Arts of the Book: Illustrated Texts, Miniatures
Folio From The Khamsa Of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi: Shab-I Qadr (the Night Of Power)
Tughluq, circa 1350-1450 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper
34.8 x 25.2 cm
Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE), one of the best known poets of Persian in Islamic India, was a Turkish military aristocrat who served the Delhi sultanate under the Khalji and Tughluq dynasties. His Khamsa, or Quintet, was composed for the second ruler of the Khaljis, 'Ala al-Din Khalji (r. 1296-1316 CE), in Delhi, between 1298-99 and 1301-02. Amir Khusraw was also a Sufi mystic who followed the teachings of the Chishti shaykh Nizam al-Din Awliya (d. 1325 CE) and is buried next to him in his tomb in Delhi (Welch and Welch 1982, p. 144). The present page depicts the eighteenth story recounted in the first section of the Khamsa, the Matla al-anwar (The Ascent of Lights) story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the 27th day of Ramadan, known as the “Night of Power” (Arabic laylat al-qadr and Persian shab-i qadr). The laylat al-qadr is mentioned in the Qur’an ( al-qadr, 97:1-5) and refers to the night when Prophet Muhammad was called to his mission through the first revelations from God. The painting appears to be a continuous narrative, at right illustrating the saint in his efforts to remain awake, and then, at left, after he has fallen asleep. Along with its narrow horizontal format, the saturated pigments used to colour the image recall the painting styles of both Mamluk Egyptian and southern Persian (in particular, Shiraz) painting of the fourteenth century, but some scholars believe that the script style of this manuscript dates it to the second half of the fifteenth century (see ibid., pp. 144 and 146).
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