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DIVINE PROTECTION Talismanic Art of Islamic Cultures




DIVINE PROTECTION Talismanic Art of Islamic Cultures

Cataloged by: Shawn Ghassemi


INTRODUCTION The need for divine protection and the desire to predict the future in order to be able to gain a favorable outcome are as primordial to human beings as food, water, and shelter. Most religions have incorporated a set of rituals and practices that facilitate this need, while providing assurance for their practitioners through scripture. Islamic cultures inherited an abundance of pre-Islamic beliefs and occult practices, in particular astrology and geomancy or sand divination. These practices, often referred to as “illicit magic”, struggled with what was permissible within the context of religion. And the question of whether diviners and astrologers pose a challenge to God’s ultimate authority over human destiny persists up to the present.1 Yet, daily practices of seeking protection from a present or future harm, and averting danger or asking for healing, have found an abundance of sources within the Qur’anic texts, the hadith, and Qur’anic interpretations. In addition, some of the best-trained astronomers and mathematicians, for example, Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Buni (d. 1225), applied their scientific training when forecasting astrologically and even developed tools for this purpose, e.g. magic squares. This exhibition aims to demonstrate the widespread use in Islamic cultures of what might be termed “permissible magic”: material objects such as astrological calendars; talismanic charts, shirts, and bowls; and amulets in jade and carnelian, often inscribed with protective Qur’anic verses. These objects served as intercessors and conduits of divine protection and grace, with the underlying belief that god is the ultimate source of help and support.


The Qur’anic verses and supplications inscribed or engraved on these objects were meant to activate the object’s purpose, whether it was intended for healing from sickness, protection from harm, or everyday blessings in daily affairs. The efficacy of these objects derived from their surfaces having been inscribed with one, or a combination, of the following: Qur’anic surahs; invocations of God’s names; salutations to the fourteen innocents (Muhammad, Fatima, Ali, and his 11 descendants); encoded symbols such as astrological signs and the six- pointed star or seal of Solomon; and magic squares of varying sizes. The divinatory and talismanic arts of Islam and their rich material culture have been the subject of much scholarly research and a number of exhibitions, most notably Power and Protection Islamic Art and the Supernatural: Francesca Leoni, Pierre Lory, Christiane Gruber, Farouk Yahya, and Venetia Porter, Oxford 2016. It is my profound wish that the rich and intriguing material in this catalog will extend this engagement and inquiry further, prompting research by an ever-growing community of scholars and collectors. With this in mind, I would like to thank those who have provided me with invaluable research assistance, notably Christiane Gruber, Farouk Yahya, and Will Kwaitkowski. I also would like to extent my gratitude to Azita Ghassemi, Gerry Moorey, Ina Nouel, Bob Del Bonta, and Erica Calegari, who contributed in different ways to production of this catalog. Shawn Ghassemi


1 ASTROLOGICAL CALENDAR ALMANAC (RUZNAMA) MADE FOR A QAJAR OFFICIAL Iran, Qajar period, dated 23 Rabi I 1262 A.H. 21 March 1846 A.D. Ink, gold and colors on paper Measures 10 5/8 x 6 ½ in (27 X 16.5 cm)

Persian manuscript on paper with 21 ff. written in fine naskh, shikaste-nasta’liq and nasta’liq, headings in red and gold thuluth. with morocco binding of light brown color stamped and gilded. This fascinating ruznama was drawn for Manuchihr Khan Gorji Mo’tamid al-Dawle (d. 1847 AD) by Muhammad Hassan ibn Doust Muhammad Munajjim (astronomer) for the solar new year of 1262 A.H. Manuchihr Khan was a Christian Georgian by birth and a eunuch who later converted to Islam and rose through the ranks in the Muhammad Shah Qajar court by virtue of his exceptional administrative and military skills. At the time of this ruznama, he was one of the most powerful administrators in Iran. He was appointed as the governor of Kirmanshah, Luristan, Isfahan and Khuzestan (Arabistan) provinces, effectively governing roughly half of Iran. The ruznama opens with praises to the creator and Muhammad followed by praises for the government of Muhammad Shah and his governor Manuchihr Khan, followed by calling astronomy a noble science and mentioning name of the astrologer. Next comes an astrological table across two pages starting with a column for the twelve zodiac signs and corresponding list of things one should not do (i.e. for sign Taurus: one should not gaze at a green plant and pearls). The next column describes the auspicious events that will occur for sign of horse according to the Turkish animal calendar followed by a calendar diagram showing horse as his sign.


The next column gives news of auspicious events that will occur for the various dates in the astronomical calendar corresponding to the Roman, Turkish, and Jalali calendars, calculated from position of Isfahan followed by a zodiac chart showing Capricorn as his sign with the moon as his planetary sign. The next column in the table lists the twelve lunar months and their corresponding list of not-to-do’s. The following pages contain twelve tables, one for each month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Each table has columns for days-of-the-week, their corresponding days of the month, corresponding positions of the moon in various constellations, a wide column for corresponding auspicious activities, column for corresponding time of midday, column for the corresponding time of morning and evening twilights, and finally a column for the corresponding position of the star (Venus) in the sky. See below for a contemporary portrait of Manuchihr Khan on a lacquer mirror, ca. 1847, in the Brooklyn Museum of Art (71.49.2).


2 ASTROLOGICAL CALENDAR ALMANAC IN SCROLL FORM (RUZNAMA) Signed the work of Suleyman better known as Hikmati

Turkey, Ottoman period, dated A.H. 1202, A.D. 1788 Ink, gold, and colors on parchment Measures 3 ¾ x 44 in (9.5 x 111 cm) This portable calendar almanac and its complex numerical calculations based on solid astronomical knowledge is composed of 10 tables containing numbers corresponding to different positions of the sun and the moon in the sky during each day of the Islamic lunar calendar and its corresponding Rumi (Roman) solar calendar. The former is essential for daily prayer and other religious observations, while the latter was utilized for determining length of days and seasonal changes useful for commercial and agricultural activities. All these calculations were based on observations from Istanbul.



3 CONSTELLATION ARIES (SŪRAT AL-HAMAL) Iran, Timurid, ca. 15th century Ink and colors on paper Folio 9 ¾ x 7 1/8 in (24.8 x 18 cm)

Zodiac constellation Aries is drawn as a running ram with head turned back. Various stars in the constellation are marked with Abjad numeral letters. Below the figure, a table in Persian provides descriptions of the stars and their positions in the constellation, longitude, latitude, direction whether north or south of the ecliptic, and magnitude of the star according to al-Sufi (903 – 986 A.D.) calculations.2 The majority of folios from this now dispersed manuscript are in the Khalili Collection (MSS 975), see Science, Tools, and Magic, the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Francis Maddison & Emilie Savage-Smith (1997) vol. 1 pp. 178 – 9, no. 117. It is noted in the catalog that Aries is among the missing folios.




From Kitab suwar al-kawakib al-thabita (Book of Images of the Fixed Stars) of Abd al_Rahman al-Sufi (903 – 986 A.D.)

