7.3.3 Folios from a Qur'an Manuscript
This manuscript was created of paper and of an angular script known as "new style script". In both its medium and calligraphy, these folios reveal the increasing cultural pull of the eastern edge of the Islamic world, a decided shift from the earlier, Mediterranean- focus of the first Islamic centuries
At sites of encounter, one way people interact is by spreading ideas (such as religions, books, and languages) and technologies (inventions, or methods of making objects). This visual shows a page of a manuscript (a handwritten book) of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. A scribe in Isfahan, Persia, copied it in 993 CE. It is in Arabic, not Persian. The words in Arabic go from right to left. This book was written on paper made in the Abbasid Caliphate. This is important, because paper was invented in China, and someone carried the technology along the Silk Roads (either overland or by sea) to the Abbasid Caliphate around this time. Many people in the Abbasid Caliphate wanted to read books, so there was a huge market. The style of handwriting (calligraphy) is in a new Persian style. The words of the text also show interaction — of different religions. Noah was an important figure in both Judaism and Christianity. Muslims see him as a prophet, along with Moses, Jesus, Abraham, and Muhammad. What can historians learn from this source about interaction in the Abbasid Caliphate?
invoked: called on
in a matter already predestined: in a way that God had seen before it happened
planks: wooden boards
Students should recognize that this folio is evidence of the spread to Persia of the religion of Islam, the Arabic language, and the technology for making paper. The excerpt itself is evidence of the interaction of three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Persians already had their own written language, and they continued to use it. However, like all Muslims in the caliphate, they learned Arabic as well. On another folio, the scribe recorded the date following the Muslim calendar “AH Ramadan 383, ” meaning the 383rd year after the Hegira (Muhammad’s trip to Medina) during the holy month of Ramadan. The script of this Quran is known as the “new style script, ” reflecting both the cultural influence of the eastern part of the Islamic world and the creativity of the early Abbasid caliphate. This script is more angular than the simple kufic script used in earlier centuries. The Abbasids oversaw a huge expansion of book production and dissemination, in part due to their use of paper, whose manufacture was cheaper than making parchment or papyrus. Baghdad was a center for producing books, but so were other towns, such as Isfahan. The Abbasids opened up power and culture in the Islamic Caliphate to people who were Muslim but not necessarily Arab (from the Arabian peninsula). The rich cultural heritage of the Persians combined with Arab, Roman, and Byzantine culture from the Mediterranean region.
[Before them], the people of Noah called our servant a liar and said “[he is] a madman,” and he was bullied.
So he invoked his Lord and said, “I am indeed defeated, so show your victory.”
So we opened the gates of Heaven with rain pouring down.
And caused the earth to burst with springs, and the waters (of the earth and the sky) met in a matter already predestined.
And we carried him on [an ark with planks and nails].