Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum

Poetry and Prayer

Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum

Poetry Ritual Prayer Recitation Calligraphy Personal Piety Digital Books

Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusraw of Delhi


Text page of the Khamsa (Quintet) of Amir Khusraw of Delhi

Scribe: Muhammad Husayn al-Kashmiri
Mughal India, 1597–98

The Khamsa was composed by Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (1253–1325), the greatest Persian-writing poet of medieval India. This copy is written in exquisite nasta’liq script by the court calligrapher Muhammad Husayn al-Kashmiri, honored with the title zarrin qalam, literally meaning “gold pen.” Nasta’liq emerged in 14th-century Iran and is recognized as the quintessential Persian script. It is used for transcribing Persian poetry in Iran as well as in India and Turkey. Its distinctive graphic qualities include letters descending below the baseline, elongated horizontal lines, and the stacking of the last letter or word on the line. Nasta’liq was used primarily for copying literary works and rarely used for transcribing the Qur’an.

Paper with ink, paint, and gold
W.624, fol. 12a, acquired by Henry Walters