Iran, Safavid, ca. 17th century Ink and colors on paper Folio 7 ½ x 4 ¼ in (19 x 10.8 cm) Constellation Serpens (sanke) is drawn as a coiling snake held by constellation Ophiuchus (snake bearer or snake charmer) depicted as a turbaned youth. The verso shows constellation Andromeda (Sūrat al-Mar’āt almusalsala) depicted as a young woman raising her hands (gesture of being chained) with a large fish across her body. Although stars in the constellations are not marked on these drawings, the drawings themselves follow closely al-Sufi’s depictions from his work as cited above.


5 CONSTELLATION DRACO (SŪRAT AL-TINNĪN) Iran or Turkey, ca. 16th century Ink and colors on paper Folio 8 ½ x 5 ¾ in (21.5 x 13 cm)

Constellation Draco (dragon) is drawn as observed from the sky. The verso shows the mirror image of Draco as observed from the earth. Various stars in the constellation are marked as circles on the dragon’s body.


6 SILVER INLAID BRASS BOWL WITH ZODIAC SYMBOLS Iran, Fars, Shiraz, ca. 14th century Brass and Silver Diameter 10 ¼ in (26 cm) | Diameter of opening 6 5/8 in (17 cm)

This remarkable bowl is of a round squat shape with a bulbous midsection decorated on the exterior with a wide band engraved and inlaid in silver with the twelve signs of zodiac within roundels separated at regular intervals by scrolling trefoils which circle around wheel-shaped devices. Above is engraved with a narrow band of braided design topped by another band of scrolling trefoils inlaid in silver separated evenly by the wheelshaped devices. Below the zodiac section is another band of interlocking arches with pendant leaves. Interior bottom of the bowl is engraved with a group of swirling fish of varying sizes. The base of the bowl is engraved with a teardrop enclosing the inscription “Ya Imam Hussein” (O’ Imam Hussein), a reference to the 3rd Shi’i Imam (626 – 680 A.D.) and further engraved with the year 1202 A.H. or 1788 A.D. The presence of Zodiac signs on this bowl, a rather unusual feature for the group of metal ware from Fars, must have imparted a certain amount of talismanic value to its use and protection to its owner.



7 TINNED BRASS BOWL WITH ZODIAC SYMBOLS AND QUR’ANIC VERSES Sultanate India or Timurid Iran, dated year 902 A.H. 1497 A.D. Tinned brass Diameter 5 ¾ in (14.6 cm)

Signed “katabeh wa naqsheh Mahmud bin Muhammad bin Haji Mahmud Fathi Farsi fi sana ithnan wa tis‘mi’ah.” (Written and engraved by Mahmud bin Muhammad bin Haji Mahmud Fathi Farsi in the year nine hundred and two). A shallow bowl of tinned brass engraved on the interior with sun on the central raised boss from which issues twelve radiating petals. The engraving on the petals alternates between rows of Abjad numerals and supplications to God. Engraved below the rim is a linear group of twenty-four roundels each containing a different invocation to God. Further up inside the rim is Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255). Engraved on the exterior below the rim are the twelve signs of Zodiac each contained in a roundel and separated by prayers. Down the sloping sides


are twelve swirling petals engraved with further prayers including the Dua’ al-Qadah (prayer of the Cup) which is believed to have therapeutic qualities. Within the small triangular spaces between each petal and the Zodiac band are engraved name of the maker and the years it was made. Talismanic bowls from the 15th century are scarce with scant few examples to draw comparison from. However, the laqab of Farsi used by the maker places this bowl outside the Persian milieu. Another bowl of identical design and made by the same maker and dated to 903 A.H. (1498 A.D.) is in the collection of Qatar Museum of Islamic Art (MW.437.2007).


8 TINNED BRASS BOWL WITH ZODIAC SYMBOLS AND QUR’ANIC VERSES Iran, Safavid ca. early 17th century Tinned brass Diameter 7 3/8 in (18.7 cm)

This beautiful tinned brass bowl with a central raised boss is engraved profusely with Qur’anic verses, prayers, and invocations to God all within a complex matrix of interlocking hexagons and sixpointed stars. The bottom center of the bowl on and around the boss is engraved with roundels each containing one of the seven planetary signs (the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). On top of the boss, Saturn is depicted as a multi-armed seated figure.


The exterior of the bowl just below the rim is engraved with names of the twelve Shi’i Imams and their attributes within rectangular pointed cartouches. Below, there’s a wide central band engraved with twelve eight-pointed stars each containing a sign of the zodiac, arranged linearly within panels of dense calligraphy in naskh. The rectangular panels circling the bottom are engraved with Surat an-Nasr (Qur’an 110:1 – 3). For a closely related talismanic bowl dated to 16th century see Brooklyn Museum (1989.149.7). Another related bowl is in the Khalili Collection, dated to 1044 A.H. 1634 A.D. (MTW 192).


9 ZAKARIYA QAZWINI’S (1203 – 1283) WONDERS OF CREATION AND STRANGE BEINGS Iran or India, Deccan, ca. 16th century Ink, colors, and gold on paper Folio 12 1/2 x 7 1/2 in (32 x 19 cm)

The first part of Qazwini’s work deals with celestial bodies, Planets, stars, and angels. The second part of Qazwini’s work deals with earthly beings including strange creatures, man, animals, plants, and jinns. It also delves into the magical and medicinal properties of their organs. This folio in Arabic deals with the strange people of the earth. Along the top are two winged, yellowskinned, wolf-headed people with claws for feet. 22

In the middle section are two people with double heads and tails. At the bottom is a double-headed, multi-legged person. A manuscript of Qazwini in Arabic with similarly decorated folios and attributed to 17th century Deccan is in the Harvard art museums (1972.3).

10 A PAGE FROM AL-QAZWINI’S AJA’IB AL-MAKHLUQAT VA GHARA’IB AL-MAWJUDAT Iran, ca. 16th – 17th century Ink, colors, and gold on paper Folio 10 1/2 x 6 1/4 in (26.7 x 16 cm)

This folio in Persian from the second part of Qazwini’s work deals with strange creatures. The subject is a dragon with a leopard’s body and six snakes issuing from his neck. The description goes on to say that it guards a spring and consumes whatever comes to sight and the only way to remove him would be for god to send his angel. The verso has a fantastic four-legged creature with long tail and big gaping jaws. It goes on to describe the benefits of its organs. His eyes will cure eye pain and smoke from its liver burning on fire will cure epilepsy.


11 A CALLIGRAM OF A HORSE Iran, Post-Safavid Period, ca. 18th century Ink, color, and gold on colored paper 7 ¾ x 10 in (19.6 x 25.4 cm)

Signed in a border panel, “Katabeh al-Abd Ahmad alNairizi fi 1150” (written by Slave Ahmad Nairizi, dated 1150 A.H. 1737 A.D.) This fine calligram is masterfully executed by shaping the words from the Ayat al-Kursi also known as the Throne Verse (Qur’an 2:255) to form a prancing horse in naskhi script. The saddle is decorated with a lobed panel inscribed with the Shi’i epithet ‘There’s no warrior but ‘Ali and no sword but Dhu’l-fiqar’. The background of a salmon color is decorated with flowers and saz leaves issuing from blue-colored ogival registers. The border is decorated with lobed rectangles containing various du’a s. The last panel is signed.


