“The Word of God; The Art of Man - The Qur’an and its Creative Expressions” Conference, 2003

The Qur’anic Studies Unit of
The Institute of Ismaili Studies

Presents An International Colloquium
Word of God; Art of Man -
The Qur’aninfo-icon and its Creative Expressions

18th - 21st October 2003
The Ismaili Centre, South Kensington
A 25th Anniversary Project

Schedule of events

Download PDF version of the Application and Information Pack (478 KB)

  In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created.
Created Man from a clot.
Recite: And thy Lord is Most Bounteous,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught Man that which he knew not. (Qur’an 96:1-5)

The Holy Qur’an, the sacred text of all Muslims, continues to be memorised and recited aloud. It is also a work that has been copied by hand more than any other book in the Muslim world. The Holy Qur’an as the foundation of Muslim faith and practice has also played a vital role in Muslim civlisations as the inspiration for several art forms.

The aim of this international colloquium is to bring together scholars with varied interests in the areas of architecture, metalwork, woodwork, numismatics, textiles, ceramics and anthropology, in addition to manuscripts, calligraphy and illumination, to discuss their research on the Qur’an as a source of artistic inspiration on the material culture of Muslims from around the world and through the ages.

This colloquium is one of the celebratory events marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of The Institute of Ismaili Studies in 1977. All events are to be held at the Ismaili Centre, South Kensington (unless otherwise specified).



