Prayers for the seven days of the week, signed by Ahmad Karahisari (d. circa 1556), Turkey, Ottoman, first half 16th century
- ink on paper with leather binding
katabahu al-'abd al-faqir ahmad al-qarahisari min talamidh asad allah al-kirmani
'The poor slave, Ahmad Karahisari, from among the pupils of Asadallah al-Kirmani, wrote it.'
This extremely rare calligraphic work is by one of the great Ottoman calligraphers of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, Ahmad Karahisari. In the words of Nabil Safwat, he was "a genius who combined tradition with virtuosity", breaking free from the schools of Yaq'ut al-Mustasimi and Shaykh Hamdullah, and the traditions of the past.
Born in Afyon Karahisar before 1470, Ahmad Karahisari was a student of the Persian scribe Asadullah Kirmani, although it is unclear whether or not he visited Kirman for this training, or whether Asadullah had relocated to Anatolia by this stage. Once he established himself in Istanbul, he worked mainly in the employ of Sultan Süleyman I (r.1520-66), writing various Qur'ans, prayer books and calligraphies, as well as various architectural inscriptions. Although Shaykh Hamdullah remained the master in forming individual letters, Karahisari was unrivalled in his skill in the composition of calligraphic pages. This is best exemplified in perhaps Karahisari's most famous composition - a frontispiece combining various calligraphic styles from a collection of religious texts in the Türk ve Islamic Eserleri Müsezi (see E. Atil, The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, Washington D.C., 1987, pp.50-51, no.10).
Another album of Karahisari's calligraphy in the same museum as the above-mentioned work relates to the present manuscript, in the way that it utilises various styles and sizes of script (see ibid, p.52, no.11). In both instances each page combines large thuluth script, sometimes in gold, with neat naskh script in black ink, with the occasional use of very small ghubar script (seen on the manuscript to hand on ff.2a-b, 4b, 5a, and 7a-b, where it outlines the central roundel).
A similar calligraphic work, comprising seven prayers for each day of the week is in a private collection in Istanbul (see N.F. Safwat, Understanding Calligraphy, The Ottoman Contribution - from the Collection of Cengiz Çetindoğan, Part One, London, 2014, pp.484-7, no.121). Looking closely at these two manuscripts, one can see the close similarities in the hand of Karahisari. When comparing the bismillah on f.4b of the present manuscript with the same line executed in gold on f.1b of the Istanbul copy (see ibid, p.285), the clear similarities are evident in the 'Allah' and al-Rahman al-Rahim, particularly the way the raa' of the final word links to the following Haa' and onto the terminal mim in one smooth motion. The same can be said of the colophon, in which in both cases we see the idiosyncratic way in which Karahisari signed his name, with the large Haa' leading to a terminal daal that is attached to the following alif of 'al-Qarahisari' in a particularly unusual stylised way. interestingly, even the illuminated florets separating the text are almost identical within these two manuscripts.
Other examples of Karahisari's works include a calligraphic panel the Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait (see N.F. Safwat, The Harmony of Letters, Singapore, 1997, pp.54-55); a calligraphic exercise in the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul (see A. Anadol (ed.), Sakip Sabanci Museum Collection of the Arts of the Book and Calligraphy, Istanbul, 2012,pp.46-47, no.5); a calligraphic panel in the collection of Abdul Rahman al-Owais, Sharjah (see M.U. Derman, Eternal Letters, Sharjah, 2009, pp.32-33, no.3); and two calligraphic panels in a private collection, Istanbul (see M.U. Derman, Harflerin Așki, Istanbul, 2014, pp.60-63, nos.6 and 7).
For more on Ahmad Karahisari, see S. Rado, Türk Hattatlari, Istanbul, 1984, pp.69-72 and N. Mansour, Sacred Script: Muhaqqaq in Islamic Calligraphy, London, 2011, pp.173-196.