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

W.568: Qur’an
Maghreb (North Africa), 18th century

This manuscript dates to the 12th century AH / 18th CE and is a fragment of the Qur'an covering chapters 19 (Surat Mariam) through 23 (Surat al-mu'minun). It is written on Italian paper in a large Maghribi script, with vocalization in red, green, and yellow ink.

Listen to a recitation from the text of this book.

Folio 2a

Surat Maryam, 19:1–5

Folio 1b

Chapter 19 of the Qur’an is named after Mary, known as Maryam (or Mariam) to Muslims. Maryam is one of the most prominent female figures in the Qur’an. As Muslims view the revelations to the Prophet Muhammad as the continuation of God’s earlier revelations, the biblical figures in the Old and New Testaments are also honored in the Qur’an. On the folios seen here, verses 1 through 5 of Surat Maryam are beautifully inscribed in maghribi script.

Paper with ink, paint, and gold.
W.568, fols. 1b–2a, acquired by Henry Walters

Folio 114b

This page is inscribed with the final verses of chapter 23 (Sūrat al-mu’minūn), which translates as ‘the Believers’. The text is written in Maghribi script. ‘Maghribi’ is a term used to describe a variety of scripts used in the western Islamic lands (southern Spain and North Africa) as well as sub-Saharan (West) Africa. Maghribi script is defined by curved and sweeping letter forms.

Folio 13b

The text page has an illuminated medallion in gold, blue, and red located in the right margin. This decorative form indicates the place where the believer performs ritual prostration (or bowing down).

Folio 1b

This page has a beautifully illuminated headpiece inscribed with the chapter heading Sūrat Maryam in gold in the central medallion. The script used for this chapter heading is described as a decorative New Abbasid style ('broken cursive'). The New Abbasid style has a very angular character and a vertical thrust to the letters. At the time this manuscript was produced, the New Abbasid style with its deliberately complex forms was generally relegated to chapter headings.