The Throne Verse was prolifically utilized and written on various mediums due to its protective value. However, as a calligram it assumes a powerful visual and meditative form. As noted by Francesca Leoni, calligrams known as tekke Levha, were commissioned by mystical orders and exhibited in spaces used for ritual practices.3 See below: another calligram of a horse on paper composed of the Ayat al-Kursi from Bijapur Deccan and dated to 17th century in the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art (MS.816.2011).



Egypt or Syria, Mamluk, ca. Early 14th century Ink, gold, and colors on paper Folio 10 x 7 ¼ in (25.4 x 18.4 cm) Inscribed in white Kufic in the hexagon in middle of the frontispiece: “al-juz’ al-sabi‘ wa’l-‘ashrun” (The twenty-seventh juz). This exuberant folio from a Mamluk Qur’an has on one side the frontispiece to juz 27 and on the other side the beginning of Surat an-Najm (Qur’an 53). The frontispiece is a complex and elaborate matrix of intertwined star motifs perfectly arranged around a central hexagonal panel containing the white Kufic inscription. Outside the main rectangular panel is a wide band of lace-like and dense interwoven arabesque. The verso is the beginning of Surat an-Najm (Qur’an 53), or ‘the Star’. The Surah begins with God swearing by each of the descending stars that Muhammad is his messenger. The frontispiece here bears close similarity in terms of decoration to the magnificent frontispieces in the monumental seven-volume Qur’an of Sultan Baybars II, Cairo, 1304 – 6, now housed in the British Library (MS 22406 – 22412). The central rectangular panel in our frontispiece has similar decorative pattern as those of the volumes 4 and 6 of Sultan Baybars’ Qur’an. The complex arabesque border here also bears close similarities with the borders of frontispieces in volumes 1 and 2.




Signed Qawwam al-Din bin Ahmad al-Sini China, Tshangan or Chang’an (Xi’an), dated 903 A.H. 1498 A.D. Ink, color, and gold on paper Qur’an 14 ¼ x 9 ¾ x 2 in (36 x 24.8 x 5 cm) | Folio 13 5/8 x 8 7/8 in (34.6 x 22.5 cm) A large Arabic manuscript of Qur’an on paper, 229ff. with each folio containing 17ll. in black sini script within red rules. Surah headings are in red and verse markers in yellow. Polychrome marginal ornaments mark juz and nisf throughout. With stamped tooled brown morocco binding with flap. The first bifolio starts with Surat al-Fatiha (Qur’an 1) and heading for Surat al-Baqara and is illuminated in polychrome with gold highlights in an elaborate design of overlapping semi-circles and rectangular bands containing floral, trefoil, and split-leaf palmettes. The highly stylized Arabic inscriptions in foliate sini are arranged within roundels, semi-circles, and ogival registers read as follows (Qur’an 56:77 – 80): “That this is indeed a Qur’an Most Honourable, in Book wellguarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean: a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds.” The final bifolio ends with Surat al-Ikhlas, Surat al-Falaq, and Surat an-Nas (Qur’an 112 – 114); it is decorated in polychrome with gold highlights in large rectangular panels containing bold foliate sini scriptions as follow: In the panels above the text, right to left: “al-qudra lillah / al-‘izza lillah” (Power belongs to God. Glory belongs to God.) In the panels below the text, right to left: “al-‘uzhma lilla / al-hayba lillah” (Greatness belongs to God. Awe belongs to God). In the four roundels at the corners: “sadaqa allah al-‘ali al-‘azhim” (God the Exalted, the Great, spoke the truth). In the semi-circles on the right and left-hand sides, in Arabic: “faragha min naskhihi qawwam al-din bin ahmad al-sini / fi rajab sana thalath wa tis‘miah fi khitta tashanghan” (Qawwam al-Din bin Ahmad alSini copied it in Rajab of year nine hundred and three in the city of Tshanghan). The date falls in February – March 1498 CE. Tshanghan or Chang’an is the modern-day Xi’an. The great mosque of Xi’an has been continuously in use there since 742 A.D.

14 QUR’AN Sub-Saharan West Africa, Nigeria or Chad ca. 19th century Ink and colors on paper Qur’an 9 ½ x 7 ½ x 3 ½ in (24 x 19 x 9 cm) | Folio 9 x 6 ½ in (22.8 x 16.5 cm)

A Qur’an of loose leaves inscribed in sudani script in brown ink on European paper stacked and wrapped in a tooled leather cover in a typical fashion. Some of the surah headings and sub-headings are decorated with large rectangular devices of typical West African motifs of repeated interlocking ornament in red and yellow ochre colors. Round marginal devices in red and yellow and brown are scattered throughout. Another related manuscript with its carrying case is in MFA (15.132a – b). Another related manuscript with similar checkerboard illumination, see British Library (Or 16751).


15 MINIATURE QUR’AN Iran, Qajar, ca. 19th century Ink, gold, silver, and colors on gazelle skin and paper Qur’an 2 5/8 x 1 ¾ in (6.7 x 4.4 cm) | Carrying case 3 1/8 x 2 1/8 x 7/8 in (8 x 5.4 x 2.2 cm)

A miniature Qur’an written in fine naskh on gazelle skin and paper, 17 ll. with a lacquer binding decorated in roses and tulips and its lacquer carrying case decorated in floral arabesque further inscribed within blue ogival registers on the front with Surat al-Hashr (Qur’an 59:21) (If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought). Around the sides of the case are further blue ogival registers inscribed with Surat al-Isra (Qur’an 17:88) (If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants).


The Qur’an opens with the fihrist, a list of the surahs, an illuminated bifolio of two tables in a gold and silver checkerboard pattern with each cell containing a surah name. The second bifolio is illuminated with two lobed panels in gold inscribed with a du’a, against a floral arabesque background. The third bifolio opens with an illuminated Surat al-Fatiha (Qur’an 1) and Surat al-Baqara (Qur’an 2). Miniature Qur’ans mostly in octagonal or round shapes have been used as protective talismans since the medieval times. They were placed in their cases and often suspended from ‘Alams (standards) and carried into battles or in religious processions. The minuscule size and use of gazelle skin for the opening pages of this Qur’an implies a certain amount of talismanic use perhaps as a personal object of divine protection to be carried close to the body in an inside pocket of a jacket.