Conference Timetable


Saturday 18th October: Evening Reception and Plenary Lecture
8:30pm to 9:15pm Reception  
9:15pm Welcome Fahmida Suleman, Conference Organiser and Postdoctoral Fellow, the Qur’anic Studies Unit, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Dr. Shainool Jiwa, Unit Manager of the Qur’anic Studies Unit, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Professor Azim Nanji, Director, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
  Plenary Lecture: “Qur’anic Inscriptions on Ottoman Mosques: Changes in Form and Content”
Gülru Necipoglu, Aga Khaninfo-icon Professor of Islamic Art, Harvard University
Sunday 19th October: Conference Opening Day
9:15   Doors Open (Registration and Coffee)
10:45   Welcome and Opening Remarks
11:10   Professor Oleg Grabar, Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey
“The Qur’an as a Source of Artistic Inspiration”
11:40   Coffee
  Panel: Early Qur’anic Manuscripts
  Discussant: Professor Yasser Tabbaa, Independent Scholar, Michigan
12:10   Question and Answer Period for Professor Grabar’s Lecture
12:20   “The Fragment Marcel 13 and Related Early Qur’anic Ornament”
Professor François Déroche, Director of Advanced Studies, Historical and Philological Section, Ecole Pratique des Hautes études, Paris
1:00   “Scribes and Reciters: Decoding Praxis in Early Qur’anic Manuscripts”
Heather Ecker, Independent Scholar and Guest Curator, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
1:40 Lunch
2:30   ’Proportion and Beauty in Early Qur’anic Calligraphy“
Alain Fouad George, Doctoral Candidate, Islamic Art and Archaeology, St Anthony’s College, Oxford University
  Panel: Seals, Talismans and Magical Implements
  Discussant:Dr Emilie Savage-Smith, Senior Research Associate, Oriental Institute, Oxford University
3:10   “The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus on Amulets in the British Museum and Other Seals and Amulets with Qur’anic Inscriptions”
Dr. Venetia Porter Curator of the Islamic Collections, Department of Asia, The British Museum, London
3:50 Tea
4:10   “A Medieval Magic Mirror in the Louvre (Inv.MAO161) and Additional Observations on the Use of Magic Mirrors in Contemporary Yemen”
Dr Anne Regourd, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Arabic, University of Leeds
4:50   “The Persian Glosses of a Qur’anic Manuscript from Central Asia”
Marie Efthymiou, Doctoral Candidate, Historical and Philological Section, école Pratique des Hautes études, Paris and Research Scholar, Institut Français d’études sur l’Asie Centrale, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
5:20 Adieu
Monday 20th October: Conference Day 2
8:45   Doors Open
  Panel: Later Qur'anic Manuscripts from Iran and Central Asia
  Discussant: Dr Sheila Canby, Assistant Keeper, Oriental Antiquities, The British Museum
9:20   “Arts of the Celestial Pen: Qur'ans from the Library of The Institute of Ismaili Studies”
Dr Duncan Haldane, Head Librarian and Keeper, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London
10:40   “Symbolic Representations in Qur’anic Illumination”
Nazeleh Rahmani, Curator of Manuscripts, Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran, with the assistance of Amin Mahdavi, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
11:20 Coffee
  Panel: Islamic Coinage
  Discussant: Dr Venetia Porter, Assistant Keeper, Oriental Antiquities, The British Museum, London
11:50   “The Qur'an on Coins: Qur’anic Material in Numismatic Inscriptions up to the Mongol Period"”
Dr Luke Treadwell, Lecturer in Islamic Numismatics, Oriental Institute, Oxford University and Assistant Keeper, Ashmolean Museum
12:30   “ ‘The word of your Lord has been fulfilled…’: Qur'anic Legends on Fatimid Coinage”
Alnoor Merchant, Senior Librarian and Keeper, Ismaili Collections, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London
1:10 Lunch
  Panel: Theoretical Frameworks: Qur'anic Inscriptions and Calligraphy
  Discussant: Professor Robert Hillenbrand, Professor of Fine Art, Department of Fine Art, University of Edinburgh
2:10   “Blurred Boundaries: Qur’anic Inscriptions on Religious and Secular Art and Architecture”
Professor Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
2:50   “The Correlation Between Writing Styles (Calligraphy) and Speech Styles (Dialects) in Islamic Cultures: An Overview of the Islamic Calligraphic Styles Along the Silk Roads”
Professor Amir H. Zekrgoo, Professor of Islamic Art, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
3:30 Tea
  Panel: Qur'anic Manuscripts from West Africa and Southeast Asia, and Woodwork from Southeast Asia
  Discussant:Tim Stanley, Head of the Middle East Section, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
4:00   “The Art of Qur’anic Penmanship and Illumination among Islamic Scholars in Southwestern Nigeria”
Ismaheel Akinade Jimoh, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
4:40   “The Art of the Qur’an in Southeast Asia”
Dr Annabel Teh Gallop, Head of the South and Southeast Asia Section, British Library, London
5:20   “Qur’anic Inscriptions on Wood from the Malay World”
Huism Tan, Curator, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore
6:00 Adieu
Tuesday 21st October: Conference Day 3
8:45   Doors Open
  Panel: Qur'anic Inscriptions on Textiles
  Discussant: Dr. Anna Contadini, Senior Lecturer in the Arts and Archaeology of Islam, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
9:20   Ka‘bainfo-icon Covers and Their Inscriptions”
Professor Hülya Tezcan, Assistant Professor and Curator of Textiles, Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul
10:00   “Challenging Assumptions: A Mediaeval Military Banner from North Africa”
Miriam Ali de Unzaga, Doctoral Candidate, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, St Anthony’s College, Oxford University
10:40   “Qur’anic Inscriptions on Mediaeval Tiraz Textiles”
Muhammad Abbas, Curator, Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo
11:20 Coffee
  Panel: Contemporary Arts
  Discussant:Professor James W. Allan, Keeper of Eastern Art, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
11:50   “A Mughal Visual Trope Revised as Shari‘ainfo-icon in a Pakistani Popular Poster”
Professor Joanna Kirkpatrick, Professor of Anthropology, Bennington College, Vermont; retired
12:30   “Qur’anic Calligraphy in Contemporary Art”
Ayse Turgut, Lecturer of Islamic Art and Architecture, New York City College of Technology/City University of New York and Independent Curator, New York
1:10   “Written, Spoken, Envisioned: The Many Facets of the Qur’an in Art”
Professor Sheila Blair, Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor of Islamic and Asian Art, Boston College
1:50 Lunch and Adieu
  (Tour of the Ismaili Centre for all interested participants)