A journey to search my soul

This is a blog of my personal collections. The purpose of this blog is to educate myself and public in regards to antiquities especially related to religion and calligraphy. I welcome everyone to input their feedback in this blog which they think would be helpful. I do not watermark the photos in this blog so everyone is free to use them as long as they are not used for illegal and unethical reasons. I appreciate if you could notify me if you plan to use any of the photos here. Enjoy browsing!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Antique Coin Review 116 : The first dated Islamic coin from Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan era, 20 reign year of Yazgird III Sassanian / 31 AH ( 652 CE )

This is the first dated coin assigned to the Muslim. This coin was struck during the reign of Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan ( one of prominent companions of Prophet Muhammad pbuh) on Yazdgird III silver drachm. The date on this coin shows regnal year 20 which is the date of Yazgird III death and equivalent to 31AH ( 652 CE). All legends on both sides of this coin were inscribed in Pahlawi except the Arabic verse on the lower right margin on the obverse, بسم الله
Thing to note on this coin, the Muslim kept the Sasanian ruler name and title with the exception of adding the word Bismillah on the margin. The usage of sasanian dirhams continued till the reign of Ummayad. However during the rule of Muawiya. the Sasanian ruler names were removed and replaced with the name of Governors in Pahlawi script.
Yazdegerd III, (died 651, Merv, Sāsānian Empire) the last king of the Sāsānian dynasty (reigned 632–651), the son of Shahryār and a grandson of Khosrow II. During Caliph Umar reign, he invited Yazdgird III into Islam however he refused. When Sasanian Empire fell, Yazdgird III fled to the east and was murdered by a robber in 651CE.

This is info on Uthman Ibn Affan I get from Aisha Stacey article:

Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) was the third of Prophet Muhammad’s successors.  He was known as the leader of the faithful and ruled for approximately 12 years.  The first six years were times of relative tranquillity and peace, however the last years of his reign were marred by internal conflict, and pockets of rebels trying to cause havoc throughout the Caliphate.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) praised his forbearing character and said “After Lot, Uthman is the first man who, with his wife, has given up the comfort of his home for the sake of Allah”.  After some time Uthman and Ruqiayah (may Allah be pleased with them) returned to Mecca to be with the struggling Muslims and their beloved father and Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) knew the Quran by heart and had intimate knowledge of the context and circumstances relating to each verse.  The Quran had been gathered during the time of Abu Bakr and was in the safekeeping of Prophet Muhammad’s wife Hafsah.
Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) took possession of the originals and ordered some of the most trusted companions to make careful copies.  He then ordered all other unofficial copies to be burned or otherwise destroyed.  Five official copies were sent to the greatest cities of the Muslim Caliphate. Original copies exist to this day in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.
The final six years of Uthman’s reign were marked by rebellion. Some of the governors that had been appointed during the reign of Uthman were heavy handed and to some extent unjust. In this way, the seeds of dissension spread and many of the people began to love the luxuries of life that Uthman had warned against. Conspiracies arose and it was difficult for Uthman to discern friend from foe.  He was reluctant to shed the blood of any Muslim however rebellious they may be.  Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) preferred to persuade with kindness and generosity for he always remembered the words of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him):  “Once the sword is unsheathed among my followers, it will not be sheathed until the Last Day.”
The rebels called for Uthman to step down and indeed many of the companions advised him to do so.  Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), now an old man of more than 80 years, heard the words of his beloved prophet ringing in his ears and refused to stand down from his position.  “Perhaps Allah will clothe you with a shirt, Uthman and if the people want you to take it off, do not take it off for them.” 
Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) remained true to his covenant but after a long siege, the rebels broke into his house and murdered him.  As the assassin’s sword struck, Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) was reciting the following verse.
“So if they believe in the same as you believe in, then they have been [rightly] guided; but if they turn away, they are only in dissension, and Allah will be sufficient for you against them. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing.”(Quran 2:137)

Check and compare my other Arab-Sasanian coin below :
Caliph Muawiya Abu Sufyan Coin

