammad. There are guide words and a brief colophon naming ʻAbd Allah ibn Ahmad as the scribe. A partially legible ownership inscription on the front flyleaf includes the year 1171 AH (1757‒58). The authorship is uncertain; names that have been posited include ‘Abd al-Haqq Dihlavi (1551‒1642), author of an unpublished work with a similar title, and Muʻin al-Din Farahi (died 1501 or 1502). The text is in a careful naskh script. The manuscript is bound in red leather with blind-stamped medallions and traditional protective flap.

Last updated: February 2, 2016