Levha (Panel)


This levha (calligraphic panel) reads: “Ya ʻAli, ruhi fadakah” (Oh ʻAli, my spirit is sacrified for you). The letters are arranged artistically to fill the calligraphic panel, making the reading of the phrase quite difficult. Diacritics (vocalization signs) also fill in the composition’s empty spaces. Although meaning is secondary to form, this vocative phrase calling for loyalty to ʻAli underscores the Shiʻi message of the panel. In the left vertical border, the artist, Muhammad Ibrahim, has included his seal and has dated his composition 1134 AH (1721‒22). The right and left vertical borders both are decorated with blue-and-white ebru or abri (marbled) paper, while the whole composition is backed by a thick cardboard covered by pink paper. In the left margin appears the number 205, which suggests that this particular calligraphic fragment was but one of many such specimens formerly included in an album of calligraphies. The square seal impression of Muhammad Ibrahim appears in another calligraphic fragment held in the collections of the Library of Congress, which includes a mirror image of the expression: “ʻAli wali Allah” (ʻAli is the Vice Regent of God). Shiʻi calligraphic panels such as these two works by Muhammad Ibrahim are found in Iran and India, and were either bound into albums or displayed on walls.

Last updated: September 30, 2016