Quatrain on True Knowledge


This calligraphic fragment provides a rubaʻi (iambic pentameter quatrain) written in black nastaʻliq script. The text is outlined in cloud bands filled with blue and placed on a gold background. In the upper-right corner, a gold decorative motif fills in the triangular space otherwise left empty by the intersection of the rectangular frame and the diagonal lines of text. The verses read “I arrived at a worshipper’s in the area of Baylaqan. / I said: ‘With tutoring purify me from ignorance.’ / He said: ‘Oh, Thoughtful One, go, because, like the earth, you can withstand all, / Or bury everything that you have read under the soil.’” These verses show how the poet sought out tarbiyat (spiritual teaching or tutoring) from a wise man, who responded that learned knowledge may be cast aside. Baylaqan (present-day Beylagan, Azerbaijan) was a city known for its purifying waters. Below the quatrain, the calligrapher, (Mir) ʻImad al-Hasani, has signed his work with his name and a request for God’s forgiveness. Mir ʻImad was born in 1552, spent time in Herat and Qazvin, and finally settled in Isfahan (then capital of Safavid Persia), where, as a result of his implication in court intrigues, he was murdered in 1615. He was a master of nastaʻliq script, whose works were admired and copied by his contemporaries and later collected by the Mughals. Many works in international collections are signed by him, although whether all these pieces are really by his hand remains uncertain.

Last updated: September 30, 2016