Major display of Islamic art in Buckinghamshire

PUBLISHED: 09:53 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:53 16 February 2016

A 400-year-old illuminated Qur’an from Ottoman Turkey in Naskh Script, illuminated with gold leaf with crush stone made ink

A 400-year-old illuminated Qur’an from Ottoman Turkey in Naskh Script, illuminated with gold leaf with crush stone made ink


Local philanthropist and internationally renowned museums will loan extraordinary treasures for exhibition spanning the centuries

A major exhibition celebrating the achievements of Islamic civilisation is being mounted in Buckinghamshire this year. Organisers believe it is the largest display of Islamic art ever seen in public anywhere in the South East outside the great museums. Treasures include carpets, paintings, furniture, metalwork, jewellery and calligraphy from across Asia – as well as one of the largest collections of Qur’ans in the country. The Art of Islam Festival, which runs from March 26 until September 24, is being organised by Buckinghamshire County Museum Trust.

It will be centred at the Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury, but more than 100 associated events are planned in collaboration with mosques, libraries and arts venues. Events in Chesham, Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Milton Keynes will allow visitors to experience Islamic literature, poetry, ceramics, painting, music, calligraphy and textiles.

The exhibits will be borrowed from the British Museum, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, London’s Horniman Museum and from the major private collection of philanthropist Razwan Baig, who lives in Bucks. The Bodleian Library, Oxford, is lending iconic 16th century paintings collected by Sir Gore Ouseley, a Bucks resident in Persia and at the Mughal Royal Courts between 1800 and 1810.

Richard de Peyer, Director of the Buckinghamshire County Museum Trust, said: “We are hugely excited by this exhibition. It’s one of the biggest and most ambitious we have organised and the exhibits are simply stunning. I think the public are in for a big treat, and it’s free to come and see the exhibition at the County Museum in Aylesbury.”

The museum, formerly part of the county council, is now an independent charitable trust. Mr de Peyer says: “We really do believe the museum can have a very positive effect on relations between Muslims and other local populations, and that stronger understanding of the peaceful nature of Islam will bind us closer together. A key element of the exhibition illustrates the achievement of Islamic calligraphers inspired by the sanctity of the Qur’an from early times until the present day - and from Birmingham comes a fantastic modern art object by Halima Cassell, carved from Carrara marble but responding to the beauty of the calligraphic line. There will also be 140 Qur’ans showing a huge variety of scripts, and methods of treating the Holy Book will be included in the final exhibition – almost certainly one of the largest collections in private hands in the UK.”

Mr Razwan Baig said: “It has been a long-term hope that the objects and Qur’ans I have assembled over many years should be properly exhibited for the public to see. It has been a constant source of pleasure for me to collect and live with these important reminders of the common Islamic heritage.”

Mr Baig is a renowned scholar, collector and researcher of Islamic manuscript as well as an art critic. His collection includes metalwork, ceramics, jewellery, lacquer, coins, seals, textiles from parchment and Quranic manuscripts. He explained: “My collection has been driven by the principle that there is no way to spread peace in the world without the medium of art. Art only spreads during peace and creates one of the great bridges between different cultures, because it breaks all the barriers among the societies, religion, colour or race.”

For opening hours of the festival and an events programme, visit


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