The traditional account of the Prophet Muhammad's ascension has inspired generations of writers and storytellers from the beginnings of Islam until today. By the tenth century, narratives describing Muhammad's encounter with prophets and angels, his colloquy with God, and his visits of heaven and hell lead to the formation of the "Book of Ascension", a novelizing and engaging literary genre most commonly written in Arabic and Turkic dialects. This is the study of an extremely rare Persian "Book of Ascension", which was written in Persian by an anonymous author and dates from the Ilkhanid Period (1256-1353). Christiane Gruber presents an English translation alongside the original manuscript text, together with critical commentary on the text as well as a series of Ilkhanid ascension paintings. The text appears to promote adherence, as well as to encourage conversion, to Sunni Islam - providing a fascinating insight into the interplay between artistic practices and missionary efforts aimed at promoting Sunni Islam in Persian lands during Ilkhanid rule.
Christiane Gruber (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2005) is Assistant Professor of Islamic Art at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author of The Timurid Book of Ascension (Mi'rajnama): A Study of Text and Image in a Pan-Asian Context (Valencia, 2008) and co-editor (with Frederick Colby) of The Prophet's Ascension: Cross-Cultural Encounters with the Islamic Mi'raj Tales (Bloomington, 2009). Her research has been supported by a number of grants, including the Max Planck Foundation, the Council of Library and Information Resources, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the American Institute of Iranian Studies and Fulbright-Hays.