This piece was purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli from Chiswick Auctions, London in 2017 to be added and enhance The Zay Initiative collections.
This is a red and beige rectangular woven silk religious wrap or cover (Kiswah). In compliance with the style and design of the cover on the Ka’ba in Mecca, a Kiswah is often used to cover or lay upon objects of religious reverence like the Holy Quran and is sometimes also laid on the graves of the deceased.
This particular piece is elaborately decorated with bands of chevron containing inscriptions of the Quranic verses in Arabic calligraphy that roughly translates to “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Messenger.”
The fabric has a (Selvedge) to Selvedge weave and was woven in a (Jacquard) loom. While the (Weft) ends are intact its (Warp) ends are loose and unfinished possibly because it has been cut from a full-length fabric with possibly the same design repeat.
This type of textile often covered important Ottoman tombs and is reminiscent of the much larger Kiswah fabrics that were annually sent by the Ottoman sultans to adorn the Ka’ba in Mecca.
The term Kiswah has multiple translations, with common ones being ‘robe’ or ‘garment’. Due to the iconic designs and the quality of materials used in creating the Kiswah, it is considered one of the most sacred objects in Islamic art, ritual, and worship.
- Hameed, Nada. “How the Manufacturing of the Kaaba Cover, Kiswa, Changed over the Centuries.” Arab News, 30 July 2022, www.arabnews.com/node/2119016/saudi-arabia.
- Vincent-Barwood, Aileen. “A Gift from the Kingdom.” Aramco World: Arab and Islamic Cultures and Connection, vol. 36, no. 5, Oct. 1985. https://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/198505/a.gift.from.the.kingdom.htm
- Kern, Karen M., et al. “The Sacred and the Modern: The History, Conservation, and Science of the Madina Sitara.” Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 52, 2017, pp. 72–93, https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/696548
- Robinson, Arthur E. “The Mahmal of the Moslem Pilgrimage.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, no. 1, 1931, pp. 117–27. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25194179. Accessed 22 July 2023.
- Ghazal, Rym. “Woven With Devotion: The Sacred Islamic Textiles of Kaaba.” The National News, 24 Aug. 2014, https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-culture/woven-with-devotion-the-sacred-islamic-textiles-of-the-kaaba-1.258782
- EL-SHAMMA RAWAN RADWAN, MOHAMED. “When the Kaaba’s Kiswa Came from Egypt.” Arab News, 31 July 2019, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1533841/saudi-arabia