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Miniature Qur’an

Miniature Qur’an and Later Silver Case

Ink and pigment on paper
Ottoman or Persian (18th or 19th century AD)
Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library, Isl. Ms. 1067

This miniature copy of the Qur’an is made in an octagonal format. It fits snugly in the palm of a hand as well as within a pocket, thus maximizing physical intimacy for its potential owner and helping them read, memorize, and recite Islam’s holy text. Beyond the manuscript’s rendering of the Logos of God in minute Arabic-language “dust” (ghubar) script, the object’s talismanic power also increases with its diminution in size. Amulet-like, such miniature Qur’ans indeed were used as protective devices for both individuals and larger collectivities. Besides being carried in the palm of the hand or in a pocket, they also were affixed to military banners and standards, providing a symbolic shield for soldiers fighting on the battlefield. The silver case, with a hinged lid and clasp, that today “houses” the bound book is a later association. However, just like the Qur’an can provide symbolic protection for humans, this metal case similarly preserves the physical well-being of this small yet precious manuscript.

A short video showing the item being handled in the Special Collections Research Center.