Kiswa (tomb cover) for the Prophet of God, Ibrahim (Abraham)
Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif
Hegira 1203–22 / AD 1789–1807
Silk embroidered with silver silk threads.
Length 180 cm, width 210 cm
Probably produced in either Syria or Istanbul, but made specifically for the Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron (al-Khalil).
There was a tradition in both the Mamluk and the Ottoman periods, for sultans, noble personages of state, as well as the benevolent, to interest themselves in the tombs of the prophets and the devout by offering a kiswa (covering for a grave or tomb), and then to renew it each year or whenever necessary. The ritual draping of tombs and shrines were popular celebrations that took place in certain seasons every year. For the most part, this occurred in order to procure the good-will and approval of visitors to the tomb or shrine, and to enhance the popularity of the kiswa's donor among the general public. It was during the Ottoman period in Palestine that there was a huge unparalleled interest in the tombs, shrines and holy places that were scattered throughout the region. This was within the context of the official interest in the Sufi orders, their sheikhs, and the venues where the rituals were practiced. An example of this veneration can be seen in the context of the tombs of the Prophets Moses, Samuel and David, and their wives, in al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron (al-Khalil).
The kiswa exhibited here is made from woven green silk. The kiswa was produced in order to envelope the tomb completely, leaving only the tombstone visible, upon which was written the name of the deceased: “The Prophet of God, Ibrahim [Abraham]”. The tughra of the Ottoman sultan, Selim III (r. AH 1203-22/AD 1789-1807) is embroidered on the Kiswa, together with inscriptions that read, “This is a protector” and “revered”, in addition to other inscriptions that include religious supplications and Qur'anic verses.
The official tradition as noted above, to send kiswas to the tombs and shrines of venerated holy men and women, continued in Palestine until the end of the Ottoman period in 1916, when the tradition was officially stopped. At the popular level, however, locals who lived in the environs of these tomb sites and shrines continued preparing kiswas but they were no longer splendid, finely made textiles as had been the case during the period of the Ottoman sultans.
The coverings of the prophets’ tombs were renewed every year in popular celebrations. The importance of these traditions increased during the Ottoman period. This covering woven of green silk envelops the tomb leaving only the tombstone on which is written the name of the deceased. The tughra of Ottoman Sultan Selim III is embroidered on it.
The Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron (al-Khalil)
The piece was dated by the inscription embroidered on it which bears the name of the donor, the Ottoman sultan, Selim III.
The piece was transferred from al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron (al-Khalil) to the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem at an unknown date.
It is likely that this piece was made in Syria or Istanbul in view of the similarities with other pieces made there, some of which are housed in Turkish museums, particularly in Istanbul.
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Kiswa (tomb cover) for the Prophet of God, Ibrahim (Abraham)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;38;en
Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh
Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 38
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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