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Islamic art is aniconic, does not represent living beings that have souls, therefore, we will not find, generally, representations of animals or people, but vegetation because for Muslims plants have no soul. Faced with the lack of figurative decoration, new solutions were devised such as geometric decoration, vegetable decoration and the use of calligraphy as an ornamental method. Islamic decoration is governed by horror vacui, a Latin expression that indicates that they decorate all the nooks and crannies of the piece, leaving no empty space.
For Muslims calligraphy is a method of sacred ornamentation, as what is shown are words of Allah. This type of calligraphy is called nashi, which is how Muslims call italics. In the inscription we can read an epitaph of a man who died in the year 606 for Muslims, after his hegira, which corresponds to the year 1209 AD. The beauty of its pointed horseshoe arch as well as the ornamental weave created by calligraphy with vegetal motifs make this piece a unique stele of Islamic art. Funerary stele from the South of the Arabian Peninsula.
Tabular stele with longer vertical sides. Inscribed with a pointed horseshoe arch. Every surface is carved with vegetable and floral ornaments on the vertical bands, on the spandrels and around the arch. On each of the spandrels there is an anepigraphic circular rosette.
The inscription is distributed as follows: in two horizontal bands, one at the top and one at the bottom, on the lowered surface inside the arch, 10 lines, and in vertical bands that frame the central cartouche below the arch. It begins in the upper horizontal band with a Qur’anic quotation (Q,IV, 79/81) followed by the risala (Muhammad’s prophetic mission): هللا لوسر لوسر دمحم اديهش هللاب ىفكو God is sufficient as a witness. Muḥammad is the envoy of God Continues, inside the arch and the central poster, with the name of the deceased, his filiation (nasab), his kunya, nisba and titles, followed by praises to his person: ماظن // لجالا // (؟) دصلا نب يلع // حتفلا وبا ناهجر ناهجر… (؟) ناك يمط // افلا نسحلا نب // يسج نب دئاق // (؟) ةلودلا … //و همحر…// هللا …Riŷhān Abū l-Fatḥ // cAlī b. al-Ṣadd (¿?), // the IlustrísiFuneral mo, // the Order of the dynasty (¿?), // Chief b. Ŷasī b. al-Ḥasan al-Fā//ṭimī. God … //… have mercy on him and… ةيزاغلا) ةيزغلا دالبب هتافو ناك by) // نينثا موي // ةرخالاىدامج رشع هللا سماخلا ةنجلا // يف هللا ةئام تسو تس ةنس His death took place in the territory of algazúa *1 , on Monday // (day) the fifteenth day of the month of ŷumādà II *2, // in the year six and six hundred (15/12/1209). God’s light is // in Paradise.
*1 The Arabic expression bilād al-gāziya refers to the territory or settlements where military incursions are usually carried out, denominated in Spanish with the arabismos aceifas, algaras, razias or algazúas.
*2 The 15th day of ŷumādà II of that year was not Monday, but Tuesday. This type of distortion is common in some epigraphic texts.