Tuesday, October 05, 2004

An Islamic rosary picture

Here's a cautionary tale about rosary research.

What I'm trying to track at the moment is whether anyone knows how far back in Islam the use of beads actually extends. _Beads of Faith_ contains a quote from the prophet Mohammed: "Repeat the *Tasbih* a hundred times, and a thousand virtues shall be recorded by God for you, 10 virtuous deeds for each repetition." However I have no idea whether this has been correctly translated.

Until recently the best documentation I could find was a couple of 16th-century Safavid Persian paintings showing people with what are clearly prayer beads. _Beads of Faith_ does have a manuscript illustration which it says is a "12th century Mogul painting" showing an Islamic "saint" in India with his beads.

Oh good, I thought: 12th century is at least a start. A colleague, however, on seeing the supposed "12th-century" image I mentioned above, commented that the book's authors had obviously been misled by the Islamic dating system. From the style of the painting, it's clearly from the 18th or 19th century A.D. -- which in the Muslim dating system is approximately the 12th century _A.H._ (after the Hegira).

Unfortunately, this is not a surprise, given the general quality of the book. :(

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