Coin Specs

Item : Dirham of Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan ( struck on Yazdgird Coin)
Obv :A crowned bust imitating Yazdgird III the Sasanian king
         All legends are written in Pahlavi except the Arabic written بسم الله lower right on margin
         The word on the left is ' pct-afzud= may his splendor increase
         The words on the right is yzdkrt  = Yazdgird
Rev :Fire altar; two attendants holding swords, facing. Star to left, crescent to right. Four crescents 
         containing stars outside triple border. Mint name to right . Date to left. Legends in Pahlavi
          The word on the left is wyst’= 20       
          The word on the right is  SK = Sakastan
Date :  (20 Yazdgird Era), i.e., 31 AH / 652 CE.
Dim : 33 mm
Weight : 4.10gm
Denom : Dirham
Metal : AR
Mint : Sakastan
Rarity : R
Purchased Price : USD

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ancient Manuscript Review 201 : Antique Quran Arabic Islamic Papyrus in Pseudo Hijazi-Kufi script from Egypt ( 8th Century)

This is a very interesting papyrus fragment. The fragment is only 70mm x 50mm and the writing is almost unreadable except the word الله . This could be a letter fragment or part of Quran verses.
I purchased this fragment from USA with Certificate of Authenticity that its from 8th Century CE.

The tricky part is to date this fragment. Since to test this fragment with Carbon Dating is very expensive, the other way to determine its age is with paleography.

As we know that papyrus has been in use in Egypt since few thousand years prior to the coming of Islam. When the Arab took control of Egypt in the 7th Century CE, the usage of papyrus as a medium of writing continued until the 10th Century CE , then the paper started becoming the main source.
Hence we can estimate this fragment dated between 7th - 10th Century CE.
Now lets look at the calligraphy. From the first instance it seemed to me that the script belonged to same family with Hijazi-Kufi script due to its angular shape and less cursive shape.

Geoffrey Khan in his writing on The Development of Early Arabic Document Script characterized the script written on Egyptian papyri from 3rd century AH onward shows a significant increase in the cursive tendencies whereas the earlier papyri is written in more angular shape and utilized a variety of archaic letter forms that resemble Hijazi script from early literary manuscripts.

Browsing through an Arabic Papyrus handbook, I tried to match the calligraphy with some dated papyrus to estimate tentatively the time it was written. I found a strikingly similarity in calligraphy execution between this fragment with papyrus Papyrus E17861 which according to Historian Fred Donner was written sometime in 7th Century CE.

Below are the letters comparison made with Papyrus E17861. Note the letter ك at the beginning  and at the end of the word, the letter ع , the letter ر and lastly the word الله .
Further explanation of these archaic letters are covered by Geoffrey Khan in his paper mentioned earlier above.

This fragment doesn't give too many clues due to it small size, however based on this paleography study, I could safely assume that this fragment is written in most likely in pesudo Hijazi / transitory Hijazi if not Hijazi and from 7th -8th Century CE.
 I welcome any feedback on this fragment.

See my other Arabic papyrus below
Arabic Papyrus
Arabic Papyrus

Manuscript Specs

Item : Islamic Papyus Fragment
Content :  Islamic / Quranic
Dim : 70mm x 50mm
Date : 8th century CE
Copyist :  N/A
Origin :  Egypt
Calligraphy : Pseudo Hijazi
Design :
Purchased Price :US

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Ancient Artifact Review 99 : Antique Malay Poems Jawi Plate / Pinggan Pantun (1819-1864 CE)

This is a priceless antique English plate decorated with Malay / Jawi motif & pantun (poems). This plate was manufactured by Williams Adams & Sons company sometime between 1819 CE to 1864 CE. This company was established in the early nineteenth century and great supplier of wares to India & the Far East. The trademark can be seen at the bottom of this plate, written W. Adams And Son under a medallion inside which is inscribed the name of the motif viz MALAY.
"The plate was printed using the process of transfer-printing, which was first used in England around 1750. The design is engraved on a metal plate, then impressed on a thin piece of paper, and transferred to the surface of the pottery or porcelain."

