Qurʼanic Verses


This Qurʼanic fragment includes verses 35–36 of the 40th chapter of the Qurʼan entitled al-Ghafir (The forgiver), also known as al-Mu'min (The believer). Verses 36 and 37 of the same surah continue on the fragment's verso. This chapter of the Qurʼan uses the story of an individual believer (Moses) among people ruled by an arrogant leader (Pharaoh) to show how faith can prevail against evil. These two verses state that God closes the hearts of "arrogant and obstinate transgressors," such as Pharaoh, who believes wrongly that he can build a palace high enough to reach the heavens. The text reads: Pharaoh said "O Haman, build me a lofty palace so that I may find the ways and means of reaching the skies and that I may mount up to the God of Moses." These verses are executed on brown paper in a script known as Qarmati, a style of eastern Kufi with high vertical shafts and letters assuming a more triangular shape than in plain eastern Kufi. In some of the more elaborate Qurʼans made in Iran during the 12th century, the script appears on a background of arabesque scrolls and spirals executed in light-brown ink. In this fragment, the five lines of script executed on a high vertical appear on a plain piece of paper, where the only decoration consists of a verse marker in red and gold on the left side of the second line. The use of the term Qarmati for this particular style of eastern Kufi script has never been explained satisfactorily. It seems connected to the Qaramitah, a group of Isma'ilis based in the Gulf area that refused to recognize the claims of the Fatimid caliphs to the imamate (ruled 909–1171). Perhaps due to this geographical and chronological link, the script—associated with Qurʼan production of Iraq and Iran during the 10th–13th centuries—gained the appellation Qarmati. Unlike other Qurʼans in eastern Kufi script that make use of the complete vowel system invented in the eighth century by Khalīl ibn Aḥmad, this particular fragment uses orange dots to represent vowels and other signs. This orthographic technique was introduced by Abū al-Aswad al-Duʼalī (died 688) in order to render the earlier, undotted Kufi script more legible. Here, red ink is reserved for the vowel ḍamma (u), blue ink for the sukun (without vowels), and dark gray for the shaddah (duplication of a consonant).

Last updated: April 15, 2016