MAḤALLĀTI, Moḥammad, a master calligrapher of the Timurid period, known only through three surviving works on wood and stone (a cetanoph, a door, and a stone plaque), which reflect the stylistic influence of the Timurid prince and master calligrapher Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Bāysonqor (for a detailed description, see Golmohammadi, pp. 61-69). The three surviving works are:
1. The undated cenotaph in Emāmzāda Ḥabib b. Musā in Kāšān, which has been called the grave of Shah ʿAbbās I. It is a rectangular, polished porphyry cenotaph in an apsidal structure located on the southeast side of the shrine, on a stone platform. It bears inscriptions exquisitely wrought in the ṯulṯ script (see CALLIGRAPHY) on the two long sides and one end, as well as on the top (FIGURE 1, FIGURE 2, FIGURE 3). The inscription on the sides starts with “Āyat al-korsi” verse (Qurʾān 2.256), followed by the phrase ṣadaqa Allāh al-ʿAẓim, and the name of the calligrapher, Moḥammad Maḥallāti (FIGURE 2). The name of the stonemason, Mobārakšāh appears at the end of the cenotaph (FIGURE 3; Narāqi, 1969, pp. 155-56; Meškāti, p. 260). There are no historical records of the burial place of Shah ʿAbbās. André Godard was the first scholar to argue that this cenotaph marks the grave of Shāh ʿAbbās I, using as his principal evidence the description of the death of Shah ʿAbbās and its circumstances in the supplement of Reżāqoli Khan Hedāyat to the Rawżat al-ṣafā of Mirḵᵛānd (Hedāyat, I, pp. 436-38; Godard, pp. 216-17). According to André Godard, the black stone was a gift of the Georgian officers of the entourage of Shah ʿAbbās (Godard, p. 217). Allāhyār Ṣāleḥ also mentioned that the kind of stone used for this cenotaph was not found anywhere in Persia. Therefore, he concluded that the carrying of such a heavy piece from a far-away location could only have been for a king such as Shah ʿAbbās (Żarrābi, Ṣāleḥ’s comm, pp. 555-56). Godard’s view was accepted by Narāqi, who also referred mainly to Eskandar Beg Torkamān (pp. 1078-79, tr., II, pp. 1303-4), the royal secretary of Shah ʿAbbās, who states that the shah’s body rested there in the shrine of Emāmzāda Ḥabib b. Musā, pending the time when it would be carried to one of the major holy shrines (yaki az amāken-e mošarrafa). Narāqi further argued that the shah had expressed the wish to be buried in this shrine, and mentions the statement in the supplement to Eskandar Beg’s history, according to which, Shah Ṣafi I paid respect to the burial place of the “world conquerer” (i.e., Shah ʿAbbās) when he was passing through Kāšān (Narāqi, 1964, pp. 14-17; idem, 1966, pp. 134-36; idem, 1969, pp. 155-56). Yet, the identification of this cenotaph as the burial place of Shah ʿAbbās is disproved, by the appearance of the name of the calligrapher, Moḥammad Maḥallāti, on the next two objects in the same region, which are clearly dated to the Timurid period.
2. The door of the Boqʿa-e Šāhzāda Qāsem in Fin-e Bozorg, dated 884/1479-80. This door, which is badly damaged, is now kept in the shrine storage. It consists of two leaves and a number of panels carved with a design of palmettes in low relief. Below the upper horizontal panels on either side is an inscription in ṯulṯ (Golmohammadi, pp. 64-66), of which the one on the right contains the name of the donor, Moḥammad son of ʿAli surnamed Bahādor (FIGURE 4); and the one on the left, mentions the name of the carver al-Sayyed Tāj-al-Din ʿAli son of Sayyed Amir, and the date 884. At the end of the inscription on the left is another small inscription shaped like a round seal, reading Moḥammad al-Maḥallāti wrote this (FIGURE 5).
3. The stone plaque in the shrine of Emāmzāda Solṭān-ʿAli b. Imam Moḥammad al-Bāqer, dated 893/1488, in Ardehāl, at about 49 km west of Kāšān. Over the entrance door to the courtyard of the shrine is a stone plaque consisting of seven sections (FIGURE 6). It bears, in calligraphic ṯulṯ script, the command of Šāhroḵ Mirzā and Abu’l-ʿEzz Mirzā, dated 893/1488, exempting the sayyeds and dependants of the Boʿqa-ye Sultan ʿAli b. Imam Moḥammad al-Bāqer from paying taxes (Marandi, pp. 32-33). The inscription ends with the mentioning of Moḥammad al-Maḥallāti as the calligrapher and Mobārakšah as the mason with the date 893.
The mention of Moḥammad Maḥallāti as the calligrapher and the unquestonable similarity of the style of calligraphy on the two dated works of the Timurid period clearly disproves the argument initiated by Godard and furthered by Narāqi, Ṣāleḥ , and Meškāti, which identifies the cenotaph in the Emāmzāda Ḥabib b. Musā as the grave of Shāh ʿAbbās I, who died more than a century later in 1038/1629.
Eskandar Beg Torkamān Monši, Tāriḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye ʿabbāsi, ed., Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1955-56, II, pp. 1078-79; tr. Roger Savory as History of Shah ʿAbbās the Great, 3 vol., Boulder, 1979-86.
André Godard, “The Tomb of Shah ʿAbbas,” Bulletin of the American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology 4, Dec. 1936, pp. 216-17.
Javad Golmohammadi, “The Cenotaph in Imāmzāda Ḥabib b. Musā, Kashan: Does it Mark the Grave of Shāh ʿAbbās I?,” in Patricia L. Baker and Barbara Brend, eds., Sifting Sands, Reading Signs: Studies in Honour of Professor Géza Fehérávri, London, 2006, pp. 61-69.
Reżāqoli Khan Hedāyat, Tāriḵ-e rawżat al-ṣafā-ye nāṣeri, 3 vols. (= VIII-X of Mirḵᵛānd, Tāriḵ-e Rawżāt al-Ṣafā) Qom, 1960.
Moḥammad-Bāqer Marandi, Nur-e bāherdar tarjama-ye ḥażrat-e Emām ʿAli b. Moḥammad al-Bāqer, ed. Moḥaddeṯ, Qom, 1381/1961, pp. 32-33.
Noṣrat-Allāh Meškāti, Fehrest-e banāhā-ye tāriḵi wa amāken-e bāstāni-e Irān, Tehran, 1970; tr. H. A. S. Pessyan as A List of the Historical Sites and Ancient Monuments of Iran, Tehran, 1974.
Ḥasan Narāqi, “Naẓar-i ba ārāmgāh-e Šāh ʿAbbās-e kabir dar Kāšān wa madārek-e tāriḵi-e ān,” Honar o mardum 24, 1964, pp. 10-17.
Idem, Tāriḵ-e ejtemāʿi -e Kāšān, Tehran, 1966, pp.134-36.
Idem, Āṯār-e tāriḵi-e šahrestānhā-ye Kāšān wa Naṭanz, Tehran, 1969, pp. 155-56.
ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Kalāntar Żarrābi, Tāriḵ-e Kāšān (Merʾāt al-Qāsān), ed. Iraj Afšār, 3rd ed. with additional notes by Iraj Afšār and Allāhyār Ṣāleḥ, Tehran, 1977, pp. 555-56.
March 20, 2009
Originally Published: April 20, 2009
Last Updated: April 20, 2009