The pantun inscribed on the rims written :
" Yang membuat namanya Adam,
wakilnya Tolson di Betawi,
Syair dan pantun banyaklah ragam,
Janganlah tuan kikir membeli"

Anderson Tolson is probably a retailing firm in Batavia.
The pantun inscribed 4 lines in the centre written :

Pinggan ramping dadanya bidang
Susunya seperti telur kepudang
Sangatlah suka patik memandang
Seperti puteri di gunung Ledang

There is an interesting research & article written by Henri Chambert-Loir from Almanac Indonesia & The Malay World in regards to the this type of plate. It was quite extensive research and dug further to its origin and its design. The handwriting print on this plate belongs to Khatib Muharis. Even though his name is not printed on this plate, there are others with the same handwriting bearing his name. Diameter of this plate is 27cm

See below link to see what else Dr Henri said about this plate writing tradition :
Dr Henri talk on pinggan pantun

Similar plate was seen in Muzium Warisan Melayu UPM, check below link about this plate :
Pinggan Pantun in Muzium Warisan Melayu

See below my other Malay Plate
Pinggan Pantun

Reference :
Eating the text : English plates decorated with Malay poems, by Henri Chambert-Loir ( published in Indonesia & The Malay World 1994)

Crescent Moon : Islamic Art & Civilisation South East Asia, pg 78

Ancient Artifact Review 98 : Antique Andalus Muslim Spain Quranic Inscribed lead Amulet / Talisman ( 11th - 12th Century)

This is a very rare acquisition of a lead amulet from the era of Muslim Andalusia Spain. It is made of lead and originally was folded to contain a scroll with prayers. Both sides are inscribed with Quranic verses in Kufi script. This amulet was worn to ward off evil spirit. Based from some references, this amulet is dated back from 11th-12th Century of Almoravid Dynasty.
I couldnt decipher entire inscriptions. I could only read some text and guessing the rest. I hope anyone who has sharp eyes can help me with this inscription.

The reverse of this amulet, tentatively I could read :

بسم ألله الرحمن الر
حيم شَهِدَ أللَهُ أنّه 
لا إله إلّا هو و الملا
ئكة و أُوْلُوا العلم 
قآئِما بالقسط لا إله 
إلّا هو العزيز 
Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,
Allah , the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
Nor is there to Him any equivalent."
Allah witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge - [that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.
Item : Tasliman / Amulet
Content : Quranic verses
Dim : 30mm x 25mm
Date : 11th - 12th Century CE
Material : Lead
Origin : Andalusia, Spain

Antique Manuscript Review 200 : Antique Somalia Quran in a palm leaf box ( 1271 AH)

 These are 7 volumes of full Quran from Somalia!! What make Quran set interesting is that it has its own box made of palm leaf. All opening page on every m,anuscript are beautifully decorated with local tribal motifs.
 I still couldn't figure what type of script written. Is it a Sudani script ( from a Maghribi Script) or is it a twisted form of Naskh script. I need to do more research.It is a complete Quran without any missing page. All books are bounded with embossed leather covers.

This Quran is dated Rabiul Thani 1271 AH ( Dec 1854 CE ) and copied by Hassan Bin Sayed.

Check my other Somalia Qurans on below links :
Somali Quran in a Box
Somali Quran (small)
Somali Quran (small)
Somali Quran ( big)

Manuscript Specs

Item : A Somalian complete Quran in 7 books with a palm leaf box
Content : Quran written in Naskh ( or Sudani) with vowel & diacritical signs.The world " Allah" in red. 11 lines per page
Dim : 6.5" x 4.5" x 1" ( 7 books in total)
Date : 1271 AH  ( 1854 CE)
Copyist : Hassan Bin Sayed
Origin : Somalia
Calligraphy : twisted Naskh or Sudani
Design : leather.
Purchased Price :USD 

Ancient Coin Review 115 : Dirham of King Khusro I dated 574CE - Sassanid Empire ( 531-579 CE)

The coin was minted in 574 CE during the time of Khusru I ( known as Khusro Anushiruwan by the Persian). He ruled Persia from 531 – 579 CE.

This coin was struck in 574 CE. Take note that the Muslim Prophet Mohammad pbuh was born in 570 CE.

