This extraordinary hilye is a reproduction of a late-period Ottoman naskhi calligraphic piece by Yahya Hilmi composed in 1871. It is a completely unique piece since it focuses solely on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
The wonderful heart of the artist, Yahya Hilmi Efendi (1833–1907), is reflected in a story about his life. On an occasion when he was preparing to go on Hajj, his mother yearned to join him. Not having the finances to afford the pilgrimage trip for both of them, he spent 26 days of Ramadan scripting the Holy Qur’an. Upon its completion, his mother took his work to a wealthy buyer and received a 7,500-kuruş gift in return for it. Thus, she was able to accompany her son on Hajj.
In terms of design, the top band, above the Basmala (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful), is the hadith reported by Sayidna Ali which reads:
He who sees my hilye after me, it is as if he has actually seen me, and he who sees it out of love and desire for me, God will forbid the fire of Hell to touch him; he will be safe from the trials of the grave, and he will not be sent forth naked on the day of resurrection.
Unlike most hilyes, the ovals surrounding the central composition are the 4 names of the Messenger of God ﷺ: Muhammad (Highly Praised), Ahmad (The Most Commendable), Hamid ( Praising), and Mahmood (Praised). The main roundel and lower rectangular describes, in a most beautiful way, the Prophetic character. Yahya Hilmi Efendi was one of only two well-known 19th-century artists to use narrations about the Prophet ﷺ that had never been used before. In this case, he uses the hadith by Abu Hurairah which traces back the narration to Imam Ali.
The central band, in large script, consists of the Shahada: There is no deity but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.
The schematic imagery employed in this hilye is celestial. The central circular, containing the hadith text, symbolizes the sun. Like the sun, for the world, is the main light-emitting body, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was chosen amongst all humanity to receive the final revelation and to spread God's light and truth. As Shaykh Sanaan describes the Prophet from a vision:
At dawn there came a musk-diffusing breeze, And in his heart he knew all mysteries. He saw the Prophet, lovely as the moon, Whose face, Truth’s shadow, was the sun at noon, Whose hair in two black heavy braids was curled – Each hair, a hundred times, outpriced the world.
Details of the Ottoman hilya sharif reproduction by Yahya Hilmi
۩ Country of Origin: Ottoman Turkey
۩ Time Period: 1871
۩ Artist: Yahya Hilmi
۩ Size: Approximately 46 x 34 cm (including frame)
۩ Print: High-quality matte print and detail finishings