Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum

Poetry and Prayer

Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum

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W.582: Poem in Honor of the Prophet Muhammad

This illuminated small codex contains the famous poem in honor of the Prophet Muhammad, popularly known as Qaṣīdat al-Burda ('The poem of the mantle'), which was composed by Sharaf al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Būṣīrī (d. 694 AH / 1294 CE). This copy was executed in a variety of scripts, probably in Iran, by Ḥabīb Allāh ibn Dūst Muḥammad al-Khwārizmī in the 11th century AH / 17th CE.

Folio 23a

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

This is the final illuminated page in the codex. The last panel contains the colophon giving the name of the scribe as Habib Allah ibn Dust Muhammad. The colophon is written in riqa script defined by fluid lines. Riqa script was commonly used for chancellery documents and for colophons.

Folio 5b

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

The poem begins on this illuminated page. The central panel is framed by illuminated margins and a domed headpiece. The text itself is divided into four panels executed in naskh (black) and thuluth (gold and blue) scripts. The Six Pens consist of three sets of majuscule-miniscule pairs: thuluth-naskh, muhaqqaq-rayhan, and tawqi-riqa. Here we see the pairing of thuluth and naskh. A pronounced feature of the curvilinear thuluth script is that certain letters fall far below the baseline. Naskh is the principle bookhand and is used in both Qur’anic and non-Quran’ic texts.

Folio 1b

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

This decorated page with an illuminated rectangular headpiece is the first page in the manuscript. It has five inner panels of text executed in the following scripts: muhaqqaq (gold), naskh (black), thuluth (blue), naskh (black), and muhaqqaq (gold). Muhaqqaq, naskh and thuluth are three of the six scripts collectively known as the Six Pens. Perfected between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, the Six Pens are the classical script styles that influenced later generations of calligraphers up to the present day.