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Books for Devotion: Muslim Prayer Manuals

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Muslim Prayer Manuals

One of the most commonly used 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). Originally compiled by Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli (d. 1465) at Fez in Morocco, the early fifteenth-century work served as the daily devotional text for the Ashab al-Dalil, a reformed brotherhood founded by the author. Divided into sections for each day of the week, the Dala’il al-Khayrat contains numerous prayers, effusive praises, rhythmic invocations, poetic blessings dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad, a description of his tomb at Medina, and a litany of over 200 honorary names illuminating the Prophet’s qualities.

Two of the exhibited manuscripts of the Dala’il al-Khayrat from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries feature the traditional pair of illuminations depicting the two holiest cities of Islam. In each of these books, the illumination on the right-hand page shows Mecca, Muhammad’s birthplace and longtime home; at the center of the city is the sacred Ka’bah (known as the Bayt Allah – "House of God"), toward which Muslims throughout the world face during prayer. The illumination on the left-hand page shows the mosque at Medina, where the Prophet had emigrated a decade before he died in 632 CE. The largest dome marks the spot beneath which he was entombed. Also exhibited is a sixteenth-century Dala’il al-Khayrat without illuminations, likely from Algeria, written in a smaller "pocket" format that was especially popular among pilgrims to Mecca.