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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