This fragment is the right half of a pear-shaped steel standard which would have been originally framed by a twisted steel cord ending in a pair of outward-facing dragon heads. The form echoes one of the many types depicted in battle paintings from the sixteenth century royal manuscript of the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp. Standards from this period have pierced scrolling vegetal designs and talismanic inscriptions. Here, the inscriptions are Shi’i in tone and include the Nad-i ʿAliyyun, a prayer calling on Imam ʿAli for protection against harm, as well as Qur’anic verses from suras 112 (The Sincerity) and 68 (The Pen). In Shi’i communities such standards were also carried in Muharram processions commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husain, the third Shi’ite Imam, at the battle of Kerbala in 680 A.D.
Inscription: Arabic, nasta'liq script, in two bands on arabesque and leaf scroll; smaller inscription band containing Qur'an verses, Sura 112:4 and first half of 68:51; larger inscription band, invocation to `Ali.
-Large band: "-ib kullu hammin wa ghammin sa-yanjali bi-wilayatika ya `Ali ya `Ali ya `Ali";
-Small band: "wa lam yakan lahu kufu'an ahad/Wa in yakada alladhina kafaru la-yuzliqunaka lamma sami`u". (Transliteration must be updated to conform to Islamic dept. transliteration guidelines).
-Large band: "[?end of a word, either habib, 'friend' or more likely tabib, 'physician'] Every worry and grief will be removed by your guardianship (or 'friendship,' 'sanctity'), O `Ali, O `Ali, O `Ali";
-Small band: "And no one is equal to Him (Sura 112:4). And those who disbelieve would almost make you slip with their eyes when they heard (Sura 68:51 first half)." (Trans. Annemarie Schimmel, 1983)
The missing half of the small band must contain Sura 112:1-3 and the end of 68:51-52; the latter verses are recited against the evil eye. (AMS, 1983)
In thuluth script part of a Qur'anic verse as:
ولم یکن له کفواً احد
وإن یکاد الذین کفروا لیزلقونک بابصارهم لما سمعوا الذکر
Arabic poem in praise of Ali in thuluth script (Nad-e Aliyun):
[ناد علیاً مظهر العجایب تجده عوناً لک فی النوا[یب
کل هم و غم سینجلي بولایتک یا علي یا علي یا علي
Marking: Sticker on back: T/AH over 160 (see catalogue card).
[ Ahuan U.K., Ltd., London, until 1982; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part I: Calligraphy," February 26, 1998–June 28, 1998.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fifty Years of Collecting Islamic Art," September 23, 2013–January 26, 2014, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Power and Piety: Islamic Talismans on the Battlefield," August 29, 2016–February 13, 2017, no catalogue.