Name of Object:

Kiswa (tomb cover) for the Prophet of God, Ibrahim (Abraham)

Location:

Jerusalem

Holding Museum:

Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif

About Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem

Date of Object:

Hegira 1203–22 / AD 1789–1807

Museum Inventory Number:

112

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Silk embroidered with silver silk threads.

Dimensions:

Length 180 cm, width 210 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Ottoman

Provenance:

Probably produced in either Syria or Istanbul, but made specifically for the Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron (al-Khalil).

Description:

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.

View Short Description

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.

Original Owner:

The Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron (al-Khalil)

How date and origin were established:

The piece was dated by the inscription embroidered on it which bears the name of the donor, the Ottoman sultan, Selim III.

How Object was obtained:

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.

How provenance was established:

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.

Citation of this web page:

Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Kiswa (tomb cover) for the Prophet of God, Ibrahim (Abraham)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://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 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 38

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