Qu’ran Manuscripts in the Al-Haram Al-Sharif Islamic Museum, Jerusalem

Khader Salameh


Of the many ways in which Muslims through the ages have sought to express their faith, none is more impressive than that of Qur’anic calligraphy and illumination. The legacy of this elaborate art forms a comprehensive yet cohesive whole which has both assimilated and adapted to the cultural differences that exist over the vast distances separating the regions of the Islamic world. In this beautifully illustrated book Khader Salameh shows how the art has developed over time as he studies a selection of Qur’an manuscripts held in the al-Haram al-Sharif Islamic Museum in the al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem. These preserved copies of the Qur’an have been donated to the Mosque during various successive Islamic periods by individual Muslims, rulers, sultans, princes, ulama and others. They differ in size, calligraphy and ornamentation – such as gold inlaying – according to the technical and material resources available. The entries are arranged chronologically and identified by the name of the donor, if known , and by a museum registration number. Salameh gives a detailed account of each manuscript, including its date, dimensions, binding, illuminated opening pages and body text. He summarizes the contents of any notations, endowment texts or colophons and identifies any Qur’anic verses that feature in the illuminated panels. The book is richly illustrated with colour photographs showing every decorative element worthy of study. As well as a detailed study of the selected manuscripts, the book presents a general overview of the Museum’s holdings and provides a textual history of the Qur’an. It describes the four types of script used in Qur’an manuscripts, and also the different types of binding and illumination. Many rare pieces of note are included in the collection: the calligraphic kufic copy of the Qur’an dating back to the third/fourth century is the earliest example of this type of calligraphy and ornamentation; and the thirty-part Maghribi Rab’ah, bequeathed by Sultan Abu al-Hasan al-Marini of Morocco in AH 750, is the only manuscript remaining from the three collections that he dispatched to the mosques of the three most holy cities of Islam (Mecca, Madina and Jerusalem). In bringing these fascinating manuscripts to the attention of the world, Khader Salameh hopes to generate concern for their preservation before the passage of time takes its toll upon them. In conjunction with UNESCO, the director of the Islamic Museum and director of the al-Aqsa Mosque library Khader Salameh has written this book with the aim of drawing international attention to these fascinating manuscripts, in the hope that this will lead to concern for their preservation before the passage of time destroys them completely. He is also the author of several indexes of other Jerusalem manuscripts.