16 TALISMANIC CHART Iran, Qajar period, dated 1320 A.H., 1903 A.D. Ink, gold, silver, and colors on Gazelle skin 24 x 21 ½ in (61 x 54.5 cm)

Talismanic charts were believed to help secure blessings (Baraka) or provide protection for individuals and places.4 A talismanic chart in Arabic, written in fine naskh script in blue, red, and black with various verses from the Qur’an, prayers and invocations to God. It was once folded several times, perhaps as intended, and was kept in either a box or carried in a pouch and placed close to the body. A lobed lozenge in the center top contains an inscription that names a certain noble for whom this chart was made. The inscription reads “Be-jehat Salamati Vojood Mubarak Janab Fakhamat Nesnan Agha-e Agha Mirza Ahmad Burhan al-Sultan fi shahr dhul Hijjah 1320” (For the purpose of the health of noble Mirza Ahmad Burhan al-Sultan in month February – March 1903).

The central square panel is an impressive 100x100 magic square composed of 10,000 small cells each containing a number in Abjad numerals. It is visually organized into groups of 4x4 square cells in gold, silver, red and blue forming a diamond pattern of alternating colors in the center. Along the borders in long narrow strips, are numerous Arabic prayers in red ink asking for protection and blessings. The prayers in the lobed roundels all begin with invocations to various attributes of God. This chart bears striking similarity with a talismanic chart in the Aga Khan Museum (AKM 536) discussed by Christiane Gruber in Francesca Leoni (et all) Power and Protection Islamic Art and the Supernatural 2016, pp. 38 – 9, Fig. 20. Another related chart is in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection; see Science Tools and Magic, Part One, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 1997, p. 110. No. 44.


17 TALISMANIC CHART Iran, Qajar period, ca. 19th century Ink and colors on Gazelle skin 25 5/8 x 25 1/8 in (65 x 64 cm)

A talismanic chart of square form inscribed in orange, red, and black ink in fine naskh within red, green, blue, and black rules. The chart is visually arranged with thirty three 4x4 magic squares along the perimeter with a further group of eight 4x4 magic square in an interior rectangular border surrounding a central panel composed of large circular diagram in the center with four smaller circles at each corner. The large circular diagram is composed of five inner rings with a small circle at its core. The core itself is made up of a 6x6 magic square containing invocations to God. The inner rings are subdivided radially into 19 equally spaced compartments. The outermost ring contains contains Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255). The next ring contains 19 magical sigla in lunette script. The next three rings contain letters in Abjad numerals. The outer rings of the four circles contain Surat al-Kafirun (Qur’an 109), Surat al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112), Surat al-Falaq (Qur’an 113), and Surat an-Nas (Qur’an 114). In the centers are 4x4 magic square and prayers. In between the circles in large black letters are the invocations to the three of archangels and another, Ya Jibr’il, Ya Mika’il, Ya Israfil, Ya Ayna’il. It is interesting that the usual fourth archangel Izra’il (the angel of death) is replaced with Ayna’il. The text in different colors in the narrow borders is Surat Yusuf (Qur’an 12). The large black letters in the inside border separating the magic squares are invocations to God. The large circular diagram in this chart has similar composition and content as any of the 19 circular diagrams of a talismanic chart in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, see Science Tools and Magic, Part One, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 1997, p. 112. No. 45.


18 TALISMANIC SHIRT Deccan, possibly Bijapur, India, c. 17th century Ink, gold, and colors on fine cotton Measures 32 x 46 in (81 x 117 cm)

This talismanic shirt is an unusual example from a On the front of the shirt is the Shi’i protective small corpus of like material from India. Although in prayer al-Jawshan al-Kabir (The Great Armor), its shape it relates to a number of talismanic shirts a prayer related to the Prophet by the Archangel from the Ottoman period, its decorative regiment Gabriel, which is numbered according to sections. associates more closely to the Deccani decorative This is found in various parts of the front, including idiom. The overall design of the shirt is derived or the small cartouches, the rosettes and on the goldinspired by the gilt calligraphic decoration style of green panels. The green panels contain, in addition the interior Mihrab of Jami Masjid in Bijapur added to the al-Jawshan al-Kabir, several Qur’anic citations, by Muhammad Adil Shah (r.1627 – 1656) in 1636 A.D. including Surat al-Fath (Qur’an 48) and part of Surat as-Saf (Qur’an 61:13).  The dense thuluth, at times four lines thick, within lobed rectangular panels carefully lining the On the back in various places are Shi’i protective perimeter of this shirt follows style of the lobed prayers, including the hirz, or prayers of the Fourteen calligraphic panels decorating surface of the frame Innocents (Muhammad, the Twelve Imams and and arches on the Mihrab’s exterior. The naskhi Fatima). In the gold-green bands there are also text arranged in chevron pattern on the shirt also numerous Qur’anic citations including Surat al-‘Imran resonates with the text arrangement on column (Qur’an 3:151), Surat al-Isra (Qur’an 17:45 and 17:81), of the exterior of the Mihrab. Surat Taha (Qur’an 20:135), Surat al-Haj (Qur’an 22:1), Surat an-Nur (Qur’an 24:40), Surat an-Naba (Qur’an 78:24 – 27).  The copious use of specific prayers and Qur’anic verses must have made this shirt a potent protective talisman of armored skin, which is evidenced by signs of its wear from frequent use. As was customary it was folded in sections and stored when not in use.

Detail of Mihrab in the Jami Masjid Bijapur, 1636


19 BODY ARMOR (CHAHAR-AINE) India, Mughal or Deccan, ca. 18th century Steel carved and inlaid in gold 8 ¼ x 6 1/8 in (21 x 15.5 cm)

Steel armor side plate from a four-piece set with the central panel carved in a lattice pattern inlaid in gold floral tendrils. All around the perimeter are bands of calligraphy in Nasta’liq in gold composed of several surahs from the Qur’an including: Surat an-Nas (Qur’an 114), Surat al-Kafirun (Qur’an 109), Surat al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112).



20 STEEL SHIELD WITH QUR’ANIC VERSES India, Punjab, ca. 19th century Steel inlaid in gold and silver Diameter 14 ¾ in (37.5 cm)

A round steel shield with four bosses arranged symmetrically around a perforated central panel containing the “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) in bold thuluth script inlaid in silver. The central band contains elaborate scrollwork in gold separated by circular bands surrounding domed bosses. The outermost band contains Surat al-Fatiha (Qur’an 1) in bold tuluth inlaid in silver. The underside covered with a Kashmiri cloth with four steel rings for attachment.

21 SWORD (PEDANG) INSCRIBED WITH SHAHADA Indonesia, Sumatra, ca. 19th century Steel, Silver and horn Sword and handle 23 1/2 in (59 cm), Scabbard 20 1/2 in (52 cm)

An Indonesian sword with a carved buffalo horn of stylized Makara. The grip and sheath are both clad in silver and incised with an overall dense floral motif. The steel blade has a double grove that ends before reaching the tip. The top edge is beveled flat while the down edge is sharp for entire length of the blade. Both sides of the blade are inlaid in silver with the repetition of the Shahada “la ‘Ilaha ‘illa-llah, Muhammad-un rasulu-llah” (There’s no god but Allah, Muahmmad is the messenger of Allah). The flat beveled edge is inlaid in silver with Shahada and a repetition of “Allah”. The addition of the Shahada, Allah, and Muhammad obviously elevated this sword to a talismanic object of divine protection.



