Hilyah, Combined with magic Squares

ink, gold and opaque watercolour on thin paper

written in riqa‘, naskh and nasta‘liq scripts

61.5 x 50.3cm

The text of the hilyah, which occupies the lower half of the central rectangle, lists 15 characteristics (shama’il) of the Prophet, each with a Persian translation. The terms used differ from those of the traditional text attributed to ‘Ali, being taken instead from al-Qalqashandi’s Subh al-A‘sha.

Qur’anic verses, short surahs and the Names of God are arranged in magic squares and roundels, occasionally with numeric values. The ‘Throne Verse’ from the surah al-Baqarah (II, verse 255) and the ‘Light Verse’ from the surah al-Nur (XXIV, verse 35) are arranged in cartouches in the borders.

N.F. Safwat, The Art of the Pen. Calligraphy of the 14th to 20th Centuries, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume V, London 1996, cat.39, pp.67–8.