Saudi Arabian Qur’an in 30 Volumes
This entire Qur’an in 30 separate volumes is truly unusual. Thirty volume Qur’ans are commonly seen in Sini (Chinese) or Maghribi (North African) manuscripts, but never from Hijaz in Saudi Arabia, making them objects of exceptional rarity.
The only manuscripts commonly produced in Hijaz are hajj certificates that were issues to pilgrims after their visits to Mecca. All the other Qur’ans traced from this area were single volume manuscripts.
The Shafei name is a prominent one in the Hijaz area of Saudi Arabia, possibly with connections to the historical Al-Shafei Mosque in Jeddah. Each of the volumes has a dedication to Shaykh Ahmad Muhammadal-Banhawi and Shaikh Muhammad Jazi, who were presumably rulers in the wider Saudi peninsula that commissioned this work for the use of their local communities.
Because of the Shafei connection, we are certain this is where this manuscript was copied, however we suspect it was then illuminated by the sheikh commissioners elsewhere (probably eastern Saudi Arabia, by the two families named in the front endpapers of each volume) because illumination of this kind was forbidden in Hijaz during this period. Only the first double page of the first volume is illuminated, and it has been executed in a very provincial manner.
The division of the Qur’an into 30 equal parts was often done to facilitate the reader to recite the entire work within one calendar month. This was particularly efficient practice within the context of a communal mosque, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, because it facilitated individuals reading separate juz’ simultaneously.
The Hejaz (/hiːˈdʒæz/; Arabic: ٱلْـحِـجَـاز, translit. al-Ḥijāz, lit. ‘the Barrier’), is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. The region is so called as it separates the land of the Najd in the east from the land of Tihamah in the west. It is also known as the “Western Province.” It is bordered on the west by the Red Sea, on the north by Jordan, on the east by the Najd, and on the south by ‘Asir Region. Its largest city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As the location of the two holiest sites in Islam, the Hejaz has significance in the Arab and Islamic historical and political landscape.