An Introduction to Islamic Illumination


You've heard me mention gilding alot lately on my Instagram. So, what is gilding exactly and what makes it so special?

Firstly, I'd like to introduce gilding in relation to the art of Islamic Illumination.

What is Islamic Illumination?

- Also know as tezhip, by the turks, and tadhib in arabic, it literally means the application of gold.

Historically, gold was used for decorative purposes in ancient manuscripts, as a way of revering and elevating the Holy Books. This doesn't only apply to the Quran. Holy scriptures of all religions would use gold as an ornamental elevation.  The application of gold itself provided an elevation and reverance to the holy books, enhancing their physical value and symbolising their spiritual value.

Illumination art today gets its historical heritage from Turkish , Persian and Arabic tradition. Although tadhib means the application of gold itself, oftentimes we see the use of earth based pigments, which are used to add depth and elegance to their work. I am such a history nerd and love reading about the different types of Illumination. Author Sema Onat discusses the different types of Ottoman Illumination and provides valuable advice in her book "Islamic Art of Illumination". You can buy this book here:

Artwork is and can be illuminated using different techniques. The technique i am currently using is gilding. This is when leaves of genuine gold are applied to an object using an adhesive liquid (also known as a mordant). Yes Im talking about genuine gold, 24k, the type we wear as jewellery! The application of such a precious metal is what makes illuminated artworks unique and so valuable. 

I was first introduced to gilding, after attending an in-person workshop with master craftsman, Adam Williamson, who also runs workshops through  Needless to say I was fascinated and in awe of this technique and so I began reading and teaching myself all I could about it. 

I thoroughly recommend the book "Arts and Crafts of the Islamic Lands"  by The Princes School of Traditional Arts. It has a brief but very informative section on Gilding, to which I referred when applying the techniques for my upcoming Huroof Series. You can purchase this book here:

Another invaluable resource is "Splendours of Qur'an Calligraphy & Illumination", by Martin Lings.  I really struggled to get a copy of this book and I can tell you, it is worth EVERY PENNY. The photography of historical manuscripts and the detail shown is outstanding. It is a must-have for any illumination-enthusiast.  Ive linked this book below:

Thats it for today from me! Happy illuminating xx 


  • Jazakallah khair sister, this blog was very helpful. I have been in love with this art since I first stumbled upon a post on pinterest. I have been so excited to learn more about it but I thought that it was impossible for me , because of the lack of resources where I live. Now, I am going to try and buy a few books which you mentioned and give it my all. 😊😘

  • Alhamdulilah I’m soo happy for you!
    You really have worked extremely hard to get where you are today ….
    May Allah ease your journey ahead and fulfill all your dreams (Ameen)
    Much love xxx


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