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Antique Indian Manuscript leaf from 1840: Surat Yunus (Jonah)


Item Number: 631
Manuscript Leaflet: Surat Yūnus (Jonah)
Age: 1840
Origin: India
Size: 180 x 130 mm
Size including frame: 285 x 230 mm
Languages: Arabic
Frame: Dark brown wood
Mount: Green
 Detailed Description:
This fine leaf is from an excellently preserved, circa 1840 Koran, scribed in Kashmir about the time of Queen Victoria came to the throne of England. The script is in naskh on highly burnished paper, which has helped to preserve the manuscript in such a fine state. The layout incorporates the typical marginal devices to which the Kashmir scribes are devoted. Neat gold floral devices embellish the corners of each page.
Yūnus is the first in a series of six sūrah s whose opening verses include the letters alif, lām, and rāʾ, and which speak of the Book. With the possible exception of vv. 40, 94– 96, which are said to have been revealed in Madinah, this sūrah in all likelihood belongs to the early Makkan period, as the context of some of the verses seems to suggest a date near to the beginning of the Prophet’s mission. Some say it is to be dated sometime after the Prophet’s Night Journey and Ascension (al-isrāʾ wa’l-miʿ rāj).

One of this sūrah’s main arguments, in response to the Makkan idolaters’ accusations, is that the Quran is of Divine Origin and the Prophet had no hand in composing it. Several verses decry the disbelievers’ labeling the Prophet a manifest sorcerer (v. 2) and saying that he has fabricated it (v. 38). The sūrah also argues that the real fabricators are those who reject God, and for them there awaits a terrible reckoning in the next life (vv. 60, 69). Their lie against God is related to the fact that they deny their own true nature, which is to believe in and serve God. The sūrah describes how even disbelievers manifest this true belief in God when affliction befalls them and they are left with no one to turn to except God; however, when they are safe, they forget God, return to their old ways, and are again left to their own machinations (vv. 22– 23).

Another key theme of this sūrah is its response to the challenges made by the Makkan idolaters that the Prophet should hasten to bring upon them the Punishment of God if he is truthful in his claims (v. 11), or that he should bring a different Quran that does not condemn their gods and is thus more congenial to their ways of worship (vv. 15– 17).

A good deal of emphasis is placed in this sūrah on the teaching that the ultimate return of all creatures is to God, just as their creation originated with Him (v. 56). Although the meeting with God after death is considered to be inevitable, those who are given only to the life of this world and who serve their various false gods will be punished for their disbelief (vv. 7, 52). Likewise, glad tidings (v. 2) are promised to the believers (see also vv. 4, 62– 64, 103), who are encouraged to be patient with the hardships through which the disbelievers put them (v. 109). It is the believers who will be engulfed in peace (v. 10), which is confirmed in God’s calling people to the Abode of Peace (v. 25).

Another key theme is the futility of conjecture (vv. 36, 60, 66). Thus, the sūrah condemns such things as the Makkans’ belief in false gods as well as their anticipated intercession in the affairs of this world, when, in reality, intercession is only by God’s Leave and false gods have no role in the spiritual economy of things (vv. 3, 18). This is why in the Hereafter the false gods will reject those who used to serve them (vv. 28– 29), especially because these false gods have no ability to create or guide others (vv. 34– 35). Rather, God is the only One Who can provide for His creatures (v. 31).

The sūrah also addresses the question of why guidance, which is considered to have a universal resonance, is received so differently. The answer is that disbelievers are opposed to the truth from the beginning and thus are not willing to listen (vv. 96– 97, 101). Yet, like those who turn to God when affliction visits them but who revert to their old ways once they are safe, there are people, like Pharaoh in v. 90, who will eventually acknowledge the truth, but too late. Ultimately, guidance is dependent upon God, and none can guide those who are misguided (vv. 42– 43, 99, 100).

The sūrah ends by recounting the stories of Noah (vv. 71– 73) and Moses (vv. 75– 93). Unlike the communities of Noah, Moses, and other previous prophets, the people of the prophet Jonah (from mention of whom in v. 98 the sūrah receives its name) heeded the warning of their prophet and thereby averted punishment. This serves to illustrate to the Makkans and, by extension, people in general that it is not too late to accept the truth, and that if they do so, they will benefit themselves and avert punishment. 


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