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Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent

CAT. NO. 65

The Holy Quran Deccani, 1613 with late eighteenth-century additions

Manuscript written in naskh script on plain paper with illuminated frontispiece; set into ornamented paper margins; in ink and opaque watercolour including metallic pigments and gold leaf; gilt-stamped and painted brown morocco bindings with flap | 352 fols; 24.6 × 13.7 cm | RCIN 1005001

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This Quran is one of the earliest in the Royal Library.[207] The Holy Quran is considered by Muslims to be the Word of God, which was orally revealed over a period of 23 years to the Prophet Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel (Jubrail). According to Islamic belief, it is the final divine revelation and a reminder of earlier revelations to the prophets Noah (Nuh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa) and Jesus (Isa). The Quran is divided into chapters (surahs) composed of verses called ayat (‘signs’) which offer guidance on how to lead a moral life. 

This Quran manuscript was owned by Tipu Sultan of Mysore whose library of over 2,000 volumes included at least 44 Qurans.[208] A note on the front of the binding written in Tipu’s own hand quotes the colophon date of 1613 and suggests that the manuscript was acquired from the shrine of the fourteenth-century Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gaisu Daraz at Gulbarga in the Deccan. Tipu owned a large number of Deccani manuscripts and had a personal connection to Gulbarga, being the southern Indian city to  which his earliest recorded ancestor, Shaykh Wali Muhammad, was said to have migrated from Delhi during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah-Jahan.[209] Several Persian additions were made to the manuscript for Tipu including tables at the front with information about each surah including the order of their revelation, which verses one should prostrate oneself before, and indications of the verses to be used to curse someone as a kafir (‘infidel’).

As in Hindustan, long-established connections between the Deccani courts and Iran and Central Asia had a profound effect on the arts of the region.[210] This manuscript opens with a traditional illuminated double-page frontispiece and its bindings are of dark brown gilt-stamped and painted leather with an envelope flap. This triangular flap tucks under the front cover to protect the fore edge of the manuscript, which would have been stored flat rather than vertically. The edges of the binding are ornamented with a repeated Quranic verse asserting ‘which none but the pure of heart can touch’ (Quran 56:79). The paper margins are beautifully ornamented with flowering plants painted in gold pigment, similar to those found on contemporary Mughal manuscripts and albums.[211] The text is written in angular naskh script and signed by the otherwise unknown scribe Harun ibn Bayazid al-Bayhaqi.

An inscription on the first folio of the manuscript claims that it was bought by the Mughal Emperor Alamgir for 9,000 rupees from his vizier Asad Khan. 

  • [207] There are 25 Qurans in the Royal Collection. 

    [208] See Buddle 1999, p. 20. Other Qurans formerly belonging to Tipu Sultan in UK collections include: Bodl. MS Or. 793; Cambridge University Library, MS Nn.3.75; St Andrews University Library, MS 19(o); Edinburgh University Library, Or. MS 148; and another in Lambeth Palace Library.

    [209] The Tipu Sultan Collection at the British Library constitutes about 25 per cent of his original library.

    [210] See Haidar and Sardar eds 2015 and Parodi ed. 2014.

    [211] See Stronge in Wright ed. 2008, pp. 83–105.

  • Presented to George III by Charles Wilkins, Librarian to the East India Company, 1807