22 STANDARD ‘ALAM Iran or India, Deccan, ca 18 century Steel and brass with pigment 23 x 14 in (58.4 x 35.5 cm) without stand th

‘Alam is a standard or a finial usually made out of steel or other metals with a socket at one end which allows it to be mounted on top of a pole. ‘Alams were carried during warfare as well as religious processions in Shi’a Islam. They were usually shaped as a teardrop or a roundel issuing a variety of leafshaped extensions most often resembling a palm tree reminiscent of palm trees of Karbala where the 3rd Shi’a imam Hussein (622 – 680 A.D.) and grandson of the prophet was slain by armies of Yazid, the 2nd Umayyad caliph. The example here is a teardrop-shaped steel plate with a stylized trefoil top. The plate is encased in brass terminating at each side in a fantastical dragonhead with a gaping jaw. To one side of the steel plate is affixed a perforated brass openwork teardrop carved with calligraphy and floral tendrils. The calligraphic inscription is a Shi’a epithet which reads: “Qala Rasul al-allah, Husain Mani va Enna Man Husain” (Prophet Peace be Upon Him said Husain is from me and I am from Husain). For a similar brass openwork, please see the ‘Alam in the British Museum (1888,0901.16).5 The use of pigment is rather unusual, however there is an ‘Alam in the, Hyderabad with similar blue pigment infill, published in Mark Zebrowski Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, no. 490, p. 293.


23 STANDARD ‘ALAM India, Deccan, dated 1230 A.H. 1815 A.D. Bronze 17 ½ x 7 ½ in (44.5 x 19 cm) without stand

Shaped as a round starburst with five splayed projections, it is engraved on the face with two circular bands around a circle inscribed with the Shahda. The outermost band is engraved with salutations to the Fourteen Innocents followed by the inner band containing the Shi’i invocation Nadi ‘Aliyan (call to ‘Ali). The base of the projections is inscribed “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” and date of 1230 Hijra. The base and finials are inscribed with “Fatima”, “Allah”, “Muhammad”, “Ali”, “Hassan”, and “Hussein”. The back round plate is inscribed within a large circle with Surat as-Saf (Qur’an 61:13) surrounded by a circular band containing a du’a prayer. The finials of fives projections each contain a different beautiful name of God, Al-asma al-husna.


24 TALISMANIC PLATE India, Deccan, ca. 17th century Tinned copper alloy Diameter 6 1/8 in (15.5 cm)

A cast tinned bronze plate carved in the interior with three concentric bands of bold thuluth script around a small konb. The innermost panel contains Nadi ‘Aliyan quatrain “call upon ‘Ali” extending into the second band; the outermost band contains partial verse from the Surat as-Saf (Qur’an 61:13) (Help from Allah and a speedy victory) with additional invocations to Allah, Muhammad, and a repetition of “Ya ‘Ali”. In terms of arrangement of text in three concentric bands this plate relates to the small tray in the Al-Sabah Collection (LNS 823 M ab), see Navina Najat Haidar and Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India 1500 – 1700 Opulence and Fantasy, 2015, no. 152, p. 261.


25 TALISMANIC BOWL India, Deccan, ca. 17th century Tinned copper alloy Diameter 6 ½ in (16.5 cm)

A deep bowl resting on a short foot cast and carved on the exterior with a band of stylized lotus petals around the rim followed by a band of evenly spaced pendant trefoils decorating the sides. The interior of the bowl is carved with three concentric bands of bold thuluth calligraphy around a circular panel at the bottom. The panel is inscribed “Ya Allah madad” (O God help). The next band has salutation to the prophet. The top two bands have the inscription from Surat al-Fatiha (Qur’an 1:1 – 5) and (Qur’an 1 : 6  – 7).


26 TALISMANIC KASHKUL India, Decca, ca. 17th century Bronze 8 ¼ x 5 1/8 in (21 x 13 cm) | Height 3 5/8 in (9.2 cm)

This kashkul or beggar’s bowl is a boat shaped vessel of cast bronze resting on a short splayed base. The exterior is carved with a band of calligraphy just below the rim. Around the body is a row of alternating escutcheon devices filled with floral arabesque and pendant trefoils. The foot rim is carved with a continuous row of stylized lotus leaves. The interior of the bowl is carved with three circumferential bands of calligraphy leading towards the oval-shaped bottom. The calligraphic band on the exterior of the bowl contains Shi’i prayer Nadi ‘Aliyan quatrain (Call upon ‘Ali, the manifester of miracles…). The inscription of the interior of the bowl appears to be a Sufi Persian poetry. Although smaller in size, this kashkul relates to two other similar vessels in the David Collection, Copenhagen (61/1998), and another one in the collection of Rina and Norman Indictor, New York; both published in Haidar and Sardar Sultans of Deccan India 1500 – 1700 Opulence and Fantasy, 2015, nos. 156 & 157, pp. 264 – 5. A third example of similar size is from the Jagdish and Kamala Mittal Museum of Indian Art (76.1430), published in Mark Zebrowski Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, no. 566, p. 344.


27 TALISMANIC STEMMED CUP India, Deccan, ca. 17th century Tinned copper alloy Diameter 4 5/8 in (11.7 cm) | Height 2 7/8 in (7.3 cm)

An elegant stemmed cup of tinned bronze rising above a splayed foot is carved on the exterior below the rim with a band of stylized lotus leaves and further down around the body with a row of escutcheons carved with floral arabesque and ogival registers enclosing lotus flowers. The interior of the cup is carved with eight bold roundels each containing an invocation to an epithet of Fatima including “Ya Fatima”, “Wa Safiyya” (and clean), “Wa Marziyya” (and whom God is content with), “Wa Tahira” (and pure). Just below the roundels is a band of calligraphy and continuing in the center with Surat Ali-Imran (Qur’an 3:159) in part “It is part of the Mercy of Allah that thou dost deal gently with them Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee: so pass over (Their faults).” A cup of similar shape is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (EA1972.41) and published in Francesca Leoni et all, Power and Protection Islamic Art and Supernatural, 2016, no. 58, p. 78. Another cup of similar shape although not as accomplished is in the Al-Sabah Collection (LNS 823 M ab), and published in Haidar and Sardar Sultans of Deccan India 1500 – 1700 Opulence and Fantasy, 2015, no. 152, p. 261.


28 TALISMANIC CUP COVER (SARPUSH) India, Deccan, ca. 17th century Tinned copper alloy Diameter 4 ¼ in (10.8 cm)

A tinned brass cover of dome shape with a round boss carved with lotus leaves. The exterior is carved with four evenly spaced roundels each enclosing a lotus flower. The interior of the cover is carved in bold thuluth within an outer band containing part of Surat al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112:2 – 4). The inner circular panel contains the frequently recited partial verse from Surat as-Saf (Qur’an 61:13) “Victory from Allah and an imminent conquest”. Another tinned brass lid with similar lotus decoration on the exterior is published in Mark Zebrowski Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, no. 558a and b, p. 341.


