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Muhammad's Call to Prophecy and the First Revelation: Folio from a manuscript of the Majma' al-Tawarikh (Compendium of Histories)
Present-day Afghanistan, Herat
Opaque watercolor, silver, and gold on paper, 16 7/8 x 13 1/4 in. (42.8 x 33.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Cora Timken Burnett Collection of Persian Miniatures and Other Persian Art Objects, Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956 (184.108.40.206)
KEY WORDS AND IDEAS
Birth of Islam, Mecca, Prophet Muhammad, Archangel Gabriel, revelation, figural painting
LINK TO THE THEME OF THIS UNIT
This manuscript page presents a scene from the life of the Prophet Muhammad.
A folio like this would have originally been part of a larger manuscript, in this case the Compendium of Histories (a chronicle of religious and historic events), written by Hafiz-i Abru in 1423. Rulers commissioned such manuscripts for distribution to educate their subjects.
This image depicts Muhammad's first revelation and is framed on the top and bottom by text in Persian that includes quotations from the Qur'an. In the top right of the composition, the Prophet sits upon Mount Hira, his head surrounded by a flaming halo as he looks toward the Archangel Gabriel, who stands below with outstretched arms and returns the Prophet's gaze. The illustration is remarkable for its bright, saturated colors and gold.
This illustration depicts Gabriel's first appearance to Muhammad. The Archangel commands Muhammad to recite God's word. Muhammad initially hesitated before he spoke God's message.
The text surrounding the image describes this crucial episode in the history of Islam—the first revelation and Muhammad's acceptance of his role as God's messenger:
Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created,
created Man of a blood-clot.
Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous,
who taught by the Pen,
taught Man what he knew not.
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History