A deluxe copy of the Majālis al-ʻushshāq (‘Assemblies of lovers’), a collection of seventy-six biographies of Sufi saints and others by Kamāl al-Dīn Gāzurgāhī.
The Majālis al-ʻushshāq was completed in 908 (1502/3) by Kamāl al-Dīn Gāzurgāhī who was writing in Herat during the rule of the Timurid Sultan Husayn Bayqara (r. 1469–1506) – to whom this work has sometimes been attributed. Written at a time when Sufi ideas were prevalent, it describes love as typified by the story of Yusuf and Zulaykha, followed by the lives of seventy-six famous mystics, poets and rulers. The overlying message is that true spiritual love cannot be reached without having first understood earthly longing.
Around the middle of the 16th century illustrated copies of the Majālis al-ʻushshāq began to be produced, like this one, in Shiraz under the Safavids. This copy contains a beautifully illuminated opening (f. 1v, digitised image 1) in addition to forty-nine paintings. Several illustrate the life of the prophet Yusuf – his prophetic status emphasised by the flames around his head – as in the example shown here (f. 26v, digitised image 2) which shows him being sold at market as a slave. Other paintings depict the Kaʻbah in Mecca, surrounded by worshippers (f. 29r, digitised image 3); Layla and Majnun at school (f. 189r, digitised image 7) and the literary giants Hāfiẓ (f. 108r, digitised image 4), Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (f. 113r, digitised image 5) and Jāmī (f. 174v, digitised image 6).
This copy was probably produced as a diplomatic gift for export to India as an inscription on the flyleaf mentions that it belonged to the royal library of Ibrahim ʻAdil Shah II who ruled Bijapur from 1580 to 1627.