Name of Object:

Frontispiece of a Qur’an


Raqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Raqqada.

Date of Object:

Hegira 4th century / AD 10th century (second half)

Museum Inventory Number:

Rutbi 198

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Illuminated and decorated parchment.


Length 21 cm, width 15 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Probably Kairouan.


The first page is decorated with a particularly brilliant illumination. It consists of a rectangular field gilded and stippled with red and black dots and framed by two plaited strips. In the axial plane is a central circle equidistant from two semi-circles. The whole is separated by four half-lozenges. Each one of these contains a stylised, five-lobed, vine-leaf motif inscribed in a circle from which two half-leaves emerge. A palm-leaf motif with abundant floral decoration projects towards the edge of the page.
These different motifs come from the Ifriqiyan decorative repertoire of the classical period: AH 3rd–5th centuries / AD 9th–11th.
The second page contains a Qur'anic text taken from the tenth sura, Yunis (Jonas, verses 70-1). The lively gilded kufic script is framed in brown. The vowels are indicated by red dot diacritics, with two vertically arranged dots for the tanwin and green and blue dots respectively for the hamza and the shadda, after the method established by Abi al-Aswad. Short diagonal lines are also used for the vowel points.
The divisions between the verses are marked by gilt rosettes inside blue circles. The fifth verse is marked by a gilded roundel with a blue centre and a red circumference. The tenth verse is marked in the margin by a roundel covered with gilded petals. An ornate inner circle contains a gilded inscription on a red background.

View Short Description

The first page bears an uncommonly bright illumination. The second page contains a Qur'anic text taken from the sura Yunis. The kufic script is gold and outlined in brown.

How date and origin were established:

Palaeographic study reveals that the lettering is identical to that of Qur'ans belonging to the library of the Great Mosque of Kairouan and dated thanks to their deed of gift (habus) from the 4th / 10th century. Furthermore, a fatwa issued by the great Maliki jurist of Kairouan, Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd (d. 386 / 996) (d. 386 / 996) appears to mention this gilt-inscribed Qur'an, thus narrowing the dating to the second half of the 4th / 10th century.

How Object was obtained:

After the abolition of the habus foundation in Tunisia, this Qur'an was obtained by the National Library in 1967, and transferred in 1983 to the Centre of Islamic Art and Civilisation at Raqqada. It has been displayed in the Museum of Islamic Art at Raqqada since 1986.

Selected bibliography:

30 ans au service du patrimoine (exhibition catalogue), 1986, p.209.
Tunez, Tierra de Culturas (exhibition catalogue), Valencia, 2004, p.219.
Tunisie: du christianisme a l'islam (exhibition catalogue), Lattes, 2001, p.193.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.159–62 and 182–3.

Citation of this web page:

Mourad Rammah "Frontispiece of a Qur’an" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;tn;Mus01;3;en

Prepared by: Mourad RammahMourad Rammah

Né en 1953 à Kairouan, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mourad Rammah est le conservateur de la médina de Kairouan. Lauréat du prix Agha Khan d'architecture, il publie divers articles sur l'histoire de l'archéologie médiévale islamique en Tunisie et participe à différentes expositions sur l'architecture islamique. De 1982 à 1994, il est en charge du département de muséographie du Centre des arts et des civilisations islamiques. Mourad Rammah est également directeur du Centre des manuscrits de Kairouan.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
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: TN 04


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