If the wind had taken me to you,
I would have held tight to the skirts of the wind.
I miss you so much that I would fly to you faster than a bird;
But how can a bird with a clipped wing fly?
This exquisite and elegant hilye, which describes the physical and moral traits of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, is a reproduction of an Ottoman calligraphic piece composed and signed by Ismail Zuhdi Efendi in 1801. The illuminated polychrome floral and arabesque designs, with an emphasis on gold, contribute to the majesty of this artwork.
Ismail Zühdi (d. 1806) was born in Unye, on the Black Sea, and then moved to Istanbul, as a child, to learn the Quran. As his craft developed, he became appointed an instructor of calligraphy at the Imperial Palace. Along with his brother, Mustafa Râkim, he develop a script style of jali thuluth that was aesthetically pleasing, something that other calligraphers had not been able to do. Approximately forty Qurans copied by him have been preserved. The inscriptions on the mausoleum of the companion of the Prophet ﷺ, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, were written by him.
In the style of Hafiz Osman who developed the standard layout of the hilye, this beautiful artwork starts with the Basmallah, 'In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate'.
The main roundel and the bottom large rectangular consist of the well-known saying of Imam Ali as expressed in Al-Tirmidhi's Shamā'il Muhammadiyyah:
The Prophet was neither excessively tall nor extremely short. He was of medium height. His hair was neither curly nor wavy. It was not too curly nor was it straight. It was both curly and wavy. His face was not swollen or meaty. It was fairly round. His mouth was white. He had black eyes that were large with long lashes. His joints were rather large. He had little hairs that stood up, extending from his chest down to his navel, but the rest of his body was almost hairless. He had thick palms and thick fingers and toes. When walking, he lifted his feet off the ground as if he were walking in muddy water. When he turned, he turned completely. The Seal of Prophethood was between his shoulders. That was the sign of the fact that he was the last Prophet.
Surrounding the central text are the names of the four Sunni Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman, and Ali.
The large band below the crescented circular contains the Quranic verse [21:107]
from Surah al-Anbiya (الأنبياء