Bihari Qurʼan


This folio contains, on the right side, verses 2–8 of Surat al-Kahf (The cave) of the Qurʼan 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 (verse) of Surat al-Kahf. The commentary elaborates on the meaning of the verse. In this fragment, only a commentary is given in the margin. Other bihari Qurʼans bear double margins containing both a commentary and alternative readings of certain words in the text. The right side of the folio contains a small catchword written diagonally in black in the lower left corner, used to bind the folios in the correct sequence. The ayah markers consist of eight-petal rosettes outlined in black, with a square gold-leaf center and eight blue dots on their outer edges. The fragment is written in a script known as bihari, a variant of naskh (cursive) typical of northern India after the conquest by Timur (Tamerlane) and prior to the establishment of the Mughal Dynasty. Bihari script is recognizable by its emphasis on the sub-linear elements of the Arabic letter forms, thickened at their centers and chiseled like swords at their ends. The term bihari derives from the province Bihar in eastern India, but its alternative spelling (bahari) also may refer to the size (bahar) of the paper used for writing Qurʼans. Most Qurʼans written in bihari script use strong orange or red and blue colors for illuminated motifs, as well as for the main body of the text. This fragment repeats lines in the following manner: one line of gold, two lines of black, one line of blue, two lines of black, one line of gold. Bihari Qurʼans often include a note next to each chapter heading explaining its value and how many times it should be read. This fragment also specifies the total number of words and letters in each chapter.

Last updated: September 16, 2016