Sultan Baybars' Qur'an

This Qur'an was produced in Cairo and is named after the Mamluk ruler Rukn al-Din Baybars al-Jashnagir (r.1309) who commissioned it.  It is the earliest dated Qur'an of the Mamluk period and is written throughout in gold, a rare choice of colour, usually reserved for ornamental headings.

Who was Sultan Baybars?

At the time of the Qur'an's production, Ruk al-Din Baybars was not yet sultan but high chamberlain in the court of al-Nasir Muhammad (r.1299 - 1340). Only later, between 1309 and 1310, did he acquire the title of al-Muzaffar Baybars, or Sultan Baybars II.

What is a Qur'an?

The Qur'an is the sacred book of Islam. According to Muslim belief, it contains the word of God as revealed to the archangel Jibril (Gabriel) to the Prophet Muhammad in the Arabic language. Muhammad is believed to be the last in a long line of prophets stretching back to Abraham, from whom all Christians and Jews also claim descent. Muslim tradition has it that Muhammad received the divine revelation between 610 and his death in 632.

The text of the Qur'an is traditionally read aloud, as instructed in the very first revelation that Muhammad received: 'Recite in the name of your Lord'. The word Qur'an comes from the Arabic verb 'to recite'.

What is special about this Qur'an?

The calligraphic script used in this Qur'an is thuluth, written throughout in gold. This was a rare choice for copying an entire Qur'an, as it was generally used for ornamental headings. The calligrapher was Muhammad ibn al-Wahid and this Qur'an is the only surviving example of his work. The Baybars Qur'an was sumptuously illuminated by a team headed by the master illuminator Abu Bakr, who was also known as Sandal. It presents the sacred text in seven volumes - a rare arrangement - each containing a sub' (seventh) of the Qur'an text. Each volume has a magnificent double frontispiece, these carpet pages being illuminated in the Mamluk style by extensive use of geometric patterns and gold filigree work.

Taken from: Sultan Baybars' Qur'an (Chapter 1 - al-Fatihah)
Date: 1304-06
Copyright: By permission of the British Library
Shelfmark: BL Add. MS 22406, ff. 2v-3