One of the most celebrated manuscripts of the Islamic world is the Dala’il al-Khayrat, which means Waymarks of Benefits. It is a famous collection of prayers for Prophet Muhammad (SAW), which was written by the Moroccan Sufi and Islamic scholar Muhammad Sulaiman al-Jazuli ash Shadhili, who died in 1465. Alongside the prayers are beautifully-illuminated pages decorated in colourful pigments and gold leaf.
Since it was first inscribed, the Dala’il al-Khayrat has inspired calligraphers, illuminators and painters of court ateliers from around the world. They take great pains to reproduce these sumptuous illustrated and illuminated manuscripts and in the process contribute to its rich and diverse heritage.
In order to reveal the outstanding history and artistry of the Dala’il al-Khayrat, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) in Kuala Lumpur is showcasing an exhibition entitled Dala’il al-Khayrat: Prayer Manuscripts From The 16th To 19th Centuries. The exhibition showcases the museum’s own collection of some of the finest Dala’il al-Khayrat copies from its native land, Morocco, to as far as East Turkistan and China.
The exhibition is divided into several sections, beginning with the history of the Dala’il al-Khayrat and its author, Imam Al-Jazuli, whose ancestry can be traced to Imam Hassan ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Among the highlights are exquisite Moroccan copies and a rare monumental single-page Dala’il Al-Khayrat signed by Alhafiz Mahbub Muhammad. The exhibition enables visitors to uncover the contents of the Dala’il Al-Khayrat and appreciate its content, the 8 ahzab (days of recitation) and other main elements.
Meanwhile, a special section of the exhibition teaches visitors how to distinguish the regional characteristics of the Dala’il al-Khayrat, showing beautiful masterpieces from North Africa, Central Asia, Turkey, Indian Subcontinent, China and South East Asia. The most beautiful part of these manuscripts are the illustrations of the two holiest sites in Islam – the An Nabawi Mosque in Madinah and Al Haram Mosque in Mecca. At the beginning of this section, Imam Al-Jazuli wrote: “This is the description of Al-Rawdah Al-Mubarakah (the Blessed Garden) in which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is buried, together with his two companions Abu Bakr (RA) and Umar (RA)”. In reference to this passage, illuminators and painters of subsequent centuries have been encouraged to add an illustration, which later became the focal point of the Dala’il al-Khayrat.
Last, but not least, is a dedicated section for Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and an explanation for the tradition of praising the Prophet, as well as other living Islamic traditions that are still being practiced today. In conjunction with the exhibition, the IAMM has published a comprehensive catalogue featuring these celebrated manuscripts. Showcasing more than 100 artefacts from the IAMM collection, the catalogue unveils the beauty and intricacy of the pages of the Dala’il al-Khayrat and other related artefacts.
The Dala’il al-Khayrat exhibition will be on display for four months at Special Gallery 1 of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia from 11th March 2016 until 31st August 2016.