The inscription is from the Qur'an, sura al-An'am (VI), parts of v.32.
This is one of a series of panels of magnificent cut steel work of the very highest quality. The work is outstanding: the panels were drilled from behind and then the holes were enlarged to create this design. Each line is thicker at the back but tapers with superb precision to the detail on the face.
A series of eight related panels has been suggested, each of which has an inscription in naskh set against a scrolling vine ground. All are of the same shape and size. One of these is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. M 5.1919). Three were sold at Sotheby's in London (16 April 1986, lots 181 and 182; 12 October 1982, lot 71). Two further examples were exhibited in Saudi Arabia (The Unity of Islamic Art, exhibition catalogue, Riyadh, 1985, no.96, pp.120-121). Two of these six, including that in the Victoria and Albert Museum, were part of the collection of Sir Charles Marling and were said to have come originally from the shrine in Shiraz of Shah Tahmasp (d.1576 AD). This dating makes them considerably earlier than the initially similar pierced steel panels of lobed oval form, one of which is dated AH 1105/1693-4 AD, in the reign of Shah Sulayman Safavi (Y. H. Safadi, Islamic Calligraphy, London, 1976, pl.10, p.37).
The present panel is however not one of the two missing from the series. The two that have not been published, according to Dr. Melikian-Chirvani, should have two lines that, with the other six, complete an Arabic poem referring to the Fourteen Innocents. The size of our panel is the same as the others, and the thickness is also comparable - these panels are noticeably thicker than other pierced steel panels. Instead of that ours contains a verse from the Qur'an, which implies the possibility of another series of panels at some stage made in the same workshop.
A third series is also known that is closely related. The panels are of the same shape, with the same outline, but with inscriptions in Farsi written in nasta'liq. These were in the Hariri Collection and were said to have come from the Darb-i Imam mosque in Isfahan, dating from the 16th century (Arthur Upham Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, London, 1938, pl.1389).