Bismillah and Qurʼanic Verse (81:1-14)


This Qurʼanic fragment includes the bismillah (In the name of God) and verses 1–14 of surah (chapter) 81, al-Takwir (The folding up). These verses constitute some of the most graphic descriptions in the Qurʼan of Doomsday and the associated reversal of natural phenomena. The sun folds up, stars fall from the sky, mountains vanish, oceans boil over, and a blazing fire is kindled. Souls are sorted out and men’s deeds weighed so that “each soul may know what it has put forward” (81:14). The fragment shows a collector’s interest in preserving only verses 81:1–14, which present a complete picture of the eschatology. Neither the chapter’s title nor its subsequent verses, which move on to a different topic, is preserved. The calligraphy is in brown ink on its original laminated beige folio, with multicolored frames and blue-purple borders pasted rather clumsily. The calligraphy is executed in rayhani script, a writing style most closely associated with master calligrapher Yaqut al-Musta'simi (died 1298) and Qurʼans produced in Iran during the 13th and 14th centuries. The script is related to other cursive styles, in particular naskh and muhaqqaq. In contrast to these scripts, the sub-linear letters here display less depth of curve below the line, are more angular, and point to the left. Diacritical marks are executed with a finer pen than the letters; as seen in this fragment, these marks are much smaller, thinner, and in a lighter brown color than the letters on the main line of script. The verses are separated by ayah (verse) markers of simple gold circles outlined in dark brown ink. Above the verses appear a variety of recitation marks, mostly in red ink. Other marks in sloppy blue ink appear on the third line to elongate the “a” sound or add the last letter “s” to the truncated word “souls.” These added marks show that the fragment was used throughout the centuries.

Last updated: April 27, 2016