This superb document consists of a legally-binding ʻaqd-namah (marriage contract) written in Persia (Iran) in 1219 AH (1804−5). Like other Persian marriage contracts of the 19th century, the document is quite imposing (at almost a meter in height) and its gold work indicative of the couple's wealth. At the top appears a sarloh or sar lawh (illuminated gold heading) containing a number of prayers to God written in red ink on a gold background. On the right of the illuminated sarloh and in the right margin decorated by flower-and-leaf motifs painted in gold appears another invocation to God as the Ayat al-nur (Light of the Heavens and the Earth, an invocation from Qurʼan 24:35). Between the illuminated prayers and the main text panel appear a number of seal impressions of the various marriage witnesses and the identification of the document as a nikah (marriage certificate). In the main text panel, various prayers to God are offered before introducing the bride and the groom, their various genealogies, their places of residence (Isfahan), and the marriage settlement provided by the mahiryah (groom). In this particular marriage contract, the groom offers his bride 100 dinars, a bakery, and other shops he owns. These “collateral” gifts seem related to the mubayaʻat-namah (sales contract) dated Muharram 28, 1228 AH (January 31, 1813) on the backside of this marriage contract. In this sales contract, several individuals enter into an agreement about the renting of several shops in the grand bazaar of Isfahan. The location of the shops, their goods (e.g., a bakery), and rental fees are specified. In the upper-right corner is the witness’s signature, his seal impression, and the date of Shawwal 2, 1236 (July 3, 1821). This appears somewhat strange, as the witness’s signature postdates the contract by seven years. One might speculate that the difference in dates may be due to a lengthy process of negotiation or an a posteriori addendum to the contract. The sales contract is written in taʻliq script tending towards shikastah. The text is unadorned, which is quite unlike the marriage contract. It appears that both documents are related to one another and provide detailed evidence of the various business and personal activities of a well-to-do merchant active in Isfahan during the first decade of the 19th century. Marriage contracts produced during the 18th and 19th centuries in Persia (Iran) belong to a class of Islamic legally-binding documents, such as vaqf-namahs (deeds of endowments) and vakalat-namahs (powers of attorney), a number of which survive in Iranian collections.
References: Layla Diba, editor, Iranian Wedding Contracts of the 19th and 20th Centuries (Tehran: Negarestan Museum, 1976).
Place: Central and South Asia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Eşfahān
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: 38.5 x 90.9 centimeters