Description of the Prophet (Hilya al-nabi)

Hâfiz Osman1691-1692 (1103H)

Chester Beatty

Chester Beatty
Dublin, Ireland

Description of the Prophet (Hilya al-nabi), by Ottoman calligrapher Hafiz Osman.
Descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad's personal appearance (hilya al-nabi, in Arabic) were recorded by his friends, and carefully preserved ever since in Hadith literature, to remember him. In the early seventeenth century, Ottoman calligraphers designed a new format in which to present one of these simple but resonant pious texts, known in Turkish as the hilye. This is one of the earliest known examples, and the form may have been invented by this master-calligrapher, Hafiz Osman (d. 1698). The first horizontal line is the bismillah ("In the name of God, the most merciful and compassionate"), which prefaces a large circular panel set in a lunar crescent, with the main text, quoting the description remembered by the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, `Ali ibn Abi Talib. Diagonally set at the corners are the names of the first four Caliphs, Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman and `Ali. The final three lines conclude with a prayer, the calligrapher's signature and the date of 1103H (1691-92).
Folio, ink, gold and colours on paper, mounted on card, Ottoman hilye, or calligraphic panel describing the Prophet Muhammad's appearance, calligraphy by Hafiz Osman (d. 1698), with later illumination, probably Istanbul, Turkey, dated 1103H, 1691-1692.


  • Title: Description of the Prophet (Hilya al-nabi)
  • Creator: Hafiz Osman
  • Date Created: 1691-1692 (1103H)
  • Physical Location: Chester Beatty, Dublin, Ireland
  • Location Created: Istanbul, Turkey
  • Physical Dimensions: 440 x 320 mm
  • Original Language: Arabic
  • Type: Folio / Bi-Folio (Codex)
  • Original Source: Chester Beatty
  • Rights: © The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
  • Medium: Paper, Pigment, Ink, Gold
  • Collection Number: CBL T 559.4

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