Khusro I bust facing right , wearing a crown/hat with 2 stars on his head. There are 2 pahlavi scripts to the left and right of the king's portrait within the borders.
On the right there is a word, HWSRWD = Khusro (Name of the ruler)
On the left there is a word,  PZWT means “ May his splendour increase”


There are 2 attendants flanking a flaming altar with a crescent and a star on their heads. This scene was a symbolic for the Zoroastrianism.
On the right there is a word, FL = Furati Mishan ( a mint city in Southern Iraq)
On the left there is a word ,èḥlèḥl= 44 ( Regnal year)

This is what I found in Wiki about this Emperor :

He was the successor of his father Kavadh I (488–531). Khosrow I was the twenty-second Sasanian Emperor of Persia, and one of its most celebrated emperors.
He laid the foundations of many cities and opulent palaces, and oversaw the repair of trade roads as well as the building of numerous bridges and dams. His reign is furthermore marked by the numerous wars fought against the Sassanid's neighboring arch rivals, the Roman-Byzantine Empire, as part of the already centuries-long lasting Roman-Persian Wars. The most important wars under his reign were the Lazic War which was fought over Colchis (western Georgia-Abkhazia) and the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 572–591. During Khosrow's ambitious reign, art and science flourished in Persia and the Sasanian Empire reached its peak of glory and prosperity. His rule was preceded by his father's and succeeded by Hormizd IV. Khosrow Anushiruwan is one of the most popular emperors in Iranian culture and literature and, outside of Iran, his name became, like that of Caesar in the history of Rome, a designation of the Sasanian kings.[3]
He also introduced a rational system of taxation, based upon a survey of landed possessions, which his father had begun, and tried in every way to increase the welfare and the revenues of his empire. His army was in discipline decidedly superior to the Byzantines, and apparently was well paid. He was also interested in literature and philosophical discussions. Under his reign chess was introduced from India, and the famous book of Kalilah and Dimnah was translated. He thus became renowned as a wise king.

Check my other Sassanian coin below :
Khusro I
Khusro II

Date ......... 574 CE
Ruler........... Khursu I
Condition.............. F
Mint Mark................ FL
Province.............. Furati Mishan
Regnal year.............. 44
Approx. diameter.............  30 mm
Approx. weight in grams............... 3.75 grams

Friday, August 5, 2016

Ancient Coin Review 114 : Sultan Ali Ibn Munawar Shah ( Aceh Sultanate 1586-1589 CE)

This is a gold coin from Sultan Ali Ibn Munawar Shah era. He was the grandson of Sultan Muhamad Shah of Johor. His original name is Raja Buyung. He reigned Aceh from 1586 - 1589 CE.

Looking at the Arabic calligraphy used, its quite tricky as the calligraphy is compressed to fit on the coin face. However it has the resemblance to Thuluth & Sini. Or probably this is how Malay calligraphy was derived.
Obverse : السلطان العادل
                AsSultan Al Adil
Reverse : علي ابن منور شاه
                Ali Ibnu Munawir Shah           

Aceh is a state located at the northern end of Sumatra island ( Indonesia). It is also known by its Arabic honorific Darus Salam ( Abode of Peace) from 1511-1959 CE.
Aceh's origins are unquestionably Cham, as the Champa king Syah Pau Kubah sent his son Syah Pau Ling to rule over Aceh when the capital Vijaya in 1471 AD, was sacked by the Vietnamese Le Dynasty.
The Sultanate of Aceh was founded in 1511 CE after the fall of Pasai Sultanate by Sultan Ali Mughayat Shah. It’s presumed that he is the same person as Syah Pau Ling who converted to Islam.
The Sultanate lasted till 1903 when the last Aceh Sultan Muhammad III Daud Shah Johan Berdaulat surrendered to Dutch occupation.

Obv: As Sultan Al Adil
Rev:  Ali Ibn Munawar Shah
Weight : 0.62 gm
Dim : 13mm
Date : 1586 - 1589 CE
Rarity :
Denom : Mas
Material : Gold
Reference : A 12 (2) pg 169 ( Jaarboek Voor Munt-en Penningkunde)

Ancient Artifact Review 97 : Antique Qing Dynasty Blue & White Plate with Arabic Motifs ( 17-18th Century)

