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Quran manuscript
Place of Origin: Iran, Shiraz
Date: approx. 1560-1570
Historical Period: Safavid period (1501-1722)
Materials: Gold and colors on paper; binding of leather, lacquer, gold, and colors
Dimensions: H. 13 3/4 in x W. 8 3/4 in, H. 35.1 x W. 22.3 cm
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: West Asian Art
Collection: Books And Manuscripts
Object Number: B76D12
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 7

Description

Label: The Qur’an (in Arabic, "recitation"), Islam’s most revered text, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad over the course of more than twenty years through the angel Jibril (Gabriel). The Qur’an is believed to be miraculous and characterized by the principle of inimitability; that is, no human can match its language and beauty. Muhammad memorized these words and passed them on orally. Following his death in 632, the revelations continued to be preserved orally until a couple of decades later, when they were compiled into the canonical text of the Holy Qur’an, used even today. In it, the work’s 114 chapters are ordered by length (except for the opening chapter) from the longest to the shortest.

Muslims read and recite the Qur’an as part of devotional practice. They are encouraged to do so in Arabic, the text’s original language of revelation. Thus, the Arabic script (read from right to left) is used in places as diverse as North Africa, Spain, and China. Religious devotion is expressed also in copying the Qur’an. Manuscripts are prepared with great attention to accuracy, written in fine calligraphy, and often elaborately decorated with illuminated opening pages, chapter headings, and text markers.

More Information

Exhibition History: Arts of the Islamic World from Turkey to Indonesia (Tateuchi Gallery, September 5, 2008 - March 1, 2009)

"Gorgeous", Asian Art Museum, 6/20/2014 - 9/14/2014

"Hidden Gold: Mining its Meaning in Asian Art", Asian Art Museum, March 4, 2016-May 8, 2016
Additional Label:

The Verse of Light (Sura 24:35) in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, states, “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth . . . light upon light.” As a reflection of this idea, Qur’ans often make extensive use of luminous gold, both in their calligraphy and in the surrounding geometric ornaments. To decorate the Qur’an with gold is to adorn the word of God so that luminosity of the word is manifest both physically and metaphorically.

Is it possible to trace the physical presence of gold on manuscripts of the Qur’an to religious ideas contained in the book itself? The term for gold (dhahab) does appear prominently in the Qur’an in two complementary senses. First, gold is used as a kind of shorthand for all worldly goods, which compares unfavorably with nearness to God (3:14). Indeed, gold cannot purchase salvation, even with as much gold as the earth contains (3:91). Second, gold is the metaphor through which the Qur’an expresses the excellence of the afterlife; the blessed deceased “shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearl” when they enter the Gardens of Eternity (18:31; 22:23; 35:33). In the Qur’an, gold thus reveals its capacity to symbolize ultimate human concerns, whether they be sacred or secular.

(Label from Exhibition Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art)


Label: The Qur’an (in Arabic, "recitation"), Islam’s most revered text, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad over the course of more than twenty years through the angel Jibril (Gabriel). The Qur’an is believed to be miraculous and characterized by the principle of inimitability; that is, no human can match its language and beauty. Muhammad memorized these words and passed them on orally. Following his death in 632, the revelations continued to be preserved orally until a couple of decades later, when they were compiled into the canonical text of the Holy Qur’an, used even today. In it, the work’s 114 chapters are ordered by length (except for the opening chapter) from the longest to the shortest.

Muslims read and recite the Qur’an as part of devotional practice. They are encouraged to do so in Arabic, the text’s original language of revelation. Thus, the Arabic script (read from right to left) is used in places as diverse as North Africa, Spain, and China. Religious devotion is expressed also in copying the Qur’an. Manuscripts are prepared with great attention to accuracy, written in fine calligraphy, and often elaborately decorated with illuminated opening pages, chapter headings, and text markers.
Exhibition History: Arts of the Islamic World from Turkey to Indonesia (Tateuchi Gallery, September 5, 2008 - March 1, 2009)

"Gorgeous", Asian Art Museum, 6/20/2014 - 9/14/2014

"Hidden Gold: Mining its Meaning in Asian Art", Asian Art Museum, March 4, 2016-May 8, 2016
Expanded Label:

The Verse of Light (Sura 24:35) in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, states, “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth . . . light upon light.” As a reflection of this idea, Qur’ans often make extensive use of luminous gold, both in their calligraphy and in the surrounding geometric ornaments. To decorate the Qur’an with gold is to adorn the word of God so that luminosity of the word is manifest both physically and metaphorically.

Is it possible to trace the physical presence of gold on manuscripts of the Qur’an to religious ideas contained in the book itself? The term for gold (dhahab) does appear prominently in the Qur’an in two complementary senses. First, gold is used as a kind of shorthand for all worldly goods, which compares unfavorably with nearness to God (3:14). Indeed, gold cannot purchase salvation, even with as much gold as the earth contains (3:91). Second, gold is the metaphor through which the Qur’an expresses the excellence of the afterlife; the blessed deceased “shall be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearl” when they enter the Gardens of Eternity (18:31; 22:23; 35:33). In the Qur’an, gold thus reveals its capacity to symbolize ultimate human concerns, whether they be sacred or secular.

(Label from Exhibition Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art)