Qurʼanic Verses


This calligraphic panel includes the bismillah (in the name of God) at the top, followed by the 111th surah of the Qurʼan, entitled al-Masad (The plaited rope), also known as al-Lahab (The flame). This chapter contains five verses, all of which are included on the panel. This very early Meccan surah stresses that cruelty is ultimately self-destructive, as angry men and their wives perish in their own rage: “Perish the hands of the Father of Flames, perish he. / No profit to him from all his wealth and all his gains. / Burned soon will he be in a fire of blazing flame. / His wife will carry the crackling wood as fuel, / A twisted rope of palm leaf fiber around her own neck.” The surah is brought to an end by the artist's signature in the lower-left corner. The calligrapher's name, Muḥammad Riz̤ā Ṭabāṭabāʾī, strongly suggests that he was a Shi'i Persian calligrapher who traced his lineage back to Tabataba, the great-great grandson of 'Ali. Although he has not dated his work, it is known that calligraphic sheets pasted onto cardboard panels similar to this one were executed in Persian naskh script in Iran during the first half of the 19th century. Such panels were intended as wall decorations in private homes or as calligraphic exercises. This particular calligraphic sheet includes cloud bands painted in a light-brown wash and decorated with black vines and red flowers. Pasted onto a cardboard, it was later provided with green and pink paper margins.

Last updated: April 6, 2015