This is a museum piece of a small plate from Qing Dynasty. Blue and white plate produced in China and exported to South East Asia.
The plate is decorated with floral and foliage in blue surrounded by squiggles that strongly resemble Arabic writing. In the centre is a full round chrysanthemum with 3 half ones around the it. Whereas 3 full chrysanthemum alternating in between Arabic-calligraphy-looking squiggles on the outer rim. This motif is believed intentionally designed for export to Malacca and other Malay Islamic kingdoms in south east asia in 17th-18th Century.
Some of the Arabic squiggles are so obvious the rendition of the word الله

According to Crescent Moon Book, page 236, the practice of decorating blue and white porcelain with Islamic inscriptions started from the reign of Emperor Zhengde ( 1506-21) who was sympathetic to Islam ( or could have been a Muslim himself). Over the time, the quality of calligraphy almost illegible suggesting the artists' lack of Arabic calligraphy knowledge. By 19th Century, this calligraphy decoration in late provincial Min Yao ware ( Kitchen Qing) degraded into squibbles.

The plate is 100mm diameter.

Check below my other plate
Blue & White Plate
Swatow Plate

 In Wikipedia. Blue and White Porcelain is described :

"Blue and white wares" (Chinese: 青花; pinyin: qīng-huā; literally: "Blue flowers") designate white pottery and porcelain decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt oxide. The decoration is commonly applied by hand, by stencilling or by transfer-printing, though other methods of application have also been used.

Ref : Crescent Moon : Islamic Art & Civilisation in Southeast Asia, pg 236

Ancient Artifact Review 96 : Antique Akkadian Clay Tablet ( 2350-2150BC)

This is a genuine ancient clay tablet with old Akkadian inscription from 2350-2150BC. I purchased this item from a reputed seller of an auction about 10 years ago.
Besides Egypt, Mesopotamia also adopted cuneiform writing in their literary system.
When I purchased this item, it was in a good condition. However due to the weather where this item was stored, some of the fragments were chipped off. I have lost the document in regards to the content of this inscription, however I still remember that it was regarding the prayer for constructing a building or so.

The front side is full of incused inscription in old akkadian language whereas the back is blank.
Dimension is 120mm x 60mmx30mm

Below is an excerpt I quoted from Wikipedia in regards to this clay tablet tradition :

"In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets (Akkadian ṭuppu(m) 𒁾[1]) were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age.
Cuneiform characters were imprinted on a wet clay tablet with a stylus often made of reed (reed pen). Once written upon, many tablets were dried in the sun or air, remaining fragile. Later, these unfired clay tablets could be soaked in water and recycled into new clean tablets. Other tablets, once written, were grilled in a kennal or fired in kilns (or inadvertently, when buildings were burnt down by accident or during conflict) making them hard and durable. Collections of these clay documents made up the very first archives. They were at the root of first libraries. Tens of thousands of written tablets, including many fragments, have been found in the Middle East.[2][3]
In the Minoan/Mycenaean civilizations, writing has not been observed for any use other than accounting. Tablets serving as labels, with the impression of the side of a wicker basket on the back, and tablets showing yearly summaries, suggest a sophisticated accounting system. In this cultural region the tablets were never fired deliberately, as the clay was recycled on an annual basis. However, some of the tablets were "fired" as a result of uncontrolled fires in the buildings where they were stored. The rest are still tablets of unfired clay, and extremely fragile; some modern scholars are investigating the possibility of firing them now, as an aid to preservation."

See my other clay tablet below :
Akkadian Clay Tablet 

Ancient Coin Review 113 : Bendahara Sewa Raja Wan Ahmad Quarter Tampang 1295 AH ( Sultanate Pahang)

This is a another rare tampang coin from Bendahara Sewa Raja Wan Ahmad . However in 1882 CE he was proclaimed as the first Sultan of Pahang claiming the title Sultan Wan Ahmad AL Muazzam Shah.He used to be Bendahara from 1863-1881AD.
This coin was struck in 1295 AH ( 1878 CE)

Pahang is one of the states in Malaysia. Historically it became part of Malacca Sultanate in 1470 CE till 1641 CE. It was later ruled by Johor Sultanate till 1853 CE then it became independent.
Below is the location of Pahang in relation to other states in Malaysia.
  Similar Tampang can be found in below link Pahang Tampang
Pahang Tampang
Pahang Tampang
Pahang Tampang
Pahang Tampang

