Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural is a ground-breaking investigation of divinatory arts in the Islamic world discussing their impact on, and expression through, material culture. This part of the Islamic tradition has hitherto received limited attention, leaving a fascinating and rich chapter of Islam's cultural production largely unexplored.
Essays by three leading experts contextualize over 100 extraordinary objects produced between the 12th and 20th twentieth centuries --- including personal ornaments, weaponry, textiles, miniature books, and scrolls. They demonstrates the currency of astrology, geomancy, bibliomancy, dream interpretation, and the science of divination through letters at all levels of society. Insights gleaned from historical sources unveil and chart the animated debates surrounding divinatory 'sciences,' reflecting changing attitudes towards these practices over the centuries. (The cover of the book, the jewel-encrusted Hand of Fatima, was one way people sough to protect themselves.)
Thoroughly researched and richly illustrated, Power and Protection offers a stimulating and accessible introduction to this topic for the general reader as well as a fresh and well-balanced account for the specialist.
2. Divination and religion in Islamic medieval culture (Pierre Lory)
3. From Prayer to Protection: Amulets and Talismans in the Islamic World (Christiane Gruber)
4. Sacred Words, Sacred Powers: Qur'anic and Pious Phrases as Sources of Healing and Protection (Francesca Leoni)
5. 9 extended catalogue entries and a fully illustrated checklist of 115 objects in the exhibition
The author, Dr. Francesca Leon,i is the Yousef Jameel Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum and a Research Associate at the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford.
Review by Sandra Smith, Cotswold Life:
"From every day humble objects such as bowls and jewellery to gold coins, swords and talismanic shirts... it reveals the many facets of Islam relating to the human desire to safeguard oneself from forces beyond our control.... Objects shown originate in countries from Morocco to China...
"Some of the themes may not surprise. Astrology, for instance, has long been favored by those yearning to know their destiny. The Horoscope of Prince Iskandar, made when he was 27, may have been manipulated to tie in with the Prince’s political aims but is still a beautiful work of art demonstrating skills of calligraphers and gilders.
"Pieces shown include a brass with silver and gold geomancer. A 13th century version of a Mac, this delicately engineered ‘computer’ allows a series of dials, arcs and dots to predict or answer questions. There are stunning ceremonial objects and military equipment, decorated talismanic shirts worn for safety in battle (a small version may have been intended to shield a child from illness).
"Emblazoned with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls, the Hand of Fatima is one of several sophisticated objects.. where octagonal miniature Qur’ans, engraved gemstones and amulet cases reveal the numerous ways people sought to protect themselves."