This impressive Qur’an, which has three finely illuminated double pages, is one of a small group to have survived from the Sultanate period in India.
Of the few Sultanate Qur’ans that survive, few are signed or dated. The two exceptions are one example copied in Gwalior and dated 1398 (now in the Aga Khan collection, The Arts of Islam, exhibition catalogue, London, 1976, no.635, p.370) and another which is dated 1483 (now in the Bijapur Archaeological Museum, MS.912; Stuart Cary Welch, India: Art and Culture, 1300-1900, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1988, no.71, pp.124-25). Although the illumination on those two manuscripts differs considerably, they both draw inspiration from contemporaneous Timurid manuscripts. In our manuscript, various features in the illumination demonstrate the cultural ties between Iran and India at the period. The pink cross-hatching, for instance, that surrounds the text on all of the illumination pages is something that is also found on Timurid Qur’ans, as are the fleshy lotus flowers that decorate the blue margins. The inner borders here, with the scrolling flowerhead on gold ground are also a Timurid feature. Similar borders, as well as the pink cross-hatched ground are found on a Timurid Qur’an copied in Herat around 1440 (1400. Yilinda Kur'an-i Kerim, exhibition catalogue, Istanbul, 2010, kat.70, pp.288-89).
The bihari script, which became standard for Sultanate Qur’ans is thought to be a development of the naskh script. Its origins are obscure and it seemed virtually to disappear with the advent of the Mughals. The emphasis in the script is in the sublinear elements of the letters which are greatly thickened and end in sharp points. It is generally assumed that the name is derived from the province of Bihar in eastern India, but because it was not a particularly important centre of Islam this seems unlikely (David James, After Timur, London, 1992, p.102). Other bihari Qur’an are in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection (acc.no.QUR237; James, op.cit., no.28, pp.104-107) and the Tareq Rajab Museum (Nabil Safwat, The Harmony of Letters: Islamic Calligraphy from the Tareq Rajab Museum, Singapore, 1997, p.88). Another sold at Sotheby’s, 6 October 2010, lot 16.