6 thoughts on “Puzzle

  1. It’s from the Qur’an. The first page (on the left) is from Chapter 7 (the Heights, al-A’raaf). It begins with the last word of verse 9 (يظلمون) and runs until verse 16, which ends with the word المستقيم at the top of the right-hand page. Then we have half of verse 17, but it’s cut off by the picture of the dodo. Below the picture is the last half of verse 20 of the same Chapter. As far as I can tell, the dodo is completely irrelevant.

  2. So…

    7:9 يظلمون
    7:10 ولقد مكّنّكم في الأرض وجعلنا لكم فيها معايش قليلا ما تشكرون
    7:11 ولقد خلقناكم ثمّ صوّرناكم ثمّ قلنا للملائكة اسجدوا لآدام فسجدوا إلّا إبليس لم يكن من الساجدين
    7:12 قال ما منعك ألّا تسجد إذ أمرتك قال أنا خير منه خلقتني من نار وخلقته من طين
    7:13 قال فاهبط منها فما يكون لك أن تتكبّر فيها فاخرج إنّك من الصغرين
    7:14 قال أنظرني إلى يوم يبعثون
    7:15 قال إنّك من المنظرين
    7:16 قال فبما أغويتني لأقعدنّ لكم صراطك

    (second page)
    7:16 المستقيم
    7:17 ثمّ لأتيناهم من بين أيديهم ومن خلفهم وعن أيمنهم وعن شمائلهم
    7:20 ما نهيكما ربّكم عن هذه الشجرة إلّا أن تكونا ملكين أو تكونا من الخالدين

    The first part is about God’s creation of Adam, when orders the angels to bow down to His new creation and Iblis (Satan) refuses, so he is cast down. The very last fragment depicts Iblis trying to persuade Adam and Eve to eat from the tree, saying that God only forbade them from doing so because it would turn them into angels or make them immortal.

  3. I’m not aware of any religious significance concerning the extinct dodo in Islam (sounds fascinating if in fact there is) so is this some sort of mock-up intended to appear to be an old Arabic encyclopedia or scientific manuscript for the tourist trade?

  4. In fact it is Quran indeed, but, for me as a Muslim, I don’t know the significance of the bird here as well!
    Quran is usually written and compiled with decorations but never images. This is the first time I see such a thing. I can put a full translation in English here as well (Pickthall version).

    The page on the right, on the very bottom in the margin, has the word وقاسمهما [wa qásamhumá] which is a word that starts the next page (not here). The word means (and he swore to both of them), meaning Satan swore to Adam and Eve (and the story goes on with Satan swearing that he is truthful to what he tells them).

    The calligraphy here is simple, but does not follow exactly the Uthmani convention that is usually used to write Quran. I was surprised here though with one word. Left page, line 3, last word (reading right to left). Here, the writer wrote Hamza but also put 2 dots under the tip. The word is “Al-Malá’ikah” (the angels). The correct writing for it is with Hamza, so it would be read as “i”. The writer added two dots as well making this letter to be read like “yi” as well and the word becomes “Al-Malayikah” which is actually a colloquial way of saying Hamza that developed in the late Islamic era and still exists till nowadays.

    Another notification here is that the holy phrases are not numbered but barely separated by red circles or dots. The page on the left, do not have also the starting word of the following page. As far as I remember, this might mean that the page on the right was to be found on the left-side of the book and vice versa, and from the sequence of the story, seems the page on the left is to come before the page on the right to be in correct order. [No, I’m not good at memorizing the holy book!].

    The bird seems to be a later addition, put them or stuck there, for some unknown reason for now!

  5. Such “manuscripts” are quite common here in the touristo markets of North India. These are modern-day creations on paper given the antique-treatment to appear old. Seemingly Mughal / Islamic scripts are juxtaposed onto some fascinating but badly executed miniature paintings. The texts are usually very very accurately reproduced in spite of the fact that the one creating them can not read them. Both the script and the words are usually correct. This is because the text is always “lifted” from pictures of some originally late-medieval / pre-modern manuscript.

    Usually, the creators of these patchwork pieces are semi-literate and have no idea of what the texts mean and nor would they wanted to be bothered by such nuances. They enjoy the profit on the sale of such manuscripts to tourists in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ajmer etc. and that’s how it is, and I suppose how it should be. Nevertheless it is an art form. A modern Indian commercial art form. Some pieces are genuinely beautiful and expensive as well. Never have I seen a painting from this genre in which the text relates to the image. But these are rare. Some national awards have also been given to the painters of such art forms.

    I have a piece from this genre in which a brilliant Blue peacock with open feathers straddles someUrdu (Naskh script) text on court procedures from the time of the East India Company. All made to look antique.

    I like this dodo piece. Quite nice.

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