Our correspondent visited the Holy Qur’an Exhibition in Madinah and shares the forms and styles the Muslim religious book has taken over the years, including a 55kg Qur’an hand embroided with 25,000 metres of thread over a period of 30 years by a Pakistani woman.
For centuries, Muslims have viewed the Holy Qur’an as the actual words of Allah, revealed to His Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him.
As such, the book has been held in great esteem. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than at The Holy Qu’ran Exhibition Centre, a short distance from Masjid Nabawiyy, the prophet’s mosque in Madinah. Since its establishment about three years ago, about five million people from across the globe have visited the centre.
Millions of pilgrims have been visiting the centre to learn more about the Holy Qur’an, its miraculous nature and benefits, its different names and copies, as well as virtues of reading it, considered an act of worship by millions of Muslims around the world.
Nigerian pilgrims have been trooping to the centre to see the various copies of the Holy Qur’an in different languages on display at the centre.
From the historical information provided by the centre, the Arabs were known for their high level of rhetoric and eloquent self-expression, and this was taken to another level by the Qur’an, revealed through an unschooled Prophet Muhammad.
This centre enables the visitors to not only appreciate that the Holy Qur’an has linguistic, scientific, and legislative miracles but also the Holy Qur’an Library which comprises a large number of Qur’anic manuscripts totaling 1,878 Qur’an copies and 84 Rab’ahs (a rab’ah is a Qur’anic manuscript divided into 30 parts).
In the centre is a rare embroidered Mus’haf written and designed on rich fabric by Mrs Nassem Akhtar of Pakistan, who spent 32 years to produce the exhibit.
Mrs Akhtar, a Pakistani, started working on it in August of 1987 when she was 30 and completed it in January 2018. She spent 15 years in writing, 17 in embroidering. It took approximately 300 metres of Irish KT fabric and 25,000 metres of thread to cover the entire Mus’haf. The compilation consists of 10 bindings, each containing three parts (Ajza). The estimated weight of the total Mus’haf is 55kg. All the bindings are roughly 56 cm in length and 38 cm in width. There are 24 pages in each binding with the exception of the last one, which has 28 pages whilst every page of the Mus’haf has 15 lines. The final work was revised and checked by the Certified Reciter, Ihsanullah Bakistani. The writer endowed the Mus’haf to the Holy Qur’an Exhibition in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah on the 10th of Muharam, 1440AH.
Among the treasures on display, visitors also see the copy of the Holy Qur’an attributed to Caliph ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, (may Allah be pleased with him). The handwritten text is in the old version of kufi script and had been kept in Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, Turkey. There is also a copy of the Qur’an handwritten in Ar-Rayhaanee script by ibn Mu’aafaat Umar ibn Muhammad in 842AH/1438CE (size 29 by 29 cm) handwritten 598 years ago. As well as a 952 years-old rare and very old copy of the Qur’an handwritten in Al-Maghribee script on deer skin by Ali ibn Muhammad Al-Batalyoosee in 488AH/1095CE.
There is also a very old and rare copy of the Holy Qur’an handwritten in An-Naskh and Ath-Thulut scripts by Abu Sa’d Muhammad ibn Ismaa’eel ibn Muhammad Al-Khattaal in 549AH/1154CE, among numerous others.
The centre also houses an old and rare Mus’haf exquisitely decorated with gold and other natural colours written by Hafiz Ismail Hakki in 1243AH, handwritten 197 years ago; as well as an old and rare Mus’haf written in Ath-Thulth script by Ahmad Al-Hadidi in 971AH (Ad-doury narration). This Mus’haf is said to stand out for its size, font, narration, and professional binding.
Visitors will also get the chance to see a photocopy of the one and only Mus’haf written by Ali bin Hilal, who was famously known as ibnul-bawwab in 391AH/927AD. Its verses are written in An-Naskh script. The beginnings, endings, verses, and chapter titles are decorated and gilded. The original manuscript of the photocopy is said to be in Chester Beatly Library in Dublin handwritten 1, 049 years ago.
The epic centre also has an old and rare Mus’haf written in An-Naskh script in 1038AH, also translated into Persian. The Mus’haf is said to stand out for its magnificent decorations, bright colours, excellent gildings and coloured writings.
Also on display at the centre is a unique and rare Mus’haf written by Mulla Abdullah Shaah in 1303AH, said to be different because of its decorations and wonderful binding.
The exhibition also showcases a copy of the Qur’an handwritten in An-Naskh script in 1132AH/1720CE (size 24 by 15cm), handwritten 308 years ago. It was endowed by Moulvi Abdul-Wahhaab Lucknowl in 1309AH/1892CE. Exquisite decorations charaterise some of its pages.
Besides, visitors get simple tip to distinguish between Makkee and Madanee Qur’anic revelations as Muslim scholars say any verse revealed before the Prophet’s migration to Madinah (Hijrah) is considered Makkee, while anyone revealed after the hijrah is considered Madanee without considering the actual place of revelation.
With the Qur’an revealed in batches to the prophet over the course of 23 years. After his death, ‘Umar ibn Khattaab advised Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq, the first caliph, to compile the text and have it written down for fear that it might be lost as a result of the death of a large numbers of the Prophet’s Companions who had memorized it.
Zayd ibn Thaabit, may Allah be pleased with him, was charged with the task of collecting the entire Qur’an in one manuscript for a number of factors. He was the primary scribe of the Prophet, as well as the most knowledgeable companion regarding the recitation of the Qur’an. He memorized the entire Qur’an during the Prophet’s lifetime and was present at the time of the Prophet’s last recitation of the Qur’an to Jibreel, peace be upon him.
Zayd ibn Thaabit, may Allah be pleased with him, undertook the strenuous task of authenticating and collecting the oral and textual Qur’anic revelations into a single bounded volume. He collected the Qur’anic revelations from the different writing materials as well as from the memories of men. After completing the task, Zayd left the prepared sheets with Abu Bakr.
Before he died, Abu Bakr left the sheets with ‘Umar who in turn left them with his daughter Hafsah, may Allah be pleased with her. ‘Uthmaan later obtained the manuscript of the Qur’an from her. The written copy of the Qur’an was called a mus-haf (literarily meaning a collection of loose papers).
Ali ibn Abu Taalib, may Allah be pleased with him, the third-Rightly-Guided Capliph and the Leader of the Faithful, said, “The one with the greatest reward for the written copies of the Qur’an is Abu Bakr, May Allah have mercy on Abu Bakr. He was the first to collect the Book of Allah in one single volume.
It is such a treasure to see this text, once collected on parchments and animal shoulder blades, now being displayed in the most regal fashion.