al-Baydawi's "Anwar al-tanzil wa asrar al-ta'wil" with Frontispiece


This folio contains the illuminated frontispiece and title from a manuscript of Anwar al-tanzil wa asrar al-ta'wil (The lights of revelation and the secrets of interpretation), a work consisting of a popular Qurʼanic tafsir (exegesis) composed by the 13th-century scholar al-Baydawi. The title appears in the top panel of the frontispiece, in white ink with the letters drawn out at the vertical to fit into the shape of the horizontal register. The white letters are outlined in black ink and emerge from a gold background decorated with blue and white dots. The center panel contains a variety of polygonal shapes interlaced to form a carpet page, with a palette dominated by brown, gold, and blue hues. The centerpiece consists of an octagonal panel containing the author’s names and titles written in white ink on a gold background containing black vine-like designs. Although the panel’s calligraphy is now barely legible, some of al-Baydawi’s titles can be read. They include al-shaykh (the theologian), al-'adil (the just), and al-qadi (the jurist), reflecting the fact that al-Baydawi was a respected and prolific expert on Qurʼanic exegesis and Islamic law, jurisprudence, and theology. The verso of this folio contains the beginning of the work. After an initial bismillah (In the name of God), the commentary begins with a short opening, in which the author praises the value of interpreting the verses of the Qurʼan and argues that Qurʼanic exegesis is at the head of all sciences. The author then gives the name of his work, before launching into the explanation of al-Fatihah (The opening), the first chapter of the Qurʼan. The text itself is executed by an unknown hand in rather rough naskh script in black ink. Sentences are separated by red upturned virgules, and many later notes have been added.

Last updated: April 16, 2015