Devotion in pictures:
Muslim popular iconography


Ya Sin

The picture to the left is a calligraphic representation of Sura 36 of the Koran, which is entitled "Ya Sin". This Sura is often reproduced in beautiful calligraphy and hangs on the wall in many Muslim homes. Ya Sin (Yasin) is another of the prophet Muhammad's many names. The Sura begins: "By the wise Qur'an, you [Muhammad] are truly one of the messengers sent on a straight path, with a revelation from the Almighty, the Lord of Mercy, to warn a people whose forefathers were not warned, and so they are unaware." (Purchased in the UK.)

God helps us

This calligraphy reproduces the sentence: "God helps him who helps his brother", which is a saying of the prophet Muhammad.

The use of calligraphy, often in combination with pictures, though perhaps more often alone, is extremely popular. In fact, most of the items in the collection, of which this exhibition presents some samples, are calligraphic representations of the names of God, of the Prophet, and of quotations from the Koran. The calligraphic posters are used to attract blessings and bring protection to the places where they are hung. (Purchased in the UK.)


Basmalla is a technical term for the sentence shown in this picture: "Bi ism Allah al-rahman al-rahim", which is pronounced "bi-'smi 'llahi r-rahmani 'r-rahim"; i.e. "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate". This sentence introduces every Sura in the Koran with only one exception. It is pronounced when Muslims sit down to eat, when they begin a new activity, and by many as an introduction to speeches, letters, books, etc. We have also seen it used as a sort of introduction to many of the pictures in this exhibition. (Purchased in Turkey.)

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