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Rare Indian Islamic items on display in Oxford

Amulets, talismans, ancient horoscopes and miniature Qurans are among objects on display at an Oxford exhibition that seeks to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world.

world Updated: Oct 22, 2016 18:25 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
An amulet from India on display at an Oxford exhibition that seeks to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world.
An amulet from India on display at an Oxford exhibition that seeks to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world.(Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford)

Amulets, talismans, ancient horoscopes and miniature Qurans are among over a hundred objects from countries such as India, Morocco, China and Egypt on display at an Oxford exhibition that seeks to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world.

The objects include some from seventeenth century India that reflect the country’s Islamic heritage as well as recall the work of artisans in places such as Golconda and Agra. The exhibition is titled Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural and runs until January 15.

A calligraphic standard from India on display at an Oxford exhibition that seeks to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world. (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Billed as the first major exhibition to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world, the exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum includes objects and works of art from the 12th to the 20th centuries which have been used as sources of guidance and protection in both the private sphere and in dramatic events such as battles and royal births.

Amongst the displays are dream-books, talismanic clothing, military equipment, medical tools and jewel-encrusted amulets, many of which have never before been seen in public.

“Belief in the supernatural and the practice of divination have held a place in people’s lives across all times and cultures. In Islam, as in all religions, such beliefs and practices have often merged and been integrated into popular religion,” organisers said.

“Everyday objects and luxury items abound, showing how these practices were used at all levels of society around the Islamic world.”

Zodiac coins from India on display at an Oxford exhibition that seeks to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world. (Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford)

Tariq Ramadan, professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford, said: “With an emphasis less on theory and more on Islamic practices, hopes and even superstitions, the exhibiton shows the many creative paths which Muslims follow towards the Oneness of God (Tawhid).”

“In examining these practices and the artworks associated with them, we can gain a deeper historical, cultural and even theological understanding of Muslims as they strive to come back to their source of knowledge and explore the meaning of human destiny. This is about spiritual liberation in all its forms and Power and Protection opens that mysterious door.”