It was at the urging of his librarian, Belle da Costa Greene (1879–1950), that Pierpont Morgan purchased the core of his Islamic collection in 1911 and 1912. Greene had become Morgan’s librarian in 1905 and continued working for his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr., after the senior Morgan’s death in 1913. When the Pierpont Morgan Library was established in 1924, she was named its first director.
The Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an Qur˒an, in Arabic. Persia, Shiraz, ca. 1580. On paper. 483 x 340 mm. This Qur˒an (19 x 13 1/2 inches) is from Shiraz (ca 1580). In 1719–20 it was given by Sultan Aḥmad III to the mosque of Jerrāḥ Pasha in Dikili Tash in Istanbul. The opening pages express the majesty and magnificence of the Qur˒an. Within the facing sunbursts are inscribed the words from sura 17.88: God, blessed and exalted is he, said, say, if mankind and the jinn collaborated to produce the likes of this Qur˒an, they will not produce its like even if they assist one another. The jinn were pre-Adam angels cast down with Iblīs (Satan). Within the four cartouches are the words from sura 56.77–9: It is the noble Qur˒an, in a Book well guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean.
The First Sura of the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an Qur˒an, in Arabic. Persia, Shiraz, ca. 1580. This is the second pair of richly decorated facing pages in the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an, made in Shiraz about 1580. It marks the beginning of the Qur˒an itself, starting with sura 1 (al-Fātiḥa, or “The Opening Chapter”). The five lines of text on each page are enclosed within a gold-lobed medallion. They are written in raiḥān (sweet basil) script, which was much favored by poets, for its very name evoked its fragrance. Muḥammad Aṣlaḥ, an eighteenth-century poet, even wrote that real gardens would envy the raiḥān twig “lifting its head from the bismillah (call to piety).” The first line contains the title of the sura, followed by the call to piety, the bismillah: In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. The sura is continued on the left page. This double-opening, and the three others in the manuscript, closely resemble the work of the Ottoman master gilder Muḥammad ibn Tāj al-Dīn Ḥaidar (d. 1588).
Closing Prayer in the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an Qur˒an, in Arabic. Persia, Shiraz, ca. 1580. On paper. This is the first of two pairs of elaborately ornamental facing pages that appear at the end of the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an, made in Shiraz about 1580. It enshrines a prayer written in twelve lines: Oh God, profit us and raise us through the magnificent Qur˒an, and bless us and accept the verses [we read] and the wise repetition [we make]… Turn toward us, for You are the Merciful One Who accepts the penitent, and guide us to the truth and to a straight path. Oh God, make for us the Qur˒an a constant companion in this world, a consoler to the grave, and… a guide for all good works, through Your mercy, oh Most Merciful.
Auguries from the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an Qur˒an, in Arabic. Persia, Shiraz, ca. 1580. On paper. The second pair of decorated facing pages at the end of the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an contains texts relating to the taking of auguries from the Qur˒an, with an interpretation for each letter of the alphabet. There is a break in the sequence, indicating a missing folio. The headings are in muḥaqqaq script and the lines of poetry are in nasta˓līq script. According to tradition, muḥaqqaq, meaning “accurate”, or “well-organized,” was the first script to be regularized.
Presentation Page in the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an Qur˒an, in Arabic. Persia, Shiraz, ca. 1580. On paper. The last page of this Qur˒an contains a lengthy inscription stating that this copy was a pious gift to the holy mosque of Jerrāḥ Pasha in Dikili Tash in Istanbul in the time of “his exalted personage, the imperial, majestic, generous, padishah of the world, the victorious Sultan Aḥmad Khān, son of Sultan Muḥammad Khān, in the year of the Hijra 1131 (1719–20), may God be well pleased [with him].” Beneath the inscription is the magnificent tughra (official signature) of Aḥmad III.
