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Glossary

 

Allah   The Arabic word for God.
Byzantine Empire   The eastern division of the later Roman empire, dating from the foundation of Constantinople in 330 until its capture by the Ottomans in 1453.
caliph   From Arabic khalifa, meaning deputy or successor (to the Prophet Muhammad); the title used by early Islamic rulers.
cuerda seca   Literally, "dry cord," a technique of glazing ceramics in which a greasy substance mixed with manganese is used to separate the different colors to prevent them from running during the firing process.
fritware   A type of artificially created ceramic body combining silica, glass frit, and fine white clay.
hajj   The Arabic term for the pilgrimage to Mecca and the Kacba required of all Muslims.
hijra   The emigration of the Prophet and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622; this event also marked the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
Islam   Arabic word meaning submission (to God) and the name for the religion founded under the leadership of the prophet Muhammad; it also denotes the Muslim community.
Kacba   Cube-shaped shrine in Mecca (within the central courtyard of the Great Mosque), which is the focal point of Muslim prayer and pilgrimage.
Lajvardina   From the Persian lajvard (lapis lazuli), a type of overglaze-decorated ceramic ware characteristically glazed deep blue.
luster   A decorative technique in ceramics in which compounds of silver and copper are applied over the glaze of a previously fired object, which is then refired, resulting in a glittery, metallic surface.
mihrab   Prayer niche in a mosque or other religious structure, emphasizing the direction of prayer.
mina'i   From Persian, meaning "enameled"; polychrome overglaze-decorated ceramic ware.
Mongols   A tribe originating in the eastern part of modern-day Mongolia, which in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, under the leadership of Genghis Khan and his successors, controlled an area extending from Korea to Hungary.
mosque   Any place of Muslim communal worship.
muqarnas   Stalactite- or honeycomb-like units used as a decorative device in Islamic architecture.
Muslim   Literally, "one who submits"; someone who adheres to the faith of Islam.
qibla   Direction of prayer in Islam, toward Mecca and the Kacba.
Qur'an   Literally, "recitation"; the holy book of Islam.
Sasanians   Pre-Islamic dynasty that ruled greater Iran, 224-651.
Shahnama   The Iranian national epic, completed in 1010 by Firdawsi; it tells the stories of the pre-Islamic kings and heroes.
shaykh   Spiritual head of the Sufi order, or tribal leader.
Shicites   Members of the heterodox sect of Islam, Shicism, who recognize cAli and his descendants as the rightful successors to the Prophet.
Sufis   Islamic mystics, both Sunni and Shicite.
Sunnis   Followers of the "tradition," who believe that the Prophet’s successor should be elected; approximately 85 percent of all Muslims are Sunni.
tugra   Imperial monogram of the Ottoman sultans.
  

 

Image in top banner:
Two Conjugate Pages from a Manuscript of the Qur’an (26:155-164), Iran, 9th-10th century; ink and gold on parchment; 5 3/4 x 18 1/8 in. (14.5 x 46 cm); The Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection, gift of Joan Palevsky, M.73.5.499


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Text by Linda Komaroff, PhD, curator of Islamic art.
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