Dala'il al-Khayrat. Algeria, 17th century
Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 1465).
Dala’il al-Khayrat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salat ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar.
[With:] Wasiyyah and personal prayers.
Manuscript in Arabic on paper.
[Algeria, 16th or 17th century]. (BRMS 30)
One of the most popular of all Muslim prayer books was the Dala’il al-Khayrat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salat ‘ala al- Nabi al-Mukhtar (“The Guide to Blessings and Enlightenment in Blessing the Chosen Prophet”). Compiled in Morocco during the fifteenth century, this daily devotional text is still used both for private prayer and for recitation at public ceremonies. The text, divided into sections for each day of the week, includes the ninety-nine beautiful names of God (Allah), numerous prayers, rhythmic invocations, poetic blessings dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad, a description of his tomb at Medina, and a litany of honorary names illuminating the Prophet’s qualities.
This manuscript was composed in an early North African script with red and black inks on rough papers. The watermarks in these papers include the common “three crescents” pattern, which may indicate Italian manufacture intended for export to the Islamic market. Owned and perhaps written by one Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Hamzouf, who signed his name at the end, this copy of the Dala’il al-Khayrat also contains the traditional Wasiyyah, the owner’s instructions for his family members to carry out after his death. This is followed by a poem to his loved ones (in translation): “Youth is gone with all its promise, old age has come with no escape [...]. Remember the Day of Judgment.”
Prayer books in this square “pocket” format were especially popular among North African pilgrims to the two holiest cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina. The manuscript is bound in a single piece of contemporary brown stamped goatskin, which wraps around to close the manuscript. A nineteenth-century inscription at the back of the book suggests that it later became the property of an Algerian ambassador.