Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Manuscript Of A Mughal Qur’an
Mughal, dated 1093 H/ May-June 1682 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper; tooled leather binding
Page 26.6 x 17 cm
Unlike the embracing and open-minded attitudes of his predecessors toward the diverse religions practiced in the Indian sub-continent, the Mughal emperor Awrangzeb’s reign (1658-1707 CE) was characterised by a strict and severe religious policy that showed little tolerance for opposing beliefs. It should come as no surprise, then, that the heyday of illustrated manuscript and album production enjoyed under the emperors Akbar (r. 1556-1605 CE), Jahangir (r. 1605-27 CE), and Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58 CE) came to an end under his rule, especially in light of Awranzgeb’s embracement of Muslim orthodoxy, which exercised a more stern and restrictive attitude towards figural representation. On the other hand, Awrangzeb appears to have shown a greater interest in Qur’an production, especially those executed in naskh script, before he even ascended the throne (Bayani, Contadini, and Stanley 1999, p. 172). The present manuscript holds approximately 460 leaves and contains thirteen lines per page, with the majority of text copied in naskh and the first, middle, and last lines written in the more monumental muhaqqaq. The margins are ruled in black ink and gold and chapter headings are highlighted in gold muhaqqaq script, while small, multi-petalled and gilded rosettes mark verse divisions. The two pages shown here constitute the middle pair of three sets of illuminated double-pages appearing in the manuscript. Similar to other Qur’ans produced in the later Mughal period, text areas are divided into bands of varied widths, including panels with gilded and inscribed cartouches outlined in red against a blue background filled with small red and white flowers. The bands of text are consolidated within a series of colourful and gilded ruled and floriated narrow frames, enclosed within a larger border containing polychrome vignettes and lotus blossoms among the smaller red and white flowers. This pattern, along with the green-and-gold outlined “hasp” extending from the frame on each side of the double-page composition, is another design typical of seventeenth-century Indian manuscripts; it is repeated in panels flanking each of the smaller text boxes containing black naskh script. A gold, floriated scroll pattern fills the margins, surrounding the overall illuminated composition, its rhythm broken at one point by the gilded and polychrome-bordered cartouche appearing on the right margin of the right-hand page. Persian manuscripts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries appear to have been a great source of inspiration for Qur’an illumination in seventeenth-century India, this manuscript however being an exception (ibid., pp. 174, 194-200), although the combination of small and large scripts on one page is reminiscent of Qur’ans produced in Shiraz, Iran, in the sixteenth century. A colophon provides information about the scribe, a certain Muhammad Fazil who identifies himself as a shagird, or pupil, of Mulla al-Yas, along with the manuscript’s completion date, Jumada al-Awla 1093 H/ May-June 1682 CE.
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