Hilya (Votive Tablet)

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 460

Hilya, Arabic for "ornament," refers to a genre of Ottoman Turkish literature associated with the physical description of Muhammad. The concept originated from the shamayil, the study of Muhammad’s appearance and character. According to Ottoman belief, reading or possessing an account of Muhammad’s attributes protects one from danger, harm, evil, and sickness. It became customary to carry a hilya in the form of a scroll, calligraphic study, or an amulet. In the seventeenth century, hilyas developed into an art form with a standardized layout.

Hilya (Votive Tablet), Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; wood

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