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Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent

CAT. NO. 11

The Nad-i Ali prayer by Muhammad Husayn Kashmiri Mughal, c.1600

Folio from an early Mughal album (see cat. no. 3) | A composite page: black ink and gold metallic paint on blue paper with opaque watercolour rulings; set into margins of gold metallic paint on light brown paper | 37.1 × 24.1 cm (folio); 30.7 × 17.7 cm (panel) | RCIN 1005052

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This Arabic verse is written in large-scale calligraphy by Muhammad Husayn Kashmiri on paper dyed pale blue. Large-scale blossoms and palmettes, in a style like many of the album’s borders, are painted with gold pigment under the words, giving the impression that the script and floral elements are loosely entwined. The verse is an intercessory prayer to Ali (the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and the first Imam of the Shi'a) entitled nad-i ali (‘call upon Ali’). The prayer is recited at times of stress or anxiety: 

[I] call upon Ali, the Manifestor of Miracles
You will find in him help in hardship
All grief and anxiety will disappear through your care
Oh Ali, Oh Ali, Oh Ali.

For this prayer, Muhammad Husayn has consciously stretched certain horizontal strokes to mirror the long sounds made when the verse is recited or sung out loud, the balance and rhythm on the page reflecting that of the spoken verse. The elegant proportion of strokes – thick and thin, long and short, high and low – are as essential to the overall beauty of the work as the careful arrangement of the lines and words on the page.