Ceramic mosque lamp

This lamp was made at the potteries of Iznik in Turkey. The inscriptions in cartouches include on the base the words 'Allah, Muhammad, Ali', referring to God, the Prophet Muhammad and Ali ibn Abi Talib (died AD 661). Ali was the cousin of the Prophet and married his daughter Fatima. He was the fourth of the 'Orthodox caliphs', the Prophet's closest companions who succeeded him as leaders of the Muslim community on his death. He was also the first of the Shi'a Imams and thus is revered by the Sunni and Shi'a branches of Islam.

Mosque lamps such as this served a symbolic rather than a practical purpose. They hung from the ceiling by chains and their shape was based on earlier glass examples from Mamluk Egypt (1250-1517) which provided light by means of a wick placed in a container of oil within the lamp. The association between God and light in Islam is emphasized by this verse from the Qur'an's 'Chapter of Light' sometimes inscribed on mosque lamps:

'God is the Light of the heavens and the earth;
the likeness of his light is as a wick-holder
Wherein is a light
(the light in a glass,
the glass as it were a glittering star)
kindled from a blessed tree' (Qur'an 24: 35-6)

The decorations and blue-and-white colour scheme were influenced by Chinese porcelain, which was popular at the Ottoman court ruling Turkey at this time.