Fragment from an Early Tenth-Century Qur˒an Qur˒an fragment, in Arabic. Possibly Iraq, before 911. On vellum. Although the earliest vellum Qur˒ans (late seventh to eighth centuries) were vertical in format, those of the ninth to eleventh centuries were oblong, perhaps inspired by the Kufic script, and featured oblong panels inscribed with Qur˒anic verses. Other folios from this manuscript are preserved in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, and elsewhere, one stating that ˓Abd al-Mun˓im Ibn Aḥmad donated the Qur˒an to the Great Mosque of Damascus during July 911. The Morgan fragment contains suras 27 to 29. Shown here is the heading for sura 29 (al-˓Ankabūt, or “The Spider”), which is written in gold. The name is derived from those who, taking protectors other than Allah, are likened to spiders who build flimsy homes. The diacriticals consist of short diagonal lines, and red dots indicate vocalizations. Pyramids of six gold discs mark the ends of ayat (verses).
Fragment from a Tenth-Century Qur˒an Qur˒an fragment, in Arabic. Origin unknown, tenth Century. On vellum. Qur˒ans could be in one or multiple volumes, sometimes as many as thirty, in which each volume contained a thirtieth of the text, called a juz˒. The division was especially popular because of the thirty-day holy month of Ramadan, when the entire Qur˒an could be read at the pace of a volume each day. The present fragment, however, was part of a smaller set, as two bands of illumination mark the end of juz˒ 21, which falls at sura 33.31 (al-Aḥzāb, or “The Confederates”). Voweling and diacritics are mostly in red. The gold rosette at the left marks the end of a tenth verse.
Folio from a Tenth-Century Qur˒an Qur˒an leaf, in Arabic. Possibly Iran or Iraq, tenth Century. On vellum. The text is written in Kufic, named after al-Kufah, the Iraqi town where the script supposedly originated. Red dots mark vowels, and each tenth verse is marked by a small, gold rectangle. On this leaf a thin gold band indicates the end of sura 24 (al-Nūr, or “Light”) and the beginning of sura 25 (al-Furqān, or “The Criterion”). The Criterion is Allah’s great gift to humanity, allowing it to judge between right and wrong. Each sura (except the ninth) begins with a call to piety, the bismillah, In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Page from an Oblong Tenth-Century Qur˒an Qur˒an leaf, in Arabic. Origin unknown, tenth Century. On vellum. This is a typical vellum page from an oblong Qur˒an. The script is Kufic, and the red dots indicate vocalization. Every fifth verse is followed by a gold Arabic letter hā˒ (h, which has the numerical value of five; appears on the recto), and every tenth verse by a gold rosette. The heading to sura 77 (al-Mursalāt, or “Those Sent Forth”) contains the first line of the sura in gold Kufic script and terminates in a palmette. The name of the sura is written, in cursive script, below the palmette.
Two Folios from an Eleventh-Century Qur˒an Qur˒an fragment, in Arabic. Spain or northern Africa, eleventh Century. On vellum. During Prophet Muḥammad’s lifetime, Islam spread from Mecca and Medina, covering the entire Arabian Peninsula. From there, the new religion expanded throughout the Near East, northern Africa, and southern Spain. Other leaves from this Qur˒an are preserved in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul. Written in Kufic, every fifth verse is followed by a gold letter hā˒ (which has a numerical value of five), and every tenth verse by a gold disc with the cumulative number of verses. The color scheme of the palmette projecting from the heading for sura 90 (al-Balad, or “The City”), a combination of wine red and green with gold and blue, is typical for the western Islamic world, suggesting an origin in northern Africa or southern Spain.
Folio from a Maghribi Qur˒an Leaf from a Qur˒an, in Arabic. Morocco, twelfth–fourteenth centuries. On paper. Qur˒ans produced in the Maghrib (northwestern Africa and Spain) were written in a distinct script—Maghribi—named after the area where it was used. This example, from Morocco, is written in a dark brown ink. Voweling and the sura title are in mauve, yellow dots indicate diacriticals, and green dots appear only above initial alifs (a’s). The text is the beginning of sura 58 (al-Mujādila, or “She Who Pleaded”). An early paper example, it is in a vertical format and dates from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.
Bifolio from a Mamluk Qur˒an Bifolio from a Qur˒an, in Arabic. Mamluk, fourteenth or fifteenth century. On paper. With the increased use of paper and the adoption of more upright scripts, the oblong format of the early vellum Qur˒ans gave way to a vertical one. On this page a large heading in white, cursive script marks the beginning of sura 15 (al-Ḥijr, or “The Rocky Tract”).The heading is followed by the usual bismillah (call to piety), and the sura text begins on the next line. The sura is in naskh script with vocalizations and diacriticals in black. There are reading marks in red and blue, and rosettes mark the ends of verses.