29 TALISMANIC CUP COVER (SARPUSH) India, Deccan, ca. 17th century Tinned copper alloy Diameter 4 in (10.2 cm)

A tinned bronze cover of dome shape with a round boss carved with lotus leaves. The exterior is carved radially with five pendant and lobed escutcheons enclosing lotus flower and leaves. In between escutcheons are five lobed cartouches containing additional lotus flower and leaves. The interior of the bowl is carved with two concentric bands of thuluth enclosing a circle carved with “Allah”. The outermost band starts with part of Surat al-Falaq (Qur’an 113:3 – 4) and continues into the innermost band with the remainder verse (Qur’an 113:5) followed by “Imam Hasan”. (Qur’an113:3 – 5) (From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; from the mischief of those who practice secret arts; and from the mischief of the envious one as he practices envy.) In terms of its interior calligraphic arrangement, this cover relates to the brass lid published in Mark Zebrowski Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India, 1997, no. 558a and b, p. 341.


30 TALISMANIC BOWL China, ca. 18th century Porcelain with gold and polychrome Diameter 8 in (20.3 cm)

A shallow porcelain bowl decorated on the interior with a series of concentric bands starting with the outermost containing the ‘Throne Verse’ (Qur’an 2:255) and followed by prayers and repetitions of Shahada “There’s no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”. The innermost band contains the popular Shi’i prayer Nadi ‘Aliyan “Call upon ‘Ali, the manifester of miracles”. In the center of the bowl is a magic 4x4 square containing two-digit numbers from the Abjad numeral system. Around the square is the Shi’i epithet, There’s no warrior but ‘Ali and no sword but Dhu’l-fiqar. It is possible that this bowl was made for export to Iran or India where the Shi’a communities lived. A near identical bowl is in the V&A Museum (1944 – 1855). 70

31 TALISMANIC SHELL Iran or India, ca. 19th century Mother-of-pearl 4 7/8 x 4 7/8 in (12.4 x 12.4 cm)

A mother-of-pearl shell with the interior carved in elegant nasta’liq with a verse from Surat an-Nur (Qur’an 24:35) against a shallow carved floral lattice background. It is clear that the material and how it reflects light serves as an optimal choice for inscribing the verse that begins with “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth”. The shell displays evidence that it was used to hold liquids likely for medicinal purposes based on the belief that liquids would gain therapeutic qualities by coming into contact with the Qura’nic verses. For a related example see Aga Khan Museum (AKM665), dated to 18th century.


32 INCANTATION BOWL India dated 1249 A.H. 1833 A.D. Brass Diameter 7 7/8 in (20 cm)

A heavy brass bowl having a wide rim and resting Around the central knob a repetition of Huwa or Hu on a short foot inscribed profusely with concentric a common reference to God and other magical words lines of naskhi calligraphy on the interior as well as and letters. The base of the bowl contains a magic 4x4 the exterior. The arrangement of text recalls the presquare containing Abjad numbers and circled with Islamic Aramaic incantation bowls. The exterior is invocations to the four Archangels Ya Jibra’il, Ya Israfil, inscribed with Surat an-Nas , Surat al-Falaq, Surat al- Ya Izra’il, Ya Mika’il. A circular inscription along the Kafirun, Surat al-Fil, Surat al-Qadr, Surat an-Naba, and base ring reads as follows: “Daranda-i in jam bi-tarikh-i several more. The foot ring in inscribed with the Shi’I ghurra-i shahr-i rajab al-murajjab sana 1249 dad…tus… prayer Nadi ‘Aliyan. ya bi-haqq-i…imam-i shahid-i tatahhur…haqqa…” (The owner of this cup, on the date of the first of the The interior is inscribed with part of Surat al-Baqara month of Rajab al-Murajjab year 1249 (14th November (Qur’an 2:255 – 7), invocations to Muhammad, ‘Ali, 1833) gave…Tus…O, for the sake of the martyr Imam Fatima, Hassan, Hussein and further Shi’i prayers to of purity…, in truth.) Muhammad ‘Ali, and Fatima.


33 TALISMANIC BOWL Syria or Egypt, ca. 17th - 18th century Brass Diameter 7 7/8 in (20 cm)

A large brass bowl of squat form with a raised central boss, the interior is carved with three large and three smaller panels framed by a scrolling split-palmette and trefoil design. Each of the six panels contain rows of calligraphy with repetition of the invocations to two of God’s beautiful names, “Ya kafi Ya shafi” (O Sufficient! O Healer!). The central boss is carved on top with Allah and Haqq (Truth, i.e. God) and invocations to two of his beautiful names, “Ya hannan Ya mannan” (O Giving! O Bestower!). Around the protrusion are eleven leaf-shape registers containing repeated lines of pseudo-inscription. The circular band of thuluth calligraphy around base of the boss is a prayer to God for health.


The exterior of the bowl has a band of calligraphy below the rim with Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255) followed by a narrow band of continuous “Ya kafi Ya shafi” followed by a wide band of five large and five smaller lobed cartouches containing line after line of “Ya kafi Ya shafi”. The two circular bands of calligraphy at the base and inside the boss contain further prayers to God for health. At end of the interior of the boss is a six-pointed star or the seal of Solomon. With its repetitive and simple invocations to God for health, this bowl was obviously intended for healing purposes. There is a related magic bowl in the British Museum (1853,0528.14).

34 ENAMELED ARM AMULET CASE BAZUBAND India, Lucknow, ca. 1800 Silver with polychrome enamels 1 5/8 x 3 in (4.1 x 7.6 cm)

A beautiful silver amulet case carved with a sunburst arrangement of flowers and leaves inlaid with dark blue and green enamels. The underside similarly decorated. The case was meant to contain a talisman, protective Qur’anic scripture or prayers and was to be worn around an arm with its curvature allowing it to adapt to the form of an arm.




Iran, Qajar, ca. 19th century Silver with Niello Diameter 2 ¼ in (5.7 cm)


An Octagonal silver nielloed amulet case for an arm (bazuband). The top face is decorated with a central roundel containing the invocation to God “Ya qadi al-hajat” (O granter of needs). The inscription is encircled by scrollwork of alternating birds and flowers. The faceted sides are similarly decorated with birds and flowers.

Iran or India, ca. 1800 Silver Diameter 2 3/8 in (6 cm)


A round domed silver amulet case for an arm (bazuband). The top face is engraved with an eight-pointed star containing the Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim. The surrounding bands contain the Surat al-Qalam (Qur’an 68:51 – 52) in elegant thuluth. The sloping sides contain the Shi’i invocation Nadi ‘Aliyan Quatrain. There is a related round amulet box in the Ashmolean Museum (EA2012.95)


35 CYLINDRICAL AMULET CASE Iran, Qajar, ca. 19th century Silver and silk cording 3 1/8 in (8 cm)



A hexagonal tubular silver case decorated on each side with a long lobed rectangular panel containing Qur’anic verses. At the ends of each panel a small trefoil register contains the words "Muhammad” or “’Ali” in alternate. Three small attachment loops allow the amulet to be suspended with a silk cord.

