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'Hajj' pilgrimage certificate scroll, 14th century

This beautiful scroll from the 15th century commemorates the pilgrimage to Mecca of Maymunah. Illustrated with images of Mecca and other places of interest en route, it is a fascinating document that combines both religious and geographical information. The scroll attests that Maymunah, daughter of Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Zardali, made the pilgrimage to Mecca and visited the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in the year 836 AH (AD 1432 to 1433). The scroll as a whole depicts the principal stations of the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Prophet's tomb at Medina. Once in his or her lifetime every Moslem who is able to do so must journey to Mecca and perform the prescribed rites of hajj. This is always done in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, Dhu al-Hijjah, to which the pilgrimage had given its name. While the Prophet's tomb at Medina is not a prescribed part of the pilgrimage, pilgrims make use of their presence in Arabia to visit places associated with the Prophet. This scroll belongs to a tradition of illustration which was concerned to represent accurately, and in detail, the Moslem holy places, and the artist has accordingly depicted and labelled each of the tombs and other venerated landmarks. The portion of the scroll seen here shows, reading downwards: the sanctuary of the Ka'bah at Mecca, the hill al-Marwah (depicted as a series of concentric circles), the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina, and the sole of the Prophet's sandal, in which is written one of his sayings. The calligraphic bands of Arabic script are quotations from the Holy Qur'an concerning, among other things, the hajj.

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