Protective Scroll


Produced in Iran in the 18th or 19th century, this small scroll is written on nearly transparent parchment made from the skin of gazelles. It is a hijab scroll, in the sense that it veils its meaning and offers protection from evil through sacred text. It is divided into 14 panels, edged in gold and green, which contain prayers, invocations of God, and Qur’anic verses in a carefully executed Arabic calligraphy.  The last and longest prayer emphasizes the mystic character of ilm al-adad (numerology). The prayer panels are framed by a text border written alternately in red and blue ink. The parchment contains prayers imploring God to avert harm and calamity, disease and suffering, and ruin and inundation, and to repel devils, evil spirits, and demons as bearers of bad luck. The prayers also ask for protection against the evil eye, which plays such an important role in Islamic popular religion. The scroll is kept in a cylindrical case, to which a chain is attached. In Islamic culture, such scrolls are particularly worn by children, who are regarded as in need of protection from every kind of calamity.

Last updated: November 16, 2017