Interlinear Qurʼan: Surat al-Nisa'


The recto of this Qurʼan fragment contains parts of the first three verses of the fourth chapter of the Qurʼan, 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, with diagonal word-by-word translation into Persian between each horizontal line of text. The right side of the folio contains the second half of the third verse of the same chapter, which, when folded vertically at the center with verses 1–3 included on its verso yields the first four continuous pages of text of Surat al-Nisa'. Unlike similar interlinear Qurʼans that include a Persian translation in red ink, this fragment makes no color differentiation between the Arabic original and its Persian rendition. Diacritical marks in red appear to have been added at a later date, much like the marginal glosses and corrections. The fragment appears to date from the Ilkhanid period (circa 1250–1350) and may have been produced in the imperial center of Tabriz in northwestern Iran. The clear Arabic muhaqqaq and Persian thuluth scripts are typical of the period, as are certain variants in the Persian orthography. The fragment is unlike later Safavid interlinear Qurʼans, where Persian translations appear in red nasta'liq script in horizontal registers. Both the lack of differentiation between the color of the scripts and the absence of a frame suggest that the fragment dates from the formative years of Ilkhanid production of bilingual Arabic–Persian Qurʼans. A further sign of antiquity is the gold surah heading in Kufi at the top of the left folio, which harks back to earlier decorative ornaments and illumination in Qurʼans of the 'Abbasid period. The paper is cream-colored, and the ink on the verso shows through to the recto. This fragment is of particular interest as it provides pronunciation directions in the margins. These glosses instruct the reader how to read properly and highlight the oral nature of the Qurʼan.

Last updated: May 7, 2015