Emperor Humayun's Garden Tomb


The Shahada

The shahada (Arabic:ﺍﺷﻬﺎﺩﺓ) is the statement of the fundamental beliefs of a Muslim. "There is no god but God and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God."1

The most prominent shahada inscription at Humayun's Tomb is at the top of the dome's finial.

Sometimes the religious inscriptions are so high that one might think they could be aimed only at God.2

Recognizing the handful of Arabic inscriptions that lie disguised within the beautiful and complex calligraphy ornamentation in Islamic architecture is a very rewarding challenge for visitors who have recently reverted to Islam, visitors from different cultures with different languages, and children learning to read. This ornamentation makes the unobtainable seem more attainable and brings familiarity to the foreign.

"Familiarity with the sacred text on the part of those who frequented religious buildings could fairly be assumed, and this in turn meant that the recognition of a single word could unlock an entire inscription band."3

At Humayun's Tomb, shahada inscriptions can be recognized in other locations. Shahada inscriptions can also be found on a few cenotaphs in the mausoleum and around Humayun's Garden Tomb. Shahada inscription calligraphy is visible in a few incised plaster medallions around Humayun's Garden Tomb Complex, the Isa Khan Masjid is an example.

1. Margaret S. Graves and Benoît Junod, eds., Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Architecture in Islamic Arts (Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 2011), 352.

2. Robert Hillenbrand, "Splendour and Austerity: Islamic Architectural Ornament," Halt Annual, no. 2 (1995): 10.

3. ibid.


There is a shahada inscription at the top of the dome's finial.
A Shahada Inscription on an Incised Plaster Medallion
In the southeastern ancillary chamber of Humayun's Tomb, there are three cenotaphs with shahada inscriptions carved in the covers.

Additional Information

A formal bibliography is posted on the outline page.