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Literacy in Islam & Qur'anic Manuscripts in Museums

The very foundation of Islam is literacy - to read & seek knowledge. The first word of the Qur’an revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was “Iqra” which means Read. To celebrate International Literacy Day, here are 24 beautiful Qur’anic manuscripts in museums across the world…

‘Read: In the name of thy Lord who created. Created man from a leech like clot. Read: And your Lord is the Most Bountiful. He taught by the pen. He taught man which he knew not’ (Al-`Alaq 96:1-5)

Folio, Manuscript of the Qur'an Iran, 1550-1575, LACMA

In Islam, the duty of seeking knowledge & learning is obligatory for every Muslim. Islam affirms the right to education for all, without discrimination.

Qur’an leaf in Muhaqqaq script Mamluk period, c. A.H. 728 / A.D. 1327 Egypt, Art Institute Chicago

Calligraphers who specialized in beautiful writing often dedicated their lives to copying the Qur’an to grow closer to Allah and receive his blessings.

Qur'an Manuscript Folio, Afghanistan, Herat, Safavid period (1501–1722), Cleveland Art Museum.

Double Folio from a Qur'an c. 1330-1350, Philadelphia Museum

Central Asian or Turkish Early Muslim settlers from central & western Asia carried Islamic book traditions to India, especially in the form of Qur'ans, such as the one from which these pages come

Closing Prayer in the Jerrāḥ Pasha Qur˒an Iran, Shiraz ca. 1580 , Morgan Library

1st of 2 pairs of 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 12 lines

Qur'an Manuscript, 18th–early 19th century India, Kashmir, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Illumination found at the opening to 9 of the suras of this Qur'an (al-Fatiha, al-Ma'ida, Yunus, Bani Isra'il, al-Shu'ara, Qaf, al- Falaq & al-Nas) style characteristic of Kashmir

Qur'an, 15th century, India, Philadelphia Museum 

Made for a Muslim ruler in or near Delhi, this copy is one of the oldest surviving Qur’ans from India. The scribe used a distinctive script called Bihari with letters ending in long, swooping lines

This exuberant folio (Qur’an, 18:77-80) marked the beginning of the 16th part of a 30-part Qur’an Although heavily repaired, the page exemplifies the vibrancy of book illumination in Iran during the second half of the 15th century.

Ashmolean Museum

Leaf from a Koran, mounted, illuminated in gold and colours, in Arabic. Mamluk, Egypt, Victoria & Albert Museum

Qur’an, Safavid period, 1598 (1006 A.H.), National Asian Art Museum

Calligrapher: Ahmad Sayri. Qur’an with selection of prayers and a falname; Arabic in black naskh script with white headings in illuminated cartouches in thuluth, muhaqqaq, and nasta’liq script

Leaf from a Qur'an, 1100s Seljuk, Iran, Cleveland Art

Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper This Qur'an page is considered one of the most splendid examples of Arabic calligraphy.

Bifolium from the Pink Qur’an 13th century Produced for a noble patron from either Granada or Valencia, this 13th century Spanish manuscript of the Qur’an, is known as the Pink Qur’an, due to its distinctive tinted paper

Getty Museum

Leaf from Qur'an, Iranian Verses of chapter 1 (Surat al-fatihah) written in Naskh script in black ink with reading marks in red & interlinear gold decoration. Chapter headings & verses are written in Riqa" script in red ink

Walters Art Museum

This exquisite illuminated Qur’an manuscript probably comes from the northeast coast of the Malay peninsula, either from Kelantan in present-day Malaysia, or from Patani in southern Thailand.

British Library

Single-volume Qur’an This Qur’an was copied in Shiraz, by Muhammad Shafi‘, the most accomplished Persian calligrapher of the 19th century. It is the largest 19th-century Persian Qur’an known.

Khalili Collections

Quran Manuscript, Dagestan 19th c. Dagestan is a republic located in the Russian Federation, & home to a rich manuscript culture. A feature of Daghistani manuscript illumination is the vibrant palette of colours.

British Library

Last folio of Qur’an mid 16th century, Iran

Dallas Art Museum

This 17th-century Chinese Qur’an shows how Islamic styles of calligraphy and illumination were combined with local styles, symbols and aesthetics that came from a very different culture.

British Library

Right-Hand Page from the Qur’an Safavid dynasty (1501–1722)، 16th century Iran

Art Institute Chicago

Quran Manuscript, India, 11 July 1399 Rare copy of the Qur’an produced during Tughluq dynasty (1320–1413) India. After the invasion of Timur in 1398–1399, it was taken to Gwalior Fort in Agra, where its colophon was completed

Aga Khan Museum

The Holy Qur’an, written in Konstantiniyye (Istanbul) 1157/1744-45 Paper with ahar & zerefsan, black ink, colored paints, gold A leaf with a rose painted recto with prayers & verso separate the opening

Sabancı Üniversitesi Sakıp Sabancı Müzesi

The Ruzbihan Qur'an, Ruzbihan Muhammad al-Tab'i al-Shirazi, Shiraz, 16th century This Qur’an is an extraordinary example of the arts of the book in 16th-century Iran. The sacred text was written by master-calligrapher Ruzbihan.

Chester Beatty Dublin

Single-volume Qur’an The scribe was a pupil of Hüseyin Vehbi, who lived at Shumen in Bulgaria. During the late Ottoman period, Shumen was a provincial centre for the copying, illumination & binding of Qur’ans

Khalili Collections

Qur'an, Iran, 1450 - 1460 The Timurids ruled most of Iran & Central Asia for much of the 15th c. As patrons of the arts they established kitabkhanas (royal library-workshops) in Samarkand & Herat, producing luxurious Qur’ans

Detroit Institute of Arts


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