Khalili Family Trust – Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage Collection

London, United Kingdom

In striving to provide a synoptic vision of the arts of the entire Islamic world, and since the 1970s, Professor Nasser D. Khalili has assembled his collection of Islamic art under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust. With holdings of more than 28,000 objects documenting the range of artistic production of the Islamic lands over a period of some 1400 years, the Collection now ranks among the best in the world and represents a new generation of Islamic art collections.

The Collection includes an outstanding array of manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an and of illustrated manuscripts, and the coverage of the decorative arts – ceramics, textiles, glass, metalwork and lacquer as well as seals and coins – is comprehensive.

The holdings of manuscripts and folios of the Holy Qur’an are the first to have been assembled systematically in order to illustrate the whole history of Qur’an production, both in terms of time span and geographical range – from the 8th to the 20th centuries, and from Morocco to China. Similar sequences have been assembled for painting and the decorative arts. Glass, ceramics and metalwork, for example, are represented in the full range of techniques from the pre-Islamic period through to the 19th century.

Later Islamic art has been given the same level of attention. The wealth of important objects and manuscripts from later periods in the Collection shows that much art worthy of our attention on aesthetic as well as historical and intellectual grounds was produced in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Another important art form of this period is Islamic lacquer, represented in the Collection by more than 500 examples.

The catalogue of the Collection is an unprecedented 27-volume series, of which several are now published, and when completed will form a unique survey of the field to date. Studies in the Khalili Collection is a second series of publications related to the Islamic art collection, presenting more detailed analysis of certain objects.

Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage Collection

For some 40 years, and under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust, Professor Nasser D. Khalili has been actively involved in assembling a notable collection of objects relating to Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam and the one that lends itself most readily to artistic expression. With over 3000 objects, the Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage Collection is now one of the largest and most important of its kind and includes major objects, many of which are unique.

The objects range in date from the 8th to the 20th centuries and geographically from China and India in the east to Morocco and the United Kingdom in the west. They include some 250 woven and embroidered textiles made for the two holy sanctuaries at Mecca and Medina, seven covers for the Egyptian and Syrian mahmals, Qur’ans, illustrated manuscripts, scientific instruments, coins, paintings, rare books, prints, photographs and postcards, as well as important archival material and some unique historical documents.

Given its size and diversity, the Collection provides a comprehensive overview of Hajj, illustrating the religious, spiritual, cultural and artistic aspects of pilgrimage to the holy cities of Islam and the cosmopolitan nature of Hajj.

For several years now, the material has been undergoing a thorough programme of conservation which is soon to be completed, and research in preparation for its publication in a number of volumes is well advanced. The volumes will include contributions by a number of international scholars who are leading experts in the numerous disciplines that this subject evokes.


Curator & Registrar
Nahla Nassar