The Smithsonian to Feature the First Ever Qur’an Exhibit

This fall, the Smithsonian is slated to debut its first ever exhibit featuring the Qur’an.
The four month display, “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts,” will spotlight pieces lent by the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul.
After a trip to Istanbul in 2010, chief curator at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and a curator of Islamic art Massumeh Farhad was left blown away by pieces she saw. With just a brief suggestion, Farhad barely needed to convince her gallery director Julian Raby to showcase the stunning pieces in the U.S. Capitol.
The bulk of the exhibition is composed of 48 manuscripts and folios from all over the Middle East, dating back over a thousand years. The diverse collection compiled by the Ottomans during their rule throughout the region includes pieces originating from several centuries and countless dynasties in countries from Iraq to Egypt, Afghanistan to Syria. The Turkish treasures will be supplemented by a set from the Smithsonian’s own collection of Asian art from its Sackler and Freer Galleries.

The Qur’an is the Holy Muslim text; a pure rendering of God’s verse in linguistically complicated but beautiful Arabic. The Smithsonian gallery, however, emphasizes the artistic intricacy that has often gone into protecting and preserving the scripture, which artistically complicated and beautiful.

Much like with the Torah, a copy of the Qur’an cannot be destroyed once it is created. Such a practice has even further solidified the enduring traditions of carefully conserving the stunning compilations.
Though the book is often in–and sometimes carelessly tossed around–the epicenter of fierce political discussion, this winter’s exhibit hopes to highlight the artistic value and diverse Islamic culture from a wide range of regions and eras.
The October 15 opening date falls just weeks before the U.S. Presidential elections, which has already employed Islam as a political and safety threat in both media and political discussions.
Farhad said, especially of the midfall debut, to NBC, “[The Quran] is largely presented in a particular perspective, and we hope that this exhibition will offer a new way to look at these incredible manuscripts, at the variety of it and the richness of it, and a different perspective.”