This exquisite hilye, which is a calligraphic composition of the physical and character attributes of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, was scribed by the Ottoman master calligrapher Mehmed Tahir Efendi (d. 1845). Mehmed Tahir was one of the most brilliant and important students of Mahmud Celalüddin. He is often recognized as having surpassed his teacher in writing the jali script. His fame and skill were such that he became the calligrapher master of Abdulmejid I (r.1839-1861) and then the children of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (r. 1876-1909).
The diagrammatic form of this hilye is composed in the standard layout attributed to the Ottoman calligrapher Hafiz Osman (d 1698). It presents the descriptive text as narrated by Imam Ali in a central roundel that is outlined by a crescent and enclosed in a rectangle. The text continues in an oblong panel at the foot of the page.
The text reads:
Ali said the following things when he described the Prophet: ‘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.’” Prophet Muhammad was known as the most generous, the most righteous, and the friendliest of all people, and one with a mild nature. Those who saw him were taken aback by his grandeur, however, those who knew his high virtues would love Him more than anything else while conversing with him. A person who tried to depict Muhammad’s superiority and beauty would state their inability and incapability to represent him correctly, saying “I have never even seen a person like him. May the grace and peace of Allah be upon him!” Source
At each corner of the central rectangle are cloud panels with the names of the Rightly Guided caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali.
The writing of thehilyewas a work of piety, but it was also designed to evoke reverence in the viewer and has amuletic properties of protection.
Details of the hilya by Mehmed Tahir Efendi
۩ Country of Origin: Ottoman Turkey
۩ Time Period: 19th century
۩ Artist: Mehmed Tahir Efendi
۩ Size: Approximately 46 x 34 cm (including frame)
۩ Print: High-quality matte print and detail finishings
۩ Frame: Wood frame with a gold finish
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