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steel, iron, silver koftgari
North India, 19th C.
North India, 19th century
From a private collection. A Zulfaqar (Arabic: ذُو ٱلْفَقَار, romanized: Ḏū-l-Faqār, also spelled Zu al-Faqar, Zulfiqar, Dhu al-Faqar, Dhulfaqar or Dhulfiqar, is the sword of Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali was the fourth and last caliph of the Rightly Guided Caliphs (aka the Rashidun) and a son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammed. Shia Islam refers to the Muslims who believe that the leadership of the community after Muhammad belongs to Ali and his successors.
The Persian polymath Tarikh al-Tabari states that the exclamation lā sayfa ʾillā Ḏū l-Faqāri wa-lā fatā ʾillā ʿAlīyun is attributed to Muhammad, who is said to have uttered it in the Battle of Uhud in praise of Ali's exploit of splitting the shield and helmet of the strongest Meccan warrior, shattering his own sword in the same stroke. Muhammad is said to then have given his own sword Dhu-l-Fiqar to Ali to replace the broken sword.
The Zulfiqar is a ceremonial sword and was historically frequently depicted as a scissor-like double bladed sword on Muslim flags, and it is commonly shown in Shia depictions of Ali and in the form of jewelry functioning as talismans as a scimitar terminating in two points.
Our example is an Indian variant of the Zulfiqar and thus showcases an interesting blending of Islamic tradition and Indian design. India still has the largest (Shia) Muslim community outside Iran. Most documented Indian zulfiqar have a Khanda basket hilt making tulwar hilted examples somewhat rarer. The blade is of typical design with three fillers and a serrated edge and yelman (back edge). The hilt is of North Indian design with traces of silver koftgari work and the knuckle guard being split similar to the blade.
Condition is very good with some gentle cleaning. The blade has been reattached to the hilt. Belgian private collection.
Tirri, 2003,p. 331, fig. 252
Mortal beauty, Arms and Armour of India and China, E. Karlova, A. Pastukhov, A. Popov, E. Uspenskaya, 2015, p. 230
Die orientalische Sammlung von Henri Moser-Charlottenfels im historisches Museum, Bern
Examples in museums
Mumtaz Mahal Museum, Red Fort, Delhi
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, former Prince of Wales Museum of Western India
Chowmahalla Palace, Haiderabad
Akkalkot Museum, Maharashtra
Government Museum Bangalore
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