Exhibitions: Light of the Sufis: The Mystical Arts of Islam

Sample of Persian Calligraphy from a Mughal Album. Calligraphy: Iran, Safavid, 16th century; margins: India, Mughal, 17th century. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by anonymous donors and the Helen Babbott Sanders Fund, 1991.185

June 5–September 6, 2009

This installation features approximately twenty-five objects from the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and private collections related to a mystical branch of Islam known as Sufism. While differing Muslim sects and diverse nationalities of the Islamic world may not always share a single religious or cultural ideology, the mystical and romantic aspects of Sufism tend to appeal to a global audience. Inspired by Sufi ideologies and the poetry of celebrated mystics such as al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) and Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273), artists from the medieval Islamic period through the present day have produced works of art ranging from ceramic and metal wares to illustrated manuscripts and photographs. The theme of light and enlightenment is emphasized throughout, both literally and in its figurative or spiritual sense. Highlights include an extraordinary Egyptian gilded and enameled glass lamp inscribed with the famous “Light Verse” (Ayat al-Nūr) from the Qur’an; two brass candlesticks made in the Jazira region and Iran in the early thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, respectively; illustrated manuscripts, manuscript pages, and single folios of Sufi literature and subjects from Iran and India; an early thirteenth-century Iranian dish inscribed with mystical poetry; and a contemporary work on paper inspired by Sufi practices and produced with rubbings of prayer stones. Light of the Sufis at the Brooklyn Museum is presented in conjunction with Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas, an unprecedented ten-day festival and conference in New York City in celebrating Islamic culture.


Light of the Sufis: The Mystical Arts of Islam is organized by Ladan Akbarnia, Hagop Kevorkian Associate Curator of Islamic Art, Brooklyn Museum.

The installation is supported by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund with additional support by Fred and Diana Elghanayan.

Exhibition Highlights

Bowl of Reflections Inscribed Wine Bowl Beggar's Bowl A family of dervishes