Name of Object:

Tomb cover


Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)

 About Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS), Edinburgh

Date of Object:

Hegira 11th century / AD 17th century

Museum Inventory Number:

A. 1981.204

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Woven silk rendered in red, green and gold.


Length 231 cm, width 78 cm

Period / Dynasty:





A woven silk tomb cover that has a repeat design of zigzag bands set against a dark-green ground. Each zigzag band is contained within narrow borders that hold repetitions of the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith, rendered in white with red outlines and set against a dark-green ground: ‘La Ilah Ila Illah wa Muhammad rasul Illah’ (‘There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’). The narrow borders above contain prayers for the Prophet, while those below contain prayers for the four righteous caliphs Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali as well as for the companions of the Prophet. In between the bands the superposed words ‘Allah’ and ‘Muhammad’ are repeated.
In Ottoman Turkey the cenotaphs of important personages were often draped with various types of textiles, much like this one, with its zigzag patterns of calligraphic prayers. It has been suggested that these textiles may have been intended to recall the ceremonial drapery or kiswa covering the Holy Ka’ba in Mecca. The earliest textiles of this type have been dated to the AH 11th / AD 17th century, and the latest to the AH 13th / AD 19th century.

View Short Description

In Ottoman Turkey the cenotaphs of important individuals were often draped with religious textiles showing a distinctive design of zigzag panels containing Qur’anic prayers. This custom may have been intended to recall the ceremonial draping of the Holy Ka’ba in Mecca with the so-called kiswa cover.

How date and origin were established:

A stylistically related funerary textile is in the V&A, London (inv. no. 780-1892), and there is another in the Topkapı Palace Museum (inv. no. 13/1690), both have been dated to the 11th / 17th century (see Atasoy et. al, 2000; Türkische Kunst, 1985).

How Object was obtained:

Purchased from Lisbet Holmes Ltd., London in 1981.

How provenance was established:

Funerary textiles of this type are ascribed to Ottoman Turkey (see Atasoy et. al, 2000; Türkische Kunst, 1985).

Selected bibliography:

Atasoy, N., Denny, W. B., Mackie, L. W., and Tezcan, H., Ipek, the Crescent and the Rose: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets, London, 2000, P.297, fig. 284; p.205, figs. D I, D ii.
Blair, S. S., and Bloom, J. M., Images of Paradise in Islamic Art, Hanover N.H., 1991 (for a similar later piece and a discussion of the symbolism).
Scarce, J., Domestic Culture in the Middle East: an Exploration of the Household Interior, Edinburgh, 1996, p.106 (where item is illustrated).
Türkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Recklinghausen, 1985, p.265, cat. no. 5/18.

Citation of this web page:

Ulrike Al-Khamis "Tomb cover" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;uk;Mus03;47;en

Prepared by: Ulrike Al-Khamis
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK3 47