ʻAbd al-Muṭṭalib, Grandfather of the Prophet Muḥammad, Kneels Before the Kabba in Mecca
Leaf from the Chester Beatty Āsār al-muẓaffar (A Life of Muḥammad)
Gift of the Trustees of the William S. Glazier Collection, 1984
The Kaaba (The Cube), the most sacred site in Islam, was, according to the Qur˒an, built by the prophet Abraham and Ismael, his son. Regardless of their location, Muslims always face the Kaaba during prayer. Since Muḥammad's father died nearly six months before his birth, he was brought up for two years with his paternal grandfather, ˓Abd al-Muṭṭalib, who died when Muḥammad was eight. His uncle, Abū ṭālib, custodian of the Kaaba, then looked after him. Here the Kaaba is covered with a black cloth (kiswa) decorated with the shahada (declaration of faith: There is no god but Allah, Muḥammad is the messenger of Allah) and ˓Alī is the friend of God. Before Muḥammad, there were 360 idols in the Kaaba. In another miniature in the Chester Beatty manuscript, he orders their destruction. The style of miniature, the circular composition, and the subject matter anticipate the Baghdad school of painting that flourished from about 1585 to 1605, and of which the Morgan life of Rūmī (MS M. 466) is a masterpiece.
Natural History and Astrology
The miniatures presented here derive primarily from two extraordinary Islamic manuscripts that depict the natural world and the heavens. The first, Manāfi˓-i hayavān (The Benefits of Animals), is considered one of the ten greatest surviving Persian manuscripts. It dates from the reign of Ghazan Khan (1295–1304), the Mongol ruler who ordered a Persian translation of the book, and concerns the nature and medicinal properties of humans, animals, birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. The other, Matāli˓ al-sa˓āda wa manābi˓ al-siyāda (The Ascension of Propitious Stars and Sources of Sovereign), was commissioned by Sultan Murād III (r. 1574–95), an Ottoman ruler deeply interested in astronomy, cosmology, demonology, poetry, and mysticism.