Obv : Floral Design
Rev: Malik Al Adil tarikh kepada bulan Rejab sanat 1295
Weight : 13 gm
Dim : 28 x 28 x 8mm
Date : 1295 AH ( 1878 CE)
Rarity : RR
Denom : 1/4 tampang = 1/100 Dollar           
Material : Tin
Reference : SS20  pg 143 ( The Encyclopedia of the Coins)
Purchase Price : RM 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ancient Manuscript Review 199 : Antique Ottoman Era document / Letter ( 1248 AH / 1833 CE)

This is a document written in old Turkish. The document was originally folded and sealed. I couldn't figure out what type of document this is. It could be a legal document or a personal ones.  The letter is written in Riqaah script in black. It was signed and dated 1248 AH ( 1833 CE)
I don't have much information of this kind of manuscript and its writing tradition. I need to do more research on this manuscript and will update this entry later. I welcome any feedback on this letter.

My other similar document is in below link
Ottoman Letter 01
Ottoman Letter 02
Ottoman Letter 03
Ottoman Letter 04
Ottoman Letter 05
Ottoman Letter 06

Manuscript Specs

Item : Ottoman document
Content :  Unknown
Dim : 220mm x 160mm
Date : 1248 AH
Copyist : indechiperable
Origin :  Turkey
Calligraphy : Riqaah
Design :
Purchased Price :US

Ancient Manuscript Review 198 : Antique Etiopia Islamic Manuscript درر الحكام في شرح غرر الاحكام (18th Century)

This is a thick complete Islamic manuscript acquired from Etiopia. Subject on Islamic Jurisprudence and the title I can read is درر الحكام في شرح غرر الاحكام

Durar al-hukkam fi Sharh Ghurar al-ahkam

Jewels of Judges in explaining tricky rules
The book on Hanafi Jurisprudence written by Muhammad b. Faramurz b.’Ali Mulla Khusraw al-Tarasusi in 885AH(1480CE)
It is a commentary work by the author on his own Ghurar al-Ahkam, a work on Hanafi law. The author started writing the work on Saturday 12 Dhu al-Qa`da 877 (1473), after he had recovered from the plague, and completed the work on Saturday 2 Gumada 883 (1478).
The author was a celebrated writer and Hanafite jurist, who was appointed the Ottoman Shaykh al-Îslâm, the leading clerical authority, by Sultan Mehmed II in 1469. He wrote authoritative, widely cited legal works, and reiterated the classical views on Jihâd.
He died in 885 AH in Qustantiniyya, and that his body was transported to Bursa, where he was buried in his own Madrasa
There is no date in this manuscript but I believed it was copied in 18th Century based on the Tre Lune watermark on the paper.
This is the first volume which consist of topics of purity, prayer, Zakat, fasting, Hajj, the sacrifice, fishing, sacrifices, jihad, after prize and divided, revitalizing disused land, hatred and plaudits, marriage, breastfeeding, divorce, manumission, Alkaabh, loyalty, faith, boundaries, theft, book beverages, Criminal, Blood Money, book strongholds,

Title Page : درر الحكام في شرح غرر الاحكام
Content    : Hanafi Schools of Jurisprudence
Date         : 18th Century
Author     :  Muhammad b. Faramurz b.’Ali Mulla Khusraw al-Tarasusi
Copyist    : Anonymous
Patron      : Nil
Origin      : Harrar Etiopia
Place acquired : Etiopia
Illuminations : Nil
Calligraphy : Naskh
Number of lines :15
Inks          : Main text in black with diacritical marks in red
Frame       :  Nil
History of Manuscript :
Number of folios : 400 ff
Support of writing : Western paper with 3 crescents watermark ( Tre Lune)
Gatherings :Nil.Loose leaves
Catchwords :first word on subsequent page in bottom left of recto
Dimensions : 230mm x 170mm
Binding   :Brown leather
Estimated Market Price :
Purchased Price : USD
Remarks :

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ancient Artifact Review 95 : Antique Malay Ceremonial / Calligraphic Batik / Kain Arab / Ikat Kepala / Kerudung / Shroud / Batek Bersurek / Batik Bersurat ( late 19th - early 20th Century)

This is a very rare "Batik Bertulis" / " Kain Arab" or Calligraphic Batik. It is a long rectangular batik cloth made of cotton dyed in light brown with Arabic inscriptions.
The batik making requires several stages of waxing and dyeing in order to produce beautiful colors and designs. Though the art of dyeing first appeared in ancient  Middle East & Far East , the batik making is very specific to Java Island after the dyeing skill has been transferred to Southeast Asia.

