The Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā belongs to a common genre of Islamic literature that relates the stories of various prophets in the Islamic tradition. This particular manuscript attests to the transmission of these stories to Central Asia. Qāzī Nāsir ibn Burhān Rabghūzī first composed the text in the 14th century. This is the earliest version of it in the British Library’s holdings.

The manuscript

The manuscript folios are made of paper, occasional sheets of which are blue. The text is copied out in black ink, with red headwords, in the naskh style of Arabic calligraphy. Although the binding is a Western one, parts of the original leather cover have been preserved.

Why is it so important?

The Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā is remarkable for two reasons. First, this manuscript represents the transmission in a Central Asian context of Islamic texts about the Prophets, from Adam to Jesus and finally Muhammad. The original text speaks to a rejuvenation of Central Asian Islamic culture after the devastating Mongol invasion and occupation. Secondly, the language of the Qiṣaṣ is unique in reflecting the beginnings of the Chagatai literary language. From the 15th to 19th centuries, Chagatai, together with Persian, was the language of literature and the state across Central Asia.