Qurʼan Carpet Page; al-Fatihah


This folio contains an opening carpet page of a Qurʼan. It is the second of five folios belonging to a dispersed Qurʼan manuscript in the collections of the Library of Congress. Together with another folio, this folio constitutes the double-page illuminated frontispiece of a beautiful, albeit damaged, 14th-century Mamluk Qurʼan. The folio contains the continuation of verses 76–80 of the 56th surah (chapter), al-Waqi'ah (The inevitable), contained in the top and bottom rectangular panels of the double-page illuminated frontispiece. The decorative patterns and palette of this carpet page are typical of 14th-century Mamluk Qurʼans made in Egypt. The verso of the folio contains the first chapter of the Qurʼan, al-Fatihah (The opening). In the top and bottom blue rectangular registers, decorated with interlacing gold vine motifs, appears the title of the surah in now-oxidized white ink. The heading specifies that al-Fatihah was revealed in Medina and has seven verses, (29) words, and 120 letters. The number of words, which would have appeared in the lower right corner of the folio, is now missing. The interest in counting the total number ayahs (verses), words, and letters in various chapters and throughout the Qurʼan not only provided an indexical apparatus for the Holy Book. It also may have served various practices concerned with letter mysticism or the esoteric sciences of letters. The script in the main text frame is naskh, a cursive style preferred in Qurʼans made in Cairo during the 14th–15th centuries.

Last updated: May 7, 2015