Mashaf (Qur’anic manuscript) of Barsbay
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 825–41 / AD 1422–37
Coloured ink on paper, decorated and illuminated; the binding of leather.
Length 110 cm, width 85 cm, depth 13 cm
Probably Damascus, Syria.
A copy of the second half of the Holy Qur'an. It was an endowment (waqf) to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay. This mashaf was given to him by the city of Damascus during his stop-over there part-way on a journey to a final destination in AH 836 / AD 1432. He sent it to al-Aqsa Mosque and made the sheikh of the Madrasa Salihiyya its custodian. He appointed Sheikh Shams al-Din Muhammad bin Qatlubga al-Ramli who was a famous orator in Jerusalem, to read this mashaf.
The mashaf has been rebound and restored. During this process, a number of torn pages have been removed and replaced by others. This process has led to the loss of the front of the mashaf and the end, which would typically have borne the name of the calligrapher, the illuminator and the date the mashaf was copied. The folios of the mashaf had been trimmed on three sides at the time of restoration, since the dimensions of the original were approximately 120 cm x 95 cm. At the bottom of the mashaf is a statement that it was restored: “This was repaired by the humble Ibrahim Ahmad al-Salfayni al-‘Abbasi in the latter half of the month of Jumada II in the year 1292 ”.
The text begins with Surat “al-Kahf” (“the Cave”), written in thick, dark-black ink in skilful thuluth script. The pauses are indicated by six-leafed and illuminated blossoms. The names of “Allah” and the “Prophet Muhammad” are illuminated everywhere they appear in the text. The beginning of each new chapter, the chapter heading, the verse number, and the area where they are placed, is written in white ink and surrounded by vegetal decoration within a rectangular frame. The scribe distinguishes the elongated letters in some of the words by writing them in red. Furthermore, he elongates the two letters “Nun” and “Ta”, as well as any letters resembling these in form when they reach the end of the line, to the end of the margin.
Some of the chapter headings have been intentionally ripped out, and the gap they have left covered over with white paper with the name of the chapter written on it. The substitute white paper is distinctive from the thick paper of the mashaf, which perhaps was composed of more than one layer.
This is the second half of a Qur’anic manuscript endowed to al-Aqsa Mosque by Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay. It is the biggest Qur’an in Palestine (110 cm x 170 cm when open). It is written in beautiful thuluth script in black ink on a thick, strong paper and has many decorations. The name al-Jalala (Majesty) and the name of the Prophet are illuminated wherever they appear.
Sultan al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Barsbay (r. AH 825–41 / AD 1422–37)
The dates established for the mashaf is supported by historical sources, such as a passage in the book of historian, Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali.
The mashaf was transferred at an unknown date from al-Aqsa Mosque to the Islamic Museum.
It is probable that the mashaf was produced in Damascus where it was given to Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay.
Al-Hanbali, Mujir al-Din, (d. 927 / 1520), Al-Uns al-Jalil fi Tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil [The Significant Ambiance in the History of Jerusalem and Hebron], Amman, 1973.
Salameh, K., The Qur'anic Manuscripts in al-Haram al-Sharif Islamic Museum, Paris, 2001.
Khader Salameh "Mashaf (Qur’anic manuscript) of Barsbay" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;28;en
Prepared by: Khader SalamehKhader Salameh
Khader Salameh has been the Director of the Islamic Museum and Al-Aqsa Library in Jerusalem for more than two decades. He was previously employed in the Hebrew University Library and worked as a librarian in Saudi Arabia and as a teacher in Libya. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Ottoman History. He received a Certificate of Librarianship in 1986 from the Hebrew University. He obtained his BA degree from Beirut University in 1980. He catalogued the Manuscripts Collections of the Haram al-Sharif, which was published in six parts in several countries. His publications include many articles on different subjects and a recent publication in English and Arabic on the Qur'an manuscripts in the Islamic Museum.
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: PA 28
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
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