From the Ottoman period onwards [description of the prophet] have been presented on calligraphic hilya panels (Turkish: hilye, pl. hilyeler), commonly surrounded by an elaborate frame of illuminated decoration and either included in books or, more often, muraqqas or albums, or sometimes placed in wooden frames so that they can hang on a wall.

The elaborated form of the calligraphic tradition was founded in the 17th century by the Ottoman calligrapher Hâfiz Osman. While containing a concrete and artistically appealing description of Muhammad’s appearance, they complied with the strictures against figurative depictions of the Prophet, leaving his appearance to the viewer’s imagination.

The Ottoman hilye format customarily starts with a basmala, shown on top, and is separated in the middle by Quran 21:107: “And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds”. The four circles often contain the names of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali, each followed by “radhi Allahu anhu” (“may God be pleased with him”).

1-2: Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi (1801–1876)

3: Mehmed Tahir Efendi (d. 1848)

4: Unknown. Turkish, 18th Century.

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    Textual/verbal representations of the Prophet Muhammad.
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