Qur˒an Leaf with Interlinear Persian Translation Qur˒an leaf, in Arabic and Persian. Sultanate India, possibly fourteenth century. On paper. In this unusual leaf, verses 162–63 of sura 4 (al-Nisā˒, or “Woman”) are written in a thuluth-muḥaqqaq script, while an interlinear Persian translation, in a small, cursive script, is written diagonally beneath the lines. Of special interest are the red Kufic inscriptions in the border, a Shi˓ite hadith (a saying of Muḥammad), which suggests the danger of independent Qur˒anic interpretation: A question was asked about the son of the Messenger [of God] and ˓Alī Ibn Abī ṭālib said, Woe unto you, O Qatāda, if you interpret the Qur˒an by yourself. The purpose of the central gold medallion is unknown. Other leaves from the manuscript are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and in the Freer Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Washing Before Prayer Qur˒an leaf, in Arabic and Persian. Sultanate India, possibly fourteenth century. On paper. Although the Morgan has two leaves from this Qur˒an (see also MS M.846.4a), they are not consecutive, and thus their borders do not match. This page includes verse 6 of sura 5 (al-Mā˒ida, or “The Table”), urging the washing of faces, hands, and arms up to the elbow before praying. The silver Kufic inscription, a Shi˓ite hadith (a saying of Muḥammad), says that the words of ˓Alī and the succeeding imams have the same authority for Shi˓ites as those of the Prophet for Sunni Musliims: “I am going to leave you two valuables, the greater valuable and the lesser valuable. The greater is the book of my god, and the minor is my family and the people of my house [i.e., the twelve Shi˓ite imams]. If you preserve me through them you will never go astray so long as…” (the text on this page breaks off here).
Qur˒an from Kashmir Qur˒an, in Arabic. Northern India, Kashmir, ca. 1800. On paper. Qur˒ans were written by hand well into the nineteenth century, and many copies were produced about 1800, when Kashmir was still under Muslim rule. They differ from contemporary Turkish Qur˒ans, which usually provide a date and name of the scribe. The type of decoration found on this double-page sarlauḥ represents typical Kashmiri work of about 1800. This Qur˒an has been divided into sevenths (manzil), one to be read each day of the week, much like the Psalter. Here the double-page sarlauḥ marks the beginning of the fourth division, suras 17 (Bani Isrā-il or “The Israelites”) to 25 (al-Furqān or “The Criterion”). The script is naskh, the sura headings are in white, and gold dots follow verses.
urkish Qur˒an by Pashāzāde Qur˒an, in Arabic. Turkey, probably Istanbul, 1832–33, written by Pashāzāde. On paper. Unlike late Kashmiri Qur˒ans, those made in Turkey are often fully documented, providing not only a date but the name of the scribe and often that of his teacher. According to the colophon, the manuscript was written in 1832–33 by ˓Alī al-Rusdī al-Asbārtavī, known as Pashāzāde, a student of al-Ḥājj Ḥāfīz Mustafa Ḥelvī, known as Helvajizāde. This sarlauḥ marks the opening of the Qur˒an, with sura 1 (al-Fātiḥa, or “The Opening.”) on the right, and sura 2 (al-Baqarah, or “The Heifer”) on the left. The text is written in naskh script, and the end of each verse is marked by a rosette. Sura headings, in the cartouches, are written in a white, cursive script.
Qur˒anic Leaf from the Read Persian Album From the Read Persian Album. Probably from the Deccan (Golconda), late sixteenth century. On paper. Sometimes beautifully written and framed Qur˒anic passages were preserved in albums. This magnificent leaf originally must have faced a page that began with Muḥammad’s first revelation (610), sura 96.1—5 (Iqraa, or “Read!” or “Proclaim”), also known as al-˓Alaq (“The Clot of Congealed Blood”), as the present leaf contains verses 8–18. The names come from the verses: Read! (or Proclaim) in the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created—created man, out of a [mere] clot of congealed blood. . . .Proclaim . . . He Who taught [the use] of the pen. The six lines of muḥaqqaq script contain ten short ayat (verses), each ending with a gold rosette. Marbling (abri, or “clouds,” in Persian) was known in Persia by the sixteenth century, when named abri masters are documented.