Did you know that the Aga Khan Museum’s collection includes an Ottoman gold-plated leaf with talismanic qualities?

Did you know …

… that the Aga Khan Museum’s collection includes a 19th century gold plated Ottoman leaf with talismanic qulaities?

This leaf from the 1800s, highlights a verse from the Holy Quran: “And say, ‘Lord grant me a good entrance and a goodly exit, and sustain me with Your power.'”

DYI -Calligraphic composition on a leaf - AKM538

Inscriptions in various calligraphic styles are to be found on virtually all types of artefacts of all media and materials created throughout the Muslim regions in different periods. Qur’anic verses, hadith and prayers seeking forgiveness, protection and blessings are also inscribed on objects using a wide variety of techniques. This practice, although not exclusive to the Muslim civilization is very common amongst all faith communities, and is believed to contain talismanic qualities providing good luck to the possessor of the object.

One of the most beautiful and unusual examples of calligraphic inscriptions is the gold-plated leaf, popular in nineteenth-century Ottoman Turkey. The leaf features a verse from Surat al-Isra’ (The Night Journey, 17:80):

“And say, ‘Lord grant me a good entrance and a goodly exit, and sustain me with Your power.’”

The calligrapher has used the thuluth murakkab script to create a composition resembling a boat filled with a crew, their long oars dipping into the water that is the skeleton of the leaf. The technical skill of this artefact is further highlighted since its foundation is a sweet, or Spanish, chestnut leaf (Castanea sativa), a leaf more fragile than many of those employed for such compositions. This item is in the collection of the Aga Khan Museum.



Ottomans were a major Muslim dynasty which ruled lands around the Mediterranean basin from 1299–1922.

Talismanic (adjective) of or relating to talisman.

  • A talisman is an object which is believed to contain certain magical or sacramental properties which would provide good luck for the possessor or possibly offer protection from evil or harm.
  • Etymology:  The word comes from the Arabic word ṭilasm (طلسم), from an alteration of late Greek telesma (τέλεσμα), “completion, religious rite”, itself from the word teleō (τελέω) which means “I complete, perform a rite”.


Explore, Discover and Learn more:

  1. Aga Khan Museum – Online Gallery: Calligraphic composition on a leaf
  2. Aga Khan Development Network | Aga Khan Museum – Online Gallery: Sweet Chestnut Leaf With Calligraphy
  3. The Institute of Ismaili Studies: Inscriptions on Artefacts 
  4. Wikipedia: Ottoman Empire


Did You Know Collection:


Did You Know Collection, is a compilation of interesting items researched by Nimira Dewji.

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