Name of Object:

Sword

Location:

Jerusalem

Holding Museum:

Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif

Date:

Hegira 785 / AD 1383

Type of object:

Sword, blade, arms, armours

Artists:

The forging is attributed to As'ad Allah.

Museum Inventory Number:

18

Material(s) / Technique(s):

The blade: forged and smelted cast steel with engraved inscriptions; the scabbard: Wood and copper with fabric.

Dimensions:

Entire length 107 cm, length (of blade) 90 cm, width (of blade) 3.3 cm, length (of Scabbard) 93 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Safavid

Provenance:

Iran.

Description:

This sword, produced in the Mongol style, consists of four parts: the blade, hilt, cross-guard and scabbard. This style of weaponry, which filtered through to Persia, was known by the name of al-Shamshir.
The blade is narrow and tapers at the head. It is attached at the top by a wooden hilt in the middle of which is a notch 1.5 cm wide. Inserted in the blade is a copper band decorated with gold lines. A cross-guard separates the blade from the hilt assuming a cruciform shape, and the long side of which is perpendicular to the hilt and the sword blade, its two sides ending in two ornamental globules. There is an inscription on each side of the cross-guard.
The blade also bears decorative engraved inscriptions such as Qur'anic verses, popular sayings and poetry stanzas. One of the two edges of the sword bears illuminated inscriptions with an illuminated frame. One of them reads: “There is no hero like 'Ali and no sword like Zulfikar”. And another reads: “Oh Judge of Necessities”. Written on the blade at the hilt is the following text: “Victory is from God and Conquest is near, year AH 785 [AD 1383]”. There are two non-illuminated inscriptions engraved on the blade within a cartouche. The first reads: “The work of As'ad Allah”. And the second: “‘Abbas bi Nadir Shah”. In the middle of the blade is an inscription that extends approximately 43 cm. It consists of what is probably popular poetry and begins with the verse: “Unsheath the sword of destruction from its scabbard of support and cleave with it, the preponderance of envy and aggression”.
The scabbard is made of wood, copper-plated at the top to about 18.5 cm. There are three engraved inscriptions written in thuluth script on the copper section. The inscriptions are contained within a linear frame that is surrounded by depictions of flowers and vegetal stems. The copper section is adjacent to two bands each of which is 7 cm wide. A 27.5 cm-long copper section at the end of the scabbard holds five inscriptions; its decoration is similar to that on the copper hilt. In the area between the two copper sections, the scabbard is covered with a piece of carpet-like fabric 47 cm long, woven in red, brown and gold. The inscriptions on the scabbard include popular sayings and poetry in praise of the sword and supplications to God for victory.

View Short Description

Original Owner:

Shah ‘Abbas I (r. AH 996–1038 / AD 1588–1629)

How date and origin were established:

This sword has an inscribed date on it, but like tens of other swords it poses a historical puzzle. The date of production engraved on it does not agree with the life-span of the original owner, Shah ‘Abbas I. In addition, it does not concur with the life-span of its craftsman, As'ad Allah, who was a renowned sword-maker and a contemporary of Shah ‘Abbas. It is worth noting that there are about 300 swords distributed in museums worldwide that are associated with As'ad Allah and bear his name. The oldest of them is the sword exhibited here, which dates to 785 / 1383; the most recent dates to 1223/ 1808. Thus, the association of the swords to this skilled craftsman continued for more than four centuries.

How provenance was established:

Iran has been narrowed down as the place of manufacture of this sword because the craftsman associated with it and original owner have links with Iran.

Selected bibliography:

—————, Al-Asliha al-Islamiya: al-Suyuf wa al-Duru' [Islamic Weaponry and Armour], The King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies, (n.d).
Elgood, R., Islamic Arms and Armour, London, 1979.
Mayer, L., Islamic Armours and their Works, Geneva, 1962.

Citation of this web page:

Khader Salameh "Sword" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;ISL;pa;Mus01;19;en&id=arms_and_armoury

Prepared by: Khader SalamehKhader Salameh

Khader Salameh has been the Director of the Islamic Museum and Al-Aqsa Library in Jerusalem for more than two decades. He was previously employed in the Hebrew University Library and worked as a librarian in Saudi Arabia and as a teacher in Libya. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Ottoman History. He received a Certificate of Librarianship in 1986 from the Hebrew University. He obtained his BA degree from Beirut University in 1980. He catalogued the Manuscripts Collections of the Haram al-Sharif, which was published in six parts in several countries. His publications include many articles on different subjects and a recent publication in English and Arabic on the Qur'an manuscripts in the Islamic Museum.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: PA 19