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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Blue Qur’an (MET)

Folio Blue Quran Met 2004.88

Blue Qur’an

This leaf is from the 600 paged Blue Qur’an which is a one-thousand-year-old Fatimid Caliphate Qur’an manuscript in Kufic calligraphy. Created in North Africa for the Great Mosque of Kairouan also known as the Mosque of Uqba in Tunisia, it is written in gold and decorated in silver on vellum coloured with indigo. It is among the most famous works of Islamic calligraphy.

The original manuscript of approximately 600 pages was dispersed during the Ottoman period. Today most of it is located in the National Institute of Art and Archaeology Bardo National Museum in Tunis, with detached folios in various museums worldwide. This leaf from the Blue Qur’an shows the Sura 30: 28–32. Each sura’s verses is inked in gold on rich indigo.  The Blue Qur’an was a display of the Fatimid dynasty’s wealth, power, and while emulating the purple parchment used for Byzantine Imperial manuscripts, it also sought to surpass their rival’s in the Byzantine Empire.

The Fatimid Caliphate was an Islamic caliphate that spanned a large area of North Africa, from the Red Sea in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The Fatimids claimed descent from Fatimah, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In 921 the Fatimids established the Tunisian city of Mahdia as their new capital. In 948 they shifted their capital to Al-Mansuriya, near Kairouan in Tunisia. Later in 969 they conquered Egypt and established Cairo as the capital of their caliphate.

After the creation of the Blue Qur’an during the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Fatimid caliphate declined and in 1171 Saladin invaded its territory. He incorporated the Fatimid state into the Abbasid Caliphate.

Reflections

  • Islamic calligraphy is the artistic practice based upon the alphabet in the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. What types of Islamic arts use calligraphy?

Explore Islamic Art Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Blue Qur’an

  • Title:                 Blue Qur’an
  • Date:                 9th century–10th century
  • Culture:            Fatimid Tunisian Qur’an manuscript in Kufic calligraphy
  • Medium:          Gold and silver on indigo-dyed parchment
  • Dimensions:     Height: 30.4 cm (11.9 in); Width: 40.2 cm (15.8 in)
  • Museum:          Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

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“That person is not a perfect Muslim who eateth his fill, and leaveth his neighbours hungry.”
– Muhammad

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Photo Credit: [CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

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