Praise (Madh) to 'Ali


This calligraphic fragment includes four lines of Shi'i poetry encouraging the talib (seeker) to derive spiritual knowledge of God by means of understanding the Prophet's son-in-law, 'Ali. The verses read: “Oh seeker, search for the secret of Truth (God) from (His) Names / From the Name, search the epitome of What is Named / From the essence of 'Ali recite the name of the Exalted One / And from the name of 'Ali search the favor of the Lofty One.” These verses draw on the symbolic dichotomy between al-ism (the name) and al-musammah (the named) and between dhat (essence) and zuhur (manifestation) found in discussions about al-asma al-husna (God and His Beautiful Names). The verses transform the theological theme into Persian poetry, while promoting a Shi'ia understanding of God (the Goal) through 'Ali (the means). The verses are executed in black Nasta'liq script framed by delicate cloud bands on a beige paper. The text (most likely an invocation to God) in the upper-right corner has been lost, while the lower-left corner contains the signature of the calligrapher 'Abd al-Bari al-Husayni, who asks for forgiveness of his sins from God. 'Abd al-Bari al-Husayni may have been a calligrapher in Nasta'liq script in 19th-century India. The purple frame decorated with gold leafs and the brown sheet of paper backed by cardboard onto which the text panel has been pasted suggest an Indian provenance.

Last updated: April 27, 2016