Aga Khan Library Collection

The items on display from the Aga Khan Library include a verse (98:8) from the Qurʾan, the Muslim Holy Scripture, as well as selections from two poetic works, Manṭiq al-Ṭayr (The Conference of the Birds) of Farīd al-Din ʿAttār (ca. 1142–1220) and Bāl-i Jibrīl (Gabriel’s Wing) of Muhammad Iqbal. While the verse chosen from the Qur’an gives us a glimpse of the Quranic description of paradise, the other two selected works highlight the metaphorical and allegorical usage of the concept of paradise in Muslim poetic literature.

Qurʾan Manuscript

Verso and recto pages from a Quran manuscript open at Sūra 98. Sūrat al-Qayyima/al-Bayyina.

The folios are from the second volume of a two-volume Quranic manuscript completed on 14 Shaʿbān 1302/1884 by the scribe, Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Ṣinhājī al-Fāsī (d. 1915).
Place: Morocco
Date: 1302/1884
Accession No.: AKL-Qur001

The Qurʾanic descriptions of paradise are manifold and appear in over 150 of verses. However, the basic term for the concept is Janna meaning Garden, epitomised in verse 98:8: “Their reward is with Allah: Gardens of Eternity, Beneath which rivers flow; They will dwell therein For ever; Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him. All this for such as Fear their Lord and Cherisher [tr. Abdullah Yusuf Ali].”

Manṭiq al-Ṭayr (The Conference of the Birds)

Author: ʻAṭṭār, Farīd al-Dīn, 1114–1220
Publication: Tehran: Kitābkhānah va maṭbaʻah-i ʿilmī, 1356 [1937]
Accession No: AKL Farhad Daftary Collection PK6451.F4 P477 1937

This lithograph edition of Manṭiq al-Ṭayr (the Conference of the Birds) was published in Iran in 1356/1937 and has come to the Aga Khan Library as part of a donation from Dr Farhad Daftary.

For the believer, life is a journey and the ultimate reward for a life well-lived is being granted a place in paradise and meeting the Supreme Master. In his masterpiece the famous Persian Sufi poet, Farīd al-Din ʿAttār (ca. 1142–1220), tells the story of the journey of the soul’s ascent to God through an allegory of birds in their search for enlightenment from their Supreme Master.

Bāl-i Jibrīl (Gabriel’s Wing)

Author: Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938)
Calligraphy: ʿAbdul Majīd Parvīn Raqam, (1891–1949)
Accession No.: AKL RBK PK2199 .I65 B287

Originally, published in 1935, this special handwritten edition of Bāl-i Jibrīl was produced by the famous calligrapher, ʿAbdul Majīd Parvīn Raqam (1891–1949), one of the few high profile calligraphers personally selected by Iqbal for his work. The copy on display was originally presented in 1958 by the Iqbal Academy, Lahore, to Professor Annemarie Schimmel (1922–2003) and was part of her private collection that she bequeathed to the Aga Khan Library through her student, now Professor Ali Asani of Harvard.

Bāl-i Jibrīl arguably represent the apogee of Iqbal’s poetry and occupies a very important position in the corpus of his works. The collection of poetry contains odes, quatrains and poems with specific titles.

In the poem, on display, Mulla aur Bahisht (Priest and Paradise), Iqbal complains to God (Allah) that a priest does not deserve the supreme place in paradise. A priest will not know how to appreciate the peace and blessings of paradise (janna) as all he knows is how to create divisions and sow hatred.