Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Section from a Qur'an Manuscript

Object Name:
Section from a non-illustrated manuscript
Date:
ca. 1300
Geography:
Attributed to Morocco or Southern Spain
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Ink, gold, and opaque watercolor on parchment
Dimensions:
7 15/16 x 7 9/16 in. (20.2 x 19.2 cm)
Classification:
Codices
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2004
Accession Number:
2004.90
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 457
As the second volume of a seven-part Qur'an manuscript, this codex contains no colophon, but it opens with an elaborately illuminated double page bearing intricate geometric strapwork closely comparable to designs of Andalusian and North African tiles. Marginalia indicate that this Qur'an once belonged to the library of a ribat (hostel) in the holy city of Medina accommodating Moroccan residents.
Containing Suras 5 through 9, this codex represents the second volume of a seven-volume Qur’an. As a medial volume, it has no colophon, but a few of the pages bear waqf inscriptions that indicate its endowment to a ribat in Medina known as the Ribat Sayyidna ‘Uthman. In the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, ribats generally functioned as accommodations for indigent Muslims, sufis, or travelers. Most were founded by individuals from other regions whose endowments often specified their own compatriots as eligible residents. Such was the case with the Ribat Sayyidna ‘Uthman, which was dedicated to Maghribi residents. Undoubtedly, it is through this connection that the library of the ribat obtained this manuscript, which was probably made in Morocco.

In most respects, the manuscript exhibits the highly traditional approach typical of Qur’an production in the Maghrib. Although paper had been introduced to the region well before this volume was made, parchment was favored there for Qur’ans and other religious texts through the fourteenth century. The square format of the text block here is another characteristic feature. The two opening pages are written entirely in black-contoured lettering infilled with gold, but most of the others are executed in thick brown ink, in the maghribi script. When no illuminated heading is present, both the incipit pages and the continuing pages bear eleven lines of text. Characteristically, qaf is indicated by one dot above the grapheme, and fa’ by one dot below it; green dots are used for hamzat al-wasl, yellow dots for hamzat al-qat, blue-green ink for shadda and sukun, and red lines for vowel markers. The graphemes combine features of the two subtypes of maghribi calligraphy: the compact, rhythmic scroll of the andalusi-type lettering and the sinuous, sprawling flourishes of the fasi script. Another singular feature of this manuscript appears on the pages with gold lettering: the looped letter forms—such as sad, dad, and ta—are filled with pigment.

The manuscript opens with an illuminated double page that features a design of gold-bordered white strapwork enclosing gold palmettes against a blue ground. Every fifth verse is marked by gold trefoil motifs embellished with red and blue dots, and every tenth verse by gold disks supplemented by marginal roundels containing the word ‘ashara. Large circular devices in gold and pigments signal hizb divisions. Most of the Sura headings are distinguished by gold kufic letters with marginal split-palmette medallions. The heading on the opening page, however, is set within an illuminated panel against a blue ground within a pearl border, flanked by knotted interlace and surrounded by a gold braid with a circular-palmette medallion in the margin. Similar compositions surround the text on the bottom half of the penultimate page (folio 88v) and all of the final page (folio 89r).

Ellen Kenney (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]

Footnotes:

1. The eighty-nine folios of this volume have been rebound, as indicated by the modern spine and trimmed pages. Although the front and back covers, lined in dark brown leather blind-tooled with an allover pattern of rosettes around a floral cluster, may be historical, they are not original; their association with these pages probably dates to the time of its rebinding.

2. Formerly, the manuscript was understood to be endowed to an institution in Rabat, Morocco (Fendall 2003, pp. 62–63). I am grateful to Priscilla Soucek, Abdullah Ghouchani, Stefan Heidemann, and Werner Ende for their assistance with this research.

3. Mortel, Richard T. "Ribats in Mecca during the Medieval Period: A Descriptive Study Based on Literary Sources." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 61, no. 1 (1998), pp. 29–50.

4. The Ribat Sayyidna ‘Uthman reportedly stood in the vicinity of the Great Mosque of Medina until at least 1951 (al-Ansari, ‘Abd al-Quddus. Athar al-Madina al-munawwara. 4th ed. 1935. Medina, 1985, p. 30). For further reference to this ribat, see Ibn Silm, Ahmad Sa‘id. Al-Madina al-munawwara fi al-qarn al-rabi‘ ‘ashar al-hijri. Heliopolis, 1993, pp. 39–40, and Badr, ‘Abd al-Basit. Al-Tarikh al-shamil lil-Madina al-munawwara. Medina, 1993. vol. 3, pp. 111–12.

5. Baker, C. 2007, pp. 28–29.

6. Blair 2006, pp. 221–29, 392–99.

7. Fendall 2003, pp. 62–63; Blair 2006, p. 392.
Inscription: Sura 5 (al-Ma'idah) through Sura 9 (al-Bara'at)

1-In Arabic language and in Naskhi script:
وقف لله مقبرة؟ رباط سیدنا عثمان بالمدینة
Restricted for God to the tomb of caravansary of our master ‘Uthmān at Madīna.
2- In Naskhi script:
Koran 9:128-129
3- In Kufic script
کمل الجزء الثاني من الربعة/ الکریمة المبارکة/ بحمد الله و حسن عونه/ و صلی الله علی سیدنا/ و مولانا محمد النبي/ المصطفی الکریم و علی/ آله الطیبین الطاهرین/ و سلم تسلیماً کثیراً کثیرا
The second volume of the holy one forth (Rub‘a) complete by the praise of God and his good help, and prayer and a lot peace by God upon our master Moḥammad the prophet the chosen the generous and also upon his family the good the clean
On another page in Naskhi script:
وقف لله تعالی مقبرة؟ رباط سیدنا عثمان رضي الله عنه بطیبة
Restricted for God to the tomb caravansary of our master ‘Uthmān May God be pleased with him at Ṭayyiba.

A.Ghouchani
Ribat Sayyidna ‘Uthman, Medina, Saudi Arabia; Sotheby's, London, 12 October, 2000, no. 39; [ Art market, from 2000]; [ Sam Fogg, London, by 2003–4; sold to MMA]
Fendall, Ramsey. Islamic Calligraphy. London, 2003. pp. 62–63.

"12 October 2000." In Arts of the Islamic World. London. London: Sotheby's, London, October 12, 2000. no. 39, pp. 56-57, ill.

Blair, Sheila S. Islamic Calligraphy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. pp. 221–29, 392–99.

Qur'an Manuscripts: Calligraphy, Illumination,Design. London, 2007. pp. 28–29.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 33, pp. 63-64, ill. p. 63 (color).



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