Name of Object:

Rectangular slab with Arabic funerary inscription in kufic characters


Trapani, Italy

Holding Museum:

Agostino Pepoli Regional Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 474 / AD 1081–2

Museum Inventory Number:

127 / 427

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Marble, inscription in relief.


Height 43 cm, width 35 cm, depth 3.8 cm


Unknown (probably Trapani).


Rectangular marble slab, damaged at the base, decorated with a filleted rectangular frame and a horseshoe arch (mânfukh) that delimits the top of the inscribed area. The space between the extrados of the arch and the rectangular frame is filled with two symmetrical decorative elements: a three-petal flower with a central almond-shaped element, and lateral spirals, surrounded by a heart-shaped stem, from the base of which grow two tendrils that creep around the resulting space. The kufic characters include the characteristic presence of the trefoil motif linking the two lam of the sacred name. The motif of the palmette surrounded by heart-shaped stems is similar to the decoration on the 11th-century funerary stelae from Kairouan.
The text of the inscription reads (translation by M. Amari – see Bibliography): ‘In the name of God the merciful and compassionate. God bless the prophet Muhammad and his offspring and give them peace. Say: this is a grave notice, from which you flee. Whoever misses Hell, barely, and makes it to Paradise, has attained a great triumph. The life of this world is no more than an illusion. This is the tomb of ‘Abd al-Karim ibn Sulaiman the Ascetic, God have mercy on him. He died on Saturday the eleventh … of the year four hundred and seventy-four’.
The date, partially lost, has been reconstructed by Amari on the basis of the coincidence of Saturday with the eleventh of the month, which in AH 474 happened in the months of Rabi II and Ramadan, or 18 September 1081 and 12 February 1082.

View Short Description

This stele bears an inscription inside an arch reminiscent of the mihrab niche, evoking the idea of death as a journey and burial as a rite of passage. Traditionally, sepulchral stelae include common formulas taken from the Qur’an alongside celebrations of the virtue and devotion of the deceased.

Original Owner:

G.M. Di Ferro Collection, Trapani (c. 1830)

How date and origin were established:

The date is given in the inscription.

How Object was obtained:

Transferred from the Fardelliana library in Trapani.

How provenance was established:

The stele belonged to a private collection in Trapani from the 19th century. It may come from Trapani as it has morphological and decorative characters similar to those on stele no. 119 / 419 from the same collection, which is also thought to come from Trapani.

Selected bibliography:

Amari, M., Epigrafi Arabiche di Sicilia II: Iscrizioni Funerarie, Palermo, 1879, I, no. XII, 226, tab. I, fig. 4.
Amari, M., Le Epigrafi Arabiche di Sicilia, new edition (ed. F. Gabrieli), Palermo, 1971, p.173.
Gabrieli, F. and Scerrato, U., Gli Arabi in Italia, Milan, 1979, fig. 257.
Répertoire Chronologique d’épigraphie Arabe, VII, p.212.

Citation of this web page:

Paolo Barresi "Rectangular slab with Arabic funerary inscription in kufic characters" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;it;Mus01_B;36;en

Prepared by: Paolo BarresiPaolo Barresi

Laureato in Archeologia, ha conseguito la specializzazione presso la Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene ed il Dottorato di ricerca in Archeologia Classica.
Autore di numerosi articoli e recensioni, ha pubblicato la monografia Province dell'Asia Minore. Costo dei marmi, architettura pubblica e committenza. Collabora da anni con l'Università di Roma “La Sapienza” ed ha insegnato presso la Cattedra di Archeologia e Storia dell'Arte del Vicino Oriente Antico dell'Università di Trapani.

Copyedited by: Pier Paolo RacioppiPier Paolo Racioppi

Laureato e specializzato in storia dell'arte presso l'Università di Roma “La Sapienza” sta conseguendo il dottorato di ricerca in Storia e conservazione dell'oggetto d'arte e d'architettura presso l'Università di Roma TRE. Ha svolto attività seminariali presso l'Istituto di Storia dell'Arte all'Università La Sapienza di Roma e attualmente è docente di storia dell'arte del Rinascimento presso la IES at Luiss (Roma).
Ha pubblicato diversi contributi sulla tutela artistica, il collezionismo e le accademie d'arte, ed ha collaborato al Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani dell'Enciclopedia Treccani.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: IT 50


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Siculo–Norman Art

On display in

MWNF Galleries

Calligraphy Funerary objects


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