36 TALISMANIC COMPENDIUM Turkey, Ottoman, dated 1226 A.H. 1811 A.D. Ink, gold, and silver on paper Folio 2 x 2 in (5 x 5 cm)

A talismanic compendium composed of 48 octagonal conjoined pages containing text or diagrams enclosed by colored circular bands. It was folded and likely carried in an octagonal amulet case for a bazuband. Many of the pages have protective prayers, Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255) in part and invocations to God’s 99 beautiful names al-asma’ al-husna with further prayers. Some pages have magical 4x4 squares containing letters or Abjad numbers enclosed by the four Archangels’ names. A few containing hadith from the prophet.



India, Mughal, ca. 16th  –  17th century Jade 1 ¾ x 1 ¾ in (4.5 x 4.5 cm)



A pale green jade pendant carved with eleven lines of pseudo script and Linear Kufic, a term adopted by Casanova (1921)6 as a magical script. In Linear Kufic, the base of letters are joined, therefore forming a line which makes it near impossible to distinguish individual words. There is additional Aramaic letters symbols in this amulet, which were intended to increase its magical properties.

Iran, Timurid, ca. 1500 Nephrite Jade 2 ¼ x 2 ½ in (5.7 x 6.3 cm)


Inscribed in Arabic within a capsule-shape register: “Ya ‘alima bi-hali ‘alayka …”(O You who knows my state, on You …). A dark green jade or yashm pendant of teardrop shape with a cusped petal border carved with an ogival cartouche filled with foliate scrolls encircling an inscribed capsule-shape register. The backside is similarly carved with a foliate background. Beliefs in Jade’s magical powers reach back millennia to East Asian sources. In the Turco-Mongol and subsequent Persian beliefs, Jade’s benefits ranged from securing victory in battle, protection from lighting, to curing ailments of internal organs.7



Iran or India, ca. 16th  –  17th century Green Jasper 1 3/8 x 1 7/8 in (3.5 x 4.7 cm)


Rectangular dark green jasper in tablet form inscribed with Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255) in eight lines of thuluth. Green Jasper or yashb, also called yashm similar to jade was also believed to have healing properties.

India, ca. 17th century Nephrite Jade 2 x 2 ½ in (5 x 6.3 cm)


A hexagon shape green jade of pinched corners carved on face with Allah followed by Shi’i invocation Nadi ‘Aliyan Quatrain in four registers.




Iran or India, ca. 17th – 18th century Agate 1 ½ x 2 ¼ in (3.8 x 5.7 cm)



A large flat oval carnelian of reddish-orange and yellow color carved with a lobed rectangular panel enclosing the Surat al-Qalam (Qur’an 68:51 – 52) in elegant nasta’liq. Carnelian or ‘aqiq is believed to be the stone of seal ring that the prophet wore. In addition to its protective quality against the evil eye, it is believed to help the wearer control fear and anger during battle.

Iran or India, ca. 17th – 18th century Agate 1 1/8 x 1 3/8 in (2.8 x 3.5 cm)


A round-oval carnelian of reddish-orange color carved within a lobed panel with the Shi’i invocation Nadi ‘Aliyan Quatrain in beautiful nasta’liq.



Iran or India, ca. 17th – 18th century Agate 1 3/8 x 2 in (3.5 x 5 cm)


A round-oval light brown color agate carved in relief with a bold “Ya Allah” surrounded with floral tendrils against a hatched back-ground. The flat surface of the words “Ya” and “Allah” is meticulously carved with the Throne verse Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255)

Iran, ca. 19th century Jade Diameter 2 in (5 cm), with mount 2 7/8 in (7.3 cm)


A round dark green jade held in a silver frame with scalloped edge. Its flat surface is carved with Surat al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112) in a circular band ending at a lion-and-sun-sword emblem. In the center is a round panel containing the bismillah al-rahman al-rahim in mirror calligraphy.


40 SILVER PENDANT Iran or India, ca. 19th century Silver 1 ¼ x 1 ½ in (3.1 x 3.8 cm)



A rectangular silver amulet with blunt corners incised with three concentric bands enclosing a central panel with 11 lines of calligraphy. The inscriptions on the outermost 3 bands starting on the outside and working inwards are: “Surat al-Kafirun” (Qur’an 109), “Surat al-Ikhlas” (Qur’an 112), “Surat al-Falaq” (Qur’an 113), “Surat an-Nas” (Qur’an 114), “Ayat al-Kursi” (Qur’an 2:255); the call on God to bless the 14 innocents, the nada ‘ali quatrain in. The central panel in 11 lines is inscribed with Qur’an 73 and ends with the formula [God, save me for the sake of Muhammad and ‘Ali].

40 ROUND SILVER PENDANT Iran or India, ca. 19th century Silver Diameter 2 ¾ in (7 cm)


A lobed flat silver disk inscribed in the negative in naskh within three circular bands enclosing a circular central panel. The second band starts with the protective Throne verse or Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255) and it continues into the central panel with Qur’an 2:256 and finally finishes in the outermost lobed border with Qur’an 2:257. The innermost band is formed of semicircles containing names of Allah and the fourteen innocents.


41 PAIR OF GOLD KOWARIS Indonesia, Sulawesi, Bugis peoples, ca. 19th century Gold filigree with colored pigment Diameter 1 ½ in (3.8 cm)



Kowaris, or Kawaris, are disk shaped and worn as protective amulets by wealthy and noble children of Bugis peoples. One disk is suspended on the front and the other one on the back. On one side of each disk in this pair is a six-pointed star (seal of Solomon) encircled by a band of tight undulating lines. The surface contains words for ‘Allah’ and ‘Muhammad’ in alternate positions between each star points. On the opposite side is a pseudo-magic 4 x 4 square decorated at the corners with 4-petal flower heads.

41 PAIR OF SILVER KOWARIS Indonesia, Sulawesi, Bugis peoples, ca. 19th century Silver filigree Diameter 2 ¼ in (5.7 cm)


Each piece in this pair has a six-pointed star or seal of Solomon on one side and a magic 3 x 3 square on the opposite side encircled by a dense band of undulating lines. Each cell in the square alternates between the Arabic word for ‘Allah’ and a fleur-de-lis. Floral tendrils further decorate the surface.


41 PAIR OF SILVER KOWARIS Indonesia, Sulawesi, Bugis peoples, ca. 19th century Silver filigree Diameter 2 ¼ in (5.7 cm)



Each piece in this pair has a six-pointed star or seal of Solomon on one side with words for ‘Allah’ and ‘Muhammad’ in alternate positions between star points. The opposite side has a stylized seven-petal flower head encircled by a band of scrolling tendrils.

