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Manuscript/Mixed Material Illuminated panel; al-Fatihah (The opening)

About this Item


  • Illuminated panel; al-Fatihah (The opening)

Created / Published

  • 11th-13th centuries


  • -  Calligraphy, Arabic
  • -  Manuscripts, Arabic--Washington (D.C.)
  • -  Syria
  • -  Iraq
  • -  Arabic script calligraphy
  • -  Early naskh
  • -  Illuminated Islamic manuscripts
  • -  Islamic calligraphy
  • -  Islamic manuscripts


  • -  Al-Fatihah (The Opening), the first chapter of the Qur'an. Early naskh script on vellum, 11th-13th centuries, Iraq or Syria.
  • -  Ornamental pages such as this one decorate the start and/or end of Qur'ans from at least the 9th century onward. Also known as "carpet pages," they provide an ornamental and structural break in the manuscript. Rectangular panels filled with geometric motifs and provided with a finial or leaf-like medallion on the side trace their origins back to Roman inscription panels (tabulae ansatae), which were bound together by a handle (ansa). In this way, the pattern provides a visual reminiscence of plaques (or folios) bound together into a whole (or codex), and evoke the concept of the Qur'an as written on tablets. As the Qur'an states (85:21-22): "This is the Glorious Qur'an inscribed on a Preserved Tablet (fi lawh mahfuz).
  • -  The chapter's title appears in the top gold-painted rectangular panel and specifies that this chapter opens the Book (Fatihat al-Kitab) and comprises seven verses (ayat). A finial jets out into the left margin from the topmost rectangular panel, recalling the "handle" (ansa) or finial provided as a decorative motif on the folio's verso. The rectangular panel below the text is filled with a braided pattern, while its marginal finial is now missing. Instead, a hole has been pierced through the vellum.
  • -  The script itself is executed in an early cursive script (naskh), fully vocalized in black ink. Verse markers consist of eight-petalled rosettes filled with gold paint and with red circles dotting their perimeters. This folio has been published in Selim 1979, 147 (upper).
  • -  This folio includes almost the entirety of al-Fatihah (The Opening), the first chapter of the Qur'an. The remaining line of this chapter appears on another folio that is held in the Library of Congress (see 1-85-154.78a R). Executed in early naskh script on vellum, this fragmentary Qur'an dates probably from the 11th-13th centuries and may have been produced in Iraq or Syria (Lings and Safadi: 44-45, no. 55). It foreshadows the development of cursive script under the Mamluks, who ruled in Egypt and Syria during the 14th and 15th centuries (see Freer Gallery 32.2 and 48.9).
  • -  This illuminated rectangular panel appears at the very beginning of a Qur'an executed in early naskh script, dating c. 11th-13th century. On the verso of the folio appears al-Fatihah (The Opening), the first chapter of the Qur'an (see 1-85-154.78b V).
  • -  This particular illuminated initial ornamental page includes a rectangular panel filled with four diamond-shaped polygons emanating from a central four-pointed star. In each diamond polygon appears a series of concentric circles outlined in light brown ink. The central four-pointed star and other interlacing polygons include floral designs on an orange-toned background. The central panel is framed by a series of borders, the first of which consists of an abstract braided motif executed in gold paint. The finial projecting into the left margin is executed in gold and outlined with a thick line of purple-brown ink.
  • -  Script: early naskh
  • -  1-85-154.78b


  • 1 volume ; 12.2 (w) x 15.7 (h) cm


  • Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2019714493

Online Format

  • pdf
  • image

Additional Metadata Formats

IIIF Presentation Manifest

Rights & Access

The contents of the Library of Congress Selections of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Calligraphy are in the public domain or have no known copyright restrictions and are free to use and reuse.

Credit Line: Library of Congress, African and Middle East Division, Near East Section Persian Manuscript Collection

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Illuminated panel; al-Fatihah The opening. 11th-13th Centuries. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

Illuminated panel; al-Fatihah The opening. 11th-13th Centuries. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Illuminated panel; al-Fatihah The opening. 11th-13th Centuries. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.