Israel’s National Library Exhibits 30 Ancient Koran Manuscripts to Celebrate Ramadan

July 14, 2013 10:44 am 8 comments

12th century Koran displayed on Israel's National Library website during Ramadan. Photo: Israel's National Library .

Israel’s National Library has curated a special digital display of 30 rare Koran manuscripts that date from the 9th through the 19th centuries to mark the start last week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The manuscripts are part of the NLI collection, which includes 2,400 manuscripts in the Arabic script, and over 100 manuscripts of the Koran.

Ha’aretz reports that one page, dating from the early 16th century, is particularly noteworthy. “It’s amazing – truly one of the most beautiful Korans in our possession,” Dr. Raquel Ukeles, curator of the Islamic and Middle East collection at the library, told the daily.

The first page of most Korans is illustrated and decorative, while other pages are plain black and white, says Ukeles. “In this Koran, however, each page is a work of art, a royal manuscript,” she says.

Handwritten in Persian, it contains a small seal indicating that it came from the private library of the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, father of Suleiman “The Magnificent” who rebuilt Jerusalem’s city walls in the 16th century.

The Koran was looted by Selim I’s forces during the conquest of the city of Tabriz and then brought to the market in centuries later Istanbul, when the Sultan’s family was disintegrating and in need of quick cash.

The emphasis on 30 Korans reflects one of the central rituals performed during the month of Ramadan: a daily reading of one section  in order to complete the recitation of the Koran by the end of Ramadan. The Library will highlight a different Koran each day throughout the month. Each Koran will be displayed with a link to the full digitized text. ​​​

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