42 BRONZE STAMP Iran or India, ca. 18th  –  19th century Carved Bronze and Iron Diameter 5 1/8 in (13 cm)

A circular bronze stamp carved in mirror reverse with two concentric bands containing The Ayat al-Kursi (Qur’an 2:255) in naskh followed by Surat al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112) in nasta’liq. Enclosed by these two bands is a group eight circular panels further enclosing a central panel containing Nadi ‘Aliyan quatrain, further salutations to Muhammad, Fatima and the Twelve Imams. Interspersed in between the circles are the four archangel names, Jibr’il, Mika’il, Israfil, and Izra’il.


43 SILVER AND GOLD SEAL RING Iran or Turkey, ca. 1500 Silver and gold cast and engraved Diameter 1 1/8 in (2.9 cm)

Inscribed on the face in mirror reverse: “Al-wathiq bi’l-rabb muhammad bin rajab.” (The one who trusts in the Lord, Muhammad bin Rajab). This beautiful ring is not only an intimate object of personal identity bearing the owner’s name, but also serves as a protective amulet by inscribing owner’s proclamation of his faith in God. The ring starts with a delicate shank carved with curling swirls in relief culminating in dragonheads with gaping jaws supporting a flaring mount carved with interlocking tendrils in relief. The bezel in gold is a band of a braided pattern. For a similar ring in the David Collection (Inv. No. 9/1988), see Art from the world of Islam in the David Collection, Kjeld von Folsach, Copenhagen 2001, p. 348, fig. 590. Another related ring in gold with similar dragonhead supports is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (12.224.6).


44 JADE SEAL RING Iran, Timurid, (Jade) ca. 1500 Jade and Gold Diameter 1 ¼ in (3.2 cm)

Inscribed on the face in mirror reverse: “Al-wathiq billah al-samad al-‘abd yar ahmad” (He who trusts in God the Eternal, the slave Yar Ahmad). A gold ring with a thick shank issuing from a knob and culminating in abstract dragonheads supporting a flaring mount holding an inscribed dark green jade. For a ring in silver with similar stylized dragonheads, see Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.73.5.336).


45 STEEL ATTACHMENT Iran, ca. 18th century Carved Steel and Gold Diameter 2 5/8 in (6.7 cm)



Inscribed in the center: “Surat at-Talaq” (Qura’n 65:3 in part) (And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him). A round steel attachment carved in the center in naskh calligraphy with a part of a verse Qur’an 65:3 within a gilt star burst further enclosed with a golden circle. The perimeter of the boss is carved in relief with a continuous foliate scroll. It is possible that this attachment was part of saddle regalia.

45 STEEL BUCKLE Iran, ca. 18th century Carved Steel and Silver 3 1/8 x 3 7/8 in (8 x 9.9 cm)


Inscribed within an ogival catouche: “Surat al-Fath” (Qur’an 48:1) (Verily We have granted thee a manifest Victory). A belt buckle of rectangular shape carved with a central ogival panel inscribed with part of Surat al-Fath, verse 1. The central panel is enclosed by two concentric bands of scrolling floral arabesque and trefoils.


46 MI’RAJ Iran, Qajar, ca. 19th century Ink, color, and gold on paper Folio 17 x 10 ½ in (43.2 x 26.7 cm)

Mi’raj, or the ascension of the prophet, widely considered as his main miraculous feat, was his night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and from there to the seventh heaven where he came before the throne of God, carried by a winged, human-faced horse called Buraq and led by the archangel Jibra’il. This imagery overtime gained a talismanic and protective significance and was used as a frontispiece to many poetry books. It has also been linked to use of pictorial depiction is Shi’i and Sufi thought and ideology. 8 In this rich imagery many details abound. The god’s throne ‘Arsh floats above the scene with angels below showering the prophet with gifts. ‘Ali is seated to the right of the image holding his sword Dhu’l-Fiqar. The prophet astride Buraq which now has a peacock tail, is offering his signet ring to a leonine representation of ‘Ali, a Shi’i imagery that was adopted early in the Safavid period. Behind the prophet is another veiled seated figure with a halo; it is perhaps Moses who persuaded the prophet to go back to God and ask for a reduction in the number of times to pray each day. Below the prophet is his prayer rug Rafraf with his mohr and tasbih or rosary. A pitcher and basin his ablutions accouterment lay nearby. To the right a group of angels appear to be circumambulating Bayt al-Ma’mur, a parallel building in the heavens akin to Ka’ba.




Signed Sadegh Tabrizi (1939 – 2017) Iran, Dated 1980 Acrylic paint on paper collage on canvas 22 x 26 1/2 in (56 x 67 cm)

Sadegh Tabrizi was born in 1939, Tehran, Iran. He graduated from The College of Fine Art, Tehran in 1964, where he studied with fellow artists Massoud Arabshahi, Faramarz Pilaram, Mansour Ghandriz, and Hossein Zenderoudi. Sadegh Tabrizi was one of the founders of the Saqqakhaneh School, a group of artists that worked individually but were united in their exploration of Persian heritage as a key source of inspiration drawing upon the rich pre-Islamic and Islamic imagery. In this painting, Tabrizi employs the iconic imagery of Mi’raj and by superimposing it over pasted down fragments of unrelated manuscripts in different scripts, he evokes the visual vocabulary of talismanic shirts and bowls.


REFERENCE (1) Leoni, Francesca, Power and Protection Islamic Art and the Supernatural (Oxford 2016), introduction, pp. 9 – 10. (2) Maddison, Francis and Emilie Savage-Smith, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Science, Tools & Magic, Part One: Body and Spirit, Mapping the Universe, pp. 178 – 9, cat. no. 117. London: Oxford University Press, 1997. (3) Leoni, Francesca, Power and Protection Islamic Art and the Supernatural (Oxford 2016). Cat. 28, p. 28.. (4) Gruber, Christiane, Aga Khan Museum (AKM 536) Official Entry. 5 Canby, Sheila, The Golden Age of Persian Art 1501 – 1722, London, British Museum Press, 1999, fig. 160, pp. 169 – 171. (5) Canby, Sheila, The Golden Age of Persian Art 1501 – 1722, London, British Museum Press, 1999, fig. 160, pp. 169 – 171. (6) Porter, Venetia, Arabic and Persian Seals and Amulets in the British Museum, London, British Museum Press, 2011, pp. 177 – 180. (7) Keene, Manuel, Encyclopedia Iranica (, December 15, 2007. (8) Gruber, Christiane, The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi’ism, Iconography and Religious Devotion in Shi’i Islam, Pedram Khosronejad, 2012 , “When Nubuvvat Encounters Valayat: Safavid Paintings of the Prophet Mohammad’s Mi’raj, c. 1500 – 50” pp. 46 – 65.

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Divine Protection Talismanic Art of Islamic Cultures  

A catalog of Talismanic objects and paintings produced by Islamic Cultures from the 14th through 20th centuries - by Art Passages

Divine Protection Talismanic Art of Islamic Cultures  

A catalog of Talismanic objects and paintings produced by Islamic Cultures from the 14th through 20th centuries - by Art Passages