BEAM WITH QUR’ANIC INSCRIPTION - Aga Khan Museum
Aga Khan Development Network
 
The Aga Khan Museum: Wood and Lacquer - Umayyad, 10th-11th century  Place your mouse over the image
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Classification
Wood and Lacquer

Object name
Beam With Qur’anic Inscription

Geography
North Africa

Period
Umayyad, 10th-11th century

Dynasty
Umayyad

Materials and technique
Wood

Dimensions
16.7 x 427 cm

Accession number
AKM00628

Description

A rare, intact survival from the Umayyad period (756-1031), this long, carved wooden beam is a work of austere beauty. The foliated motifs do not seem to grow organically from the letters as they usually do in Fatimid objects; rather they act as added decoration. There are some exuberant moments, however, in the decorative use of letters. The word for God (Allah) is treated with special decorative significance the three times it is repeated in the inscription. The wooden beam, which would most likely have been fitted in a mosque, is inscribed with parts of the “Light Verse” from the Qur’an (Ayat al-Nur, 24: 35–36): God is the Light of the heavens and the earth; the likeness of His Light is as a niche wherein is a lamp, the lamp in a glass, the glass as it were a glittering star kindled from a Blessed Tree, an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West whose oil wellneigh would shine, even if no fire touched it; Light upon Light; God guides to His Light whom He will. And God strikes similitudes for men, and God has knowledge of everything. In houses God has allowed to be raised up and His name to be commemorated therein. This famous verse from the Qur’an is often inscribed on mosque lamps, which thus become symbols of divine light. One can imagine the present wooden beam in a mosque, its monumental kufic inscription softly illuminated by a nearby hanging lamp, both objects symbolising the presence of God.