Lower Manhattan Tries to ‘Flesh Out’ Knowledge of Islam

The place to start this noble quest should be inside the Koran. Instead, those seeking knowledge will gather at Poets House to discuss Rumi (1207-1273), an “Afghan Muslim and a Sufi mystic – one of the most widely read poets in the United States.” Rumi lived almost 70 years so we know he wasn’t a suicide bomber.

A rare, illustrated manuscript depicting episodes from Rumi’s life is one of the centerpieces of an exhibit that just opened at the Morgan Library called “Treasures of Islamic Manuscript Painting.” The manuscript, translated from a Persian account of Rumi’s life into Turkish, was commissioned by the Ottoman sultan Murad III in 1590. Only two illustrated copies of the Murad translation exist. The other is in Istanbul.

There are 84 manuscripts in the Morgan Library exhibit. Two large, magnificent pages from a 16th-century Qur’an are at the exhibit entrance. But there are also many secular manuscripts. “The Persians loved their poetry and their poets,” said William Voelkle, Curator and Department Head of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, who organized the exhibit.

Nizami’s “Khamsa,” which dates from the 12th century, was a popular subject. In part, it tells the tale of a sultan who married seven princesses, each of whom entertained him with stories, one for each night of the week. Each princess came from a different country and was associated with a different color and a planet. The Morgan has a brilliant set of illustrations showing the princesses and the sultan, each page, a riff on a different color.

There are also illustrations of another beloved Nizami poem that tells of the doomed love between Laila and Qais, the children of two great chieftains. When Qais saw Laila for the first time, he fell instantly in love with her and could never love anyone else. People said he behaved like a madman and called him “majnun,” (madman), which became the name by which he was known. After many tribulations, Laila and Majnun died and were buried together. The story in the “Khamsa” is based on two real seventh-century lovers. Source: DowntownExpress

 So Islam has it’s own Romeo and Julietta, and a lot of stunningly beautiful romance. Tragic that we see none of it in real life. Fairytales without real life equivalents.


  • Funny that they would choose a manuscript illustrated with pictures of people – strictly against Islamic rules – to learn about Islam.

    Mohammed said that those who make pictures (of living things) usurp Allah, and for punishment will spend eternity trying without success to breath life into their creations.

    They should instead read “The Reliance of the Traveler, a Classic Manual of Sacred Islamic Law.” That will “flesh out” their knowledge of Islam, and instead of only two copies being available, they can get their own on Amazon.com.