Continuing my last post, this is another installment of my series of articles of my visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last year with my family.
Just across the India Gallery, past the stone Jharokha sculpture, is another gallery, which now focuses on a theme that is close to any good Muslim – the Al Qur’an. The book, revealed almost a thousand and five hundred years ago by Allah to His prophet, Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) is an enduring inspiration to Muslims right from the revelation to the present. This gallery showcases some of the best samples of illuminated Al Qur’an, as well as few select manuscripts collected from all around the Islamic world.
The gallery is notably larger than the first three galleries we had visited – it is like both China and the Malay World galleries combined. The artifacts were placed around a large hall in glass cabinets and against the walls. Similar to the Malay World Gallery, the gallery hall is decorated with an ornamental dome.
My parents were buzzing from one display to another quickly I didn’t had much time to spend on the manuscripts individually. Understandably, they weren’t as interested much as I did, because perhaps the very idea of art in any form is quite alien for them. I was making ooh and aahs sounds quite audibly, aided by the domed space of the hall. I never seen illuminated manuscripts on display in one place before in my life!
Many, if not all of the manuscripts, are illuminated, meaning they are decorated with gold. Each of them glimmering in the soft lights that illuminates the decorated dome above. Richly decorated pages of the Qur’an are displayed around the gallery, each with unique patterns and arabesques and painted with reds and blues. Most of them are propped open on the first pages of the Qur’an, on the first Sura or chapter, the Al Fathihah.
The Qur’an is an object of devotion for Muslims – they read it to learn the wisdom of God, for they believe it is the very word of God himself. Hence, the most important art form in the Islamic world is the art of Calligraphy, of beautiful handwriting, for copying the words of the Divine.
‘God is Beautiful, and He loves beauty’ thus, beautifying the writing, and making Qur’an a beautiful object with illumination, it is also another form of devotion.
An illuminated manuscript showing the plan of the Great Mosque in Mecca.
There were also many manuscripts being displayed other than Al Qur’an. Some are illuminated with gold, some have figures and diagrams on them. As I said before, I didn’t have much time to study each of them because my parents were jumping from one display to another very quickly. However, I can see some of them were prayer books, instructions and guides to do certain prayers such as the Haj, as well as books on religious subjects such as Fiqh (Islamic Law).
Light blue ornamental dome above the gallery hall
And again, all of the displays were under a beautiful decorated dome, similar to the Malay World Gallery, but on the opposite end of the colour spectrum – while the Malay World galley have warm amber coloured dome, the Qur’an and Manuscript gallery features a soothing calm light blue dome.