Two Verses on Lovesickness


This calligraphic fragment includes two bayts (verses) on the woes of lovesickness. Initiated by praise to God, “al-ʻaziz” (the Glorified) and “al-rashid” (the Rightly Guided), the verses continue: “In that high place where the inhabitants of the skies / Wish to be the doorkeepers of your abode / What purpose to speak to you about my state / Since you yourself know the state of (my) heartsickness.” Around the verses of poetry, a calligrapher has added a dedicatory inscription. He states that khatt (calligraphy) is bi nadir (incomparable) to all other forms of art and dedicates the calligraphy to Mir Safdar ʻAli. Although the diminutives of the calligrapher—that is, al-ʻabd (the servant) and al-mudhnib (the humble)—and his request for God's forgiveness for his sins remain, his name has been erased. Other parts of the fragment have been damaged and then repaired, suggesting that the name of the calligrapher may have been lost as a result. Mir Safdar ʻAli Khan (died 1930) was a ruler of the princely state of Hunza, in present-day northeastern Pakistan in 1886−92. When British forces invaded in December 1891, Mir Safdar ʻAli fled to Kashghar in China. Hunza became the northernmost frontier post of the British presence in India. It thus appears that this calligraphy was made for Mir Safdar ʻAli at the time of his tenure, in about 1890. If such a dating is accepted, then this piece bears witness to the continued existence and practice of nastaʻliq script in this part of India on the eve of British colonization.

Last updated: September 30, 2016