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The Night Journey of The Prophet Muhammad (Mi'raj)

The Night Journey of The Prophet Muhammad (Mi'raj): Folio from the Bustan (Orchard) of Sa'di
About 1525–35
Calligrapher: Sultan Muhammad Nur (about 1472–about 1536)
Penned in present-day Afghanistan, probably Herat
Illustrated in present-day Uzbekistan, probably Bukhara, 1530–35
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; painting: 7 1/2 x 5 in. (19 x 12.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund and the Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 1974 (1974.294.2)

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KEY WORDS AND IDEAS
Birth of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Buraq (celestial steed), manuscript, mihrab (prayer niche), figural painting

LINK TO THE THEME OF THIS UNIT
From a sixteenth-century manuscript of a thirteenth-century literary work, this painting depicts one of the most spiritual and revered episodes in Muhammad's life—his ascension to Heaven.

FUNCTION
The Bustan (Orchard) of Sa'di, one of the great works of Persian literature, contains moral advice and illustrated anecdotes. Like other folios featuring the Prophet, this image teaches followers about his life. It was once part of a richly illustrated and illuminated (gilded) manuscript of poetic verses commissioned for private use by a ruler or other wealthy patron.

DESCRIPTION/VISUAL ANALYSIS
The Prophet Muhammad is mounted on the celestial steed Buraq at the center of the composition. They ascend to the heavens, guided by the Archangel Gabriel. The illustration clearly distinguishes between the heavenly world of angels and golden clouds, and the earthly world below, where three figures are asleep in a mosque.

CONTEXT
Painted by Muslim artists for a Muslim patron, this image portrays the Prophet unveiled, a practice now deemed blasphemous by conservative religious authorities. Throughout Islamic history, however, artists depicted the Prophet both with and without a face veil.

LEARN MORE
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
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Muhammad's Call to Prophecy and the First Revelation: Folio from a manuscript of the Majma' al-Tavarikh

The lesson plan related to Islam and Religious Art features a fifteenth-century manuscript folio.