Name of Object:



Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 842–57 / AD 1438–53

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

On paper, the text written in thuluth script in black and red ink with gold illumination; the binding, stamped leather.


Length 40 cm, width: 30 cm

Period / Dynasty:





The binding of this Qur'an is composed of a two-page (back and front) cover of light-brown leather. The right-hand side of the binding is decorated with a cartouche that has faded and now has unclear remains of a stamped design on it. This was a well-known style of ornamentation for leather bindings of books and manuscripts.
The volume opens on to a frontispiece embellished with a decorative cartouche. The cartouche is filled with illuminated vegetal motifs against a background of dark-blue. An inscription written in Mamluk thuluth script adorns the frontispiece, the text reads: 'Intended for al-Maqam al-Sharif al-Sultan al-Malik al-Zahir abu Sa'id Jaqmaq, May his triumph be glorious'. The frontispiece is followed by five folios containing prayers and commentaries on the fundamentals of al-Tajwid (the art of reciting the Qur'an). These pages are also written in thuluth script. This is followed by pages that contain chapters from the Qur'an. The first of these is a double-page spread where, set in the right hand page, is a rectangular area framed with blue marginal lines; within this zone is the title, Surat al-Fatiha (The Opening Chapter), written in thuluth script. Vegetal decorations adorn this area from above and below. The sura (chapter) itself is written within a rectangular frame, whose edges on three sides are ornamented with colourful vegetal motifs. The facing page has the same layout and decoration but it bears the title of Surat al-Baqara (The Chapter of the Cow) and the first verses of the chapter. The right-hand border of the first page and the left-hand border of the second page are decorated with three ornamental shapes, two of which are circular medallions filled with illuminated vegetal decorations. The centre shape assumes the form of a polychrome lotus blossom.
The first of the 114 chapters of this Qur'an are written in thuluth script and illuminated and written against a blue background, embellished with vegetal motifs and set within a rectangular frame. Each verse is separated from the next by a decorative motif in the form of a golden tri-petalled flower. Each petal is separated from the other by a single dot. On the left and right sides of some pages in this volume there are decorated roundels filled with illuminated vegetal motifs. The number of lines on each page of this manuscript is 13.

View Short Description

Mamluk Sultans and amirs endowed their religious establishments with copies of the Qur'an as a demonstration of piety. Being the holy book of the Muslim belief, the calligrapher, illuminator and binder vied to show their skill in executing these Qur'ans as we see in this copy commissioned by Sultan Jaqmaq.

Original Owner:

Sultan al-Zahir Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq (r. AH 842–57 / AD 1438–53)

How date and origin were established:

This manuscript is dated based on the inscription written in the beginning of the volume: 'Intended for al-Maqam al-Sharif al-Zahir Jaqmaq', who reigned 842–57 / 1438–53).

How Object was obtained:

This Qur'an was donated to the Museum in 1956. The manuscript had been part of the collection in the private library of King Faruq – the last of the Egyptian Kings who was descended from the family of Muhammad Ali and who ruled from 1936–52 – in the Qasr al-Quba, one of the palaces of the royal family before the Revolution.

How provenance was established:

In the beginning of this Qur'an, there is an indication that it was a work commissioned for Sultan Jaqmaq. It is probable that the work was commissioned in Cairo the Capital of the Egyptian State, for Egypt was famous at that time for the proliferation of its manuscripts, especially of the Qur'an. The Mamluk sultans were also known for their great personal interest in the Qur'an, and for their patronage of calligraphers. These precious Qur'anic manuscripts were often made part of a waqf (endowment) to mosques.

Selected bibliography:

Al-Alfi, Abu S., Al-Fan al-Islami [Islamic Art], Cairo, 1984.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1987.
Ja'id, N., “Fan Kitabat al-Mushaf al-Sharif wa Tajmilahu [The Art of Writing and Decorating the Holy Qur'an]”, in Huda al-Islam [Guide to Islam], No. 6, 1984, pp.43–50.
James, D., Qur'ans of the Mamluks, London, 1988.
Salama, K., Al-Makhtutat al-Qur'aniya fi al-Mathaf al-Islami fi al-haram al-Sharif [Qur'anic Manuscripts in the Islamic Museum in the Haram al-Sharif], Lebanon, 2003.
Stierlin, H., and Stierlin, A., Splendours of the Islamic World: Mamluk Art in Cairo (1250–1517), London, New York. 1997.
Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din Abd al-Rahman (d. 911 / 1505), Tarikh al-Khulafa' [History of the Caliphs], Beirut, 1980.
Zain al-Din, N., Musawwar al-Khat al-Arabi [Illustrated Arabic Calligraphy], Baghdad, 1980.

Citation of this web page:

Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Qur’an" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;eg;Mus01;9;en

Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad

He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: ET 16


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