Lives of the Prophets

The Illustrations to Hafiz-i Abru’s “Assembly of Chronicles”


In Lives of the Prophets: The Illustrations to Hafiz-i Abru’s “Assembly of Chronicles” Mohamad Reza Ghiasian analyses two extant copies of the Majmaʿ al-tawarikh produced for the Timurid ruler Shahrukh (r. 1405–1447). The first manuscript is kept in Topkapı Palace and the second is widely dispersed. Codicological analysis of these manuscripts not only allows a better understanding of Hafiz-i Abru’s contributions to rewriting earlier history, but has served to identify the existence of a previously unrecognised copy of the Jamiʿ al-tawarikh produced at Rashid al-Din’s scriptorium. Through a meticulous close reading of both text and image, Mohamad Reza Ghiasian convincingly proves that numerous paintings of the dispersed manuscript were painted over the text before its dispersal in the early twentieth century.

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Biographical Note

Mohamad Reza Ghiasian holds a PhD in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the University of Bamberg and is currently Assistant Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Kashan.

Table of contents

Figures and Tables

 1 Chapter Summary
 2 Note on Appendices, Translation, Transliteration and Dates

1 The Political and Cultural Setting
 1 Political History
 2 The Legitimation of Shahrukh’s Rule
 3 Foreign Relations
 4 Personal Traits of Shahrukh
 5 Art Patronage

2 Book Production under Shahrukh
 1 The Surviving Manuscripts
 2 Hafiz-i Abru’s Kulliyat-i tarikhi
 3 Rashid al-Din’s Jamiʿ al-tawarikh (Hazine 1654)  4 Nizami’s Khamsa of 835/1431 in the Hermitage Museum
 5 Nizami’s Khamsa Known as the Cartier Khamsa
 6 Jamiʿ al-tawarikh of the Bibliothèque Nationale
 7 Miʿrajnama and Tazkirat al-awliya‌ʾ of the Bibliothèque Nationale

3 Majmaʿ al-tawarikh and Its Surviving Illustrated Copies
 1 The Life of Hafiz-i Abru
 2 Hafiz-i Abru’s Works
 3 Majmaʿal-tawarikh
 4 Stories of the Prophets and the Majmaʿ al-tawarikh
 5 The Surviving Illustrated Copies of the Majmaʿ al-tawarikh
 6 Hazine 1653
 7 The Illustration Cycle of the Timurid Parts of Hazine 1653
 8 Some Remarks on Foreign Relations as Reflected in these Manuscripts
 9 The “Divided Manuscript” as a Hitherto Unknown Copy of the Jamiʿ al-tawarikh Produced at the Rabʿ-i Rashidi
 10 The Dispersed Manuscript  11 Paintings Added Later to the Dispersed Manuscript
 12 Shahrukhi Illustrations of the Dispersed Manuscript

4 Stylistic Analysis
 1 Human Figures
 2 Architectural Forms and Natural Life
 3 Battle Scenes
 4 Enthroned Figures

Catalogue: The Illustrations of the Prophets
 1 Cat. 1: Adam Orders Abel and Cain to Sacrifice
 2 Cat. 2: The Ark of Noah
 3 Cat. 3: The Prophet Salih and the She-Camel
 4 Cat. 4: Abraham in the Fire
 5 Cat. 5: Abraham Sacrifices His Son
 6 Cat. 6: The Prophet Jacob and His Twelve Sons
 7 Cat. 7: Joseph before the Women of Egypt
 8 Cat. 8: The Prophet Job’s Distress
 9 Cat. 9: Moses Prevails over Pharaoh
 10 Cat. 10: Moses and the Israelites Watch the Egyptians Drown in the Sea
 11 Cat. 11: Moses Orders the Israelites to Sacrifice a Cow
 12 Cat. 12: Moses and Korah
 13 Cat. 13: Moses Striking the Giant ʿUj’s Ankle
 14 Cat. 14: Solomon among Demons, Fairies, Wildlife and Birds
 15 Cat. 15: Jesus Brings Back to Life Shem, the Son of Noah
 16 Cat. 16: Jonah and the Whale
 17 Cat. 17: Excavation of the Well of Zamzam
 18 Cat. 18: The Birth of the Prophet Muhammad
 19 Cat. 19: Muhammad’s Call to Prophecy and the First Revelation
 20 Cat. 20: The Prophet Converts Abu Bakr


Appendix 1: Translation of the Illustrated Episodes of the Lives of the Prophets Based on Hazine 1653
 1 The Children and the Descendants of Adam
 2 Concerning the Life of the Prophet Noah
 3 Salih and the People of Thamud
 4 The Story of Abraham: From the Birth up to the Beginning of the Migration  5 Abraham Sacrifices His Son
 6 Concerning Jacob
 7 The Tale of Joseph and Zulaykha
 8 The Story of Job
 9 Moses’ Coming to Egypt and Delivering the Message to Pharaoh
 10 Moses and the Israelites’ Departure from Egypt and the Drowning of Pharaoh and his People
 11 The Corpse that was Found among the Israelites
 12 Moses and Korah
 13 Moses and the People of ʿAd and ʿUj ibn ʿUnuq
 14 The Story of Bilqis and the City of Sheba
 15 Jesus’ Coming to Jerusalem
 16 The Prophet Jonah
 17 Excavation of [the Well of] Zamzam
 18 The Birth of [the Prophet] Mustafa
 19 The First Divine Revelation and the Beginning of the Apostle’s Mission
 20 Conversion of the Companions and Disagreement of Scholars about the First One who Converted to Islam

Appendix 2: Headings and Illustrations in Hazine 1653
 1 Key

Appendix 3: Location of Paintings so Far Identified as Later Additions in the Dispersed Manuscript (Second Style)

Appendix 4: Location of Paintings so Far Identified as Later Additions in the Dispersed Manuscript (Third Style)


All those interested in Persian manuscript studies; historians of Islamic and Persian art; specialists in medieval Persian painting; curators and collectors of Islamic art.