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.649: Burning and Melting
Safavid Iran, dated a.h. 1068/a.d. 1658

This manuscript is an illuminated and illustrated copy of the poem Sūz va gudāz ('Burning and melting') by Naw’ī Khabūshānī (d. 1019 AH /1610 CE), which recounts the love story of a Hindu girl who burns herself on the funeral pyre of her betrothed. The present codex was penned by Ibn Sayyid Murād al-Ḥusaynī and illustrated by Muḥammad ‘Alī Mashhadī in 1068 AH / 1657 CE. The text is written in an elegant nasta'liq hand in black ink and is illustrated in a style associated with seventeenth-century Isfahan, the capital of the Safavid empire.





Folio 5a

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

Folio 4b

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

This manuscript demonstrates the continuity of Persian poetic traditions into the early modern period. The poem, suggestively titled Suz u gudaz (Burning and melting), was composed by the 17th-century poet Muhammad Riza of Khabushan, known as Nau‘i. It recounts the tragic love story of a Hindu girl who throws herself on her beloved’s funeral pyre. The historic Hindu practice of self-immolation or widow-burning, called sati, was an uncommon subject for Persian literature. Its novelty would have captivated the reader. In the painting, the poet Nau‘i lies prostrate in front of his patron, the Mughal prince Daniyal. This copy of Suz u Gudaz was owned and illustrated by Muhammad ‘Ali, a well-known artist of 17th-century Iran.

Paper with ink, paint, and gold
W.649, fols. 4b–5a, acquired by Henry Walters


Folio 14a

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

Overcome with grief, the young Hindu woman accompanies her bridegroom’s coffin to the funeral pyre and decides to commit sati (or self immolation).

Folio 13a

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

On the morning the young man and woman were to be wed, the bridegroom travels to the home of his beloved. On his way, he stops to rest in a mud building. As a result of heavy rains, the structure falls and buries the bridegroom and his companions alive.

Folio 9a

Folio from an Islamic Manuscript

Set in India, the story begins with the young Hindu man confessing his strong love for his childhood friend to his father. His father consents to the young man’s request to marry and sends a message to the girl’s parents.