Invocation of ʻAli


This calligraphic fragment includes a duʻaʼ (invocation) to ʻAli, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, in the central text panel. Written in black nastaʻliq script on a beige paper decorated with arabesque motifs painted in gold, the Shiʻi duʻaʼ reads: “Call upon ʻAli who causes marvels to appear / You will find him to help (you) in adversity / All anguish and sorrow will vanish / Through your guardianship, oh ʻAli, oh ʻAli, oh ʻAli.” In the lower-right corner of this main text panel appears the calligrapher’s signature: “katabahu (written by) al-mudhnib (the poor) Ahmad al-Husayni.” The triangular area that contains the signature is rather suspicious: the paper does not match the main text panel and this section appears to have been cut out and pasted onto the fragment. It is possible that the otherwise-unknown calligrapher Ahmad al-Husayni may have removed the original calligrapher’s signature and replaced it with his own. The main text panel is framed by a pink border decorated with gold vine motifs and a large blue frame decorated with gold leaves and panels of Persian verses. Each rectangular panel of text has been individually cut out and pasted into the appropriate panels in the blue border. The whole composition is contained on a larger sheet of pink paper painted with gold flowers and backed with cardboard. Although the original, main text panel executed in large nastaʻliq script may have been executed during the Safavid period (16th century), the surrounding border and the calligrapher’s signature may have been added later, in the 18th‒19th centuries. Such procedures of alteration show how some calligraphies experienced a “second life” when combined into albums or passed down through the hands of another calligrapher.

Last updated: September 30, 2016