According to Mohd Taib Osman in his book Islamic Civilization in the Malay World, after the establishment of Islamic rule in Cerebon (West Java) from 16th Century onward, the testimony of faith has been expressed into batik making. Batik in the form of long shawl, head cloth and ceremonial hangings were decorated with Quranic inscriptions.

For this particular sample, the calligraphy is almost illegible most likely painted by illiterate makers or served as talismanic purposes.The type of khat used most likely Thuluth.
I have tried my best to decipher some of the calligraphy and I welcome any comments.

This inscription is located at the middle of the cloth. It is very difficult to make out the phrase however I think it is the proclamation of Islamic Syahadah.
اشهد ان لا إله إلا الله واشهد ان محمد الرسول الله
 "I bear witness that there is no deity worthy to be worshipped but Allah, and I bear witness the Muhammad is His servant and messenger.''

As for the shape of this calligraphy is formed, I believe this is a shape of a coffin. It could mean that this cloth is used to cover a coffin especially of a noble and an important person.

Another calligraphy form which is located at both end of the cloth clustering around like a flower is also indecipherable.I have extracted the form as above. However I think it is صلى الله على محمد which means Praise of Allah onto Muhammad.

Another calligraphy form as above is of a Tughra of Ottoman Sultan like in most other Batek Bersurat. Michael Rogers, a curator for Khalili Collection identified the tughras as the signs of the Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II ( 1876-1918).

As for the human form calligraphy in a prayer sitting position, I could match it with another well known calligraphy as a comparison. This calligraphy is also  Islam faith testimony.

اشهد ان لا إله إلا الله واشهد ان محمد الرسول الله
 "I bear witness that there is no deity worthy to be worshipped but Allah, and I bear witness the Muhammad is His servant and messenger.''

As for the background calligraphy, comparing to some other cloths which I have seen in the catalog. The inscriptions are most probably :

الله يرزقها وهوا السمع العليم ما يفتح الله للنا من رحمة فلا مما لها وما يمسك فلا بعده وهو العزيز الحكيم

So the scribbles could be imitating this inscriptions.
Although these scribbles almost impossible to decipher, either the makers are illiterate or the purchasers unable to read Arabic, this was irrelevant. The message conveyed by this cloth is crystal clear that the owner is a Muslim and he/she purchased this cloth either for a talismanic purpose or  Islamic related ceremony.

This piece was used predominantly as a shawl or as a shroud . It can also serve as men's head cloth or "ikat kepala". Another usage might be as ceremonial hanging or wrapper for a Quran. It was found in Indonesia and most likely was produced there. The Quranic verses and prayers on the cloth are believed to have properties that would protect the wearer from sickness or injury

In a similar Calligraphic batik depicted in The Message & The Monsoon Catalog, page 115, dated 19-20 Century, this rectangular and long cloth is also know as Kerudung in Java. It means a shroud which was worn around the head, shoulder or body. It could be also used as a temporary cover for coffin or tomb as well as ceremonial hanging and banner.

In the book of Crescent Moon : Islamic Art & Civilization in Southeast Asia, the history of the production of this cloth is discussed in lengthy by Robyn Maxwell. Though the production of  textile with Islamic calligraphy started prior to 19th century, the calligraphy design on batik produced in Java between late 19th to early 20th century was at peak due to the accessibility of commercially woven cotton cloth.

Ceremonial or Calligraphic batik is very rare to find. In an auction at Christie's, 3 similar batiks were sold at USD3358 under sale number 5682 dating them from late 19th century to early 20th century. Below is the link

Batik at auction

There is also similar cloth displayed in Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia which dated to late 19th Century-early 20th Century.

See my other similar cloth on :
Blue Calligraphy Batek
Red Calligraphy Batek

Dim : 238mm x 90mm
Date : 19th- 20th Century
Material :hand drawn batik
Origin :  Malay Archipelago
Price : RM pr