Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-14-2005 01:32 PM:

Help with figures needed


So far I thought live is to short to learn Arabic. But now I wished for a little more certainty with regard to the date in the mirhab. Is there an alternative to interpreting it as reading 1894? I ask this because the Afghani who recently washed the rug for me suggested it just reads: Allah.

Allah bilir. Perhaps Filiberto as well if he looks in?



Posted by Steve Price on 11-14-2005 02:04 PM:

Hi Horst

It's in the typical spot for an inscribed date, but I see five digits in it (not the four that would comprise a date). The third doesn't really look like any of the digits I know about, but there is more than one way to write most of them.

The first two digits are clearly 21, if read from left to right. We haven't yet reached the years that start with those numerals, and won't get there for another 700 years or so. If we read it right to left, the first two digits are 11, and the 1100-1200 AH period is too far in the distant past to be plausible as a production date.

I'm not persuaded that the inscription is "Allah". It may be another of the many unintelligible date-like inscriptions woven by illiterate weavers.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-15-2005 03:28 AM:

Hi Horst,

Don’t count on my Arabic: I have a sort of block for learning non-Latin alphabets, and I cannot learn what I cannot read… This didn’t prevent me from searching the web.

I found that “Allah bilir” is the Turkish translation for “Allaha yaAAlamu”: phonetic translation of the Arabic

which means “Only God knows”.

The “Allah” part (first word from the right) looks similar to the one on the rug. What about “bilir”?
I found a website that transliterates Latin Alphabet to Arabic, and this is the result:

It doesn’t match.

Eventually my wife woke up and I could ask her. She has a passable - but not perfect - knowledge of written Arabic and she suggests that the inscription is “Bil Illah” that means “by God”.
Incidentally, I disagree with Steve when he says that “the first two digits are clearly 21, if read from left to right” because what looks as a “2” is turned on the wrong direction.

Horst, could you post the whole rug please? You know, it’s for my CaucasMania…


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-15-2005 05:25 AM:

This is the transliteration of “bil illah”.

I don’t know…
P.S. the website says Write s_, d_, t_ , z_ , h_, a_, i_, u_ and a- to convert them to ş, đ, ţ, �, ĥ, ā, ī, ū and � respectively. Please note that the transliteration from Roman to Arabic is not one to one so you may see some difference. May God forgive us
so I don't know if the transliteration is correct and my wife is not available to check it now.

Posted by Steve Price on 11-15-2005 05:39 AM:

Hi Filiberto

The fact that the left hand element looks like a mirror image of the numeral 2 doesn't disturb me because mirror image inscriptions are so common on rugs.

Allah bilir may not be what the inscription says, but it may be our best response to it.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-15-2005 05:48 AM:

Hi Steve,

Let's say that it's Allah and something else .
Only God knows...

Posted by Amir Aharon on 11-15-2005 12:49 PM:

"go figure!"

Hi Horst, Steve, Filiberto.......

Despite ALLAH's omnipotence and ubiquity which obviously we all
agree about (we better I think we should leave him out of this

My guess is as good as any of yours. Steve is probably right about
the one and two (the first two digits from left- mirror wise).
The third could very well be seven ( V in Arabic and Persian numerals). Then there is a one again.

The long line under all these numerals is possibly the word
'sanah' which means year in Arabic and Filiberto can probably
confirm that ......not without the help of his wife

I have (and so have many of you) seen this 'sanah' under
many dated inscriptions of Caucasian prayer rugs. I may scan
one such rug in a next post for comparison. As Steve mentioned
these dates are copied by illiterate weavers and one may
expect very strange numerals; which is the more interesting
to decipher.

Horst, do please post other images of this rug. Now you have
me and Filiberto begging. I like the colors, I don't know about the age.
But if I am right about what I said above it should be

1271 Higra = 1855 AD

And then it's only an inscription, it doesn't have to be right.



Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-15-2005 01:46 PM:

Hello Steve, Filiberto,

thanks for the great length you have gone to. My sincere apologies to your dear wife, Filiberto, for apparently having robbed her of her husband in the middle of the night.

I am glad I have asked you for help in this matter as your replies have prompted me to consider a possibility that had not occured to me before: could it be Allah as well as a date?

The following sketch shows how I accessed the question of date. I started off with the assumed date of 1894 (arabic figures in mirror image) given to me by the man from whom I bought the rug:

Calligraphy, an art worshipping the Almighty may have been blended with a customary date. After all, it is a prayer rug.

Here is the whole thing. I love its airy, almost transcendental sphere.

Karachoph Kasak with red polygones (type II):




Posted by Amir_Aharon on 11-15-2005 03:33 PM:


Here is a prayer rug with the exact date inscription AH 1312 = AD 1894 as Horst's Prayer rug. It is plate 28 from Ralph Kaffels Caucasian Prayer Rugs.

In Kaffel's rug you can clearly see the number 3 which is very similar to 2 but with an additional pick (more like a fork). I don't see this 3 on Horst's rug. But the dealer made a calculated guess which can be true.

One thing is sure, and Horst chooses to ignore it, is the long line inside which there is a dot (for the S letter--'seen' in Arabic) and which underlines all of the numerals. It says 'sanah' (year). The 2-headed fork on the far left end seen in both inscriptions and which ALSO looks very much like the 2 numeral in Arabic is actually the letter H ('ha') in the word 'YEAR'.

As for the arithmetic: (1312-1312/33.5)+622 ~= 1894
(1272-1272/33.5)+622=~ 1856

The way the Karatchop looks, 1856 would be too early an age. If anything, we will have to settle for 1894.

Amir Aharon

Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-15-2005 04:03 PM:

Hello Amir

There seems to be much tolerance in the drawing of figure three. The three in the rug you are showing us comes close to 4 1/2 judged by the number of "dents". Here again one might think the figure three has been artistically enhanced for sake of symmetry, ranking high as an esthetic principle in Islamic art. I didn't know there was any significance in the line underneath the figures. I am to ignorant with regard to Arabic figures and letters to have 'chosen to ignore' any of it.

Unfortunately the picture showing the rug as a whole is out of focus. I'll send in a few more 'fragments' and hope I'll get a complete image done within the next couple of days.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-15-2005 04:11 PM:

Hi Horst,

No, it wasn’t the middle of the night, but in the morning.
I can see your graphic but the whole picture of your rug is still missing. What happened?

Amir, with reference to Kaffel’s prayer rug, you may be interested by this old thread:



Posted by Tim Adam on 11-15-2005 04:32 PM:

Somone may have fudged with the date. It looks like all of the confusion is due to just one knot, which is now white, but may have been black previously.


Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-16-2005 01:19 AM:

Hi Horst,

I found in the Show and Tell folder these two partial images of your rug:



Posted by Amir Aharon on 11-16-2005 03:05 AM:

'Dating a Rug'

Hi Horst,

The date on Kaffel's prayer rug has the first two numerals (from right to left) in mirror image and the last two just normal.
The only two possibilities with this date (knowing Persian and
Arabic numerals) are 1213 and 1312. The former is out of the
question (1799 !). The confusion arouses from the weaver having
woven the no. 2 and 3 too close to one another. Their dents are

Filiberto, thanks for mentioning the salon with the Kaffel rug and
another very similar prayer 'Kazak'. It's dated 1301 and it also
has the Arabic word 'sanah' (year) under the date. As you can
see, the last letter (H) resembles the Persian numeral 2. As Tim
says, the weaver may miss one black knot to make the H look
exactly like 2, which often arouses confusion.



Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-16-2005 03:42 AM:

Well, I’m quite convinced now that the inscription on Horst’s rug is probably a mirrored 1312 with a missing knot from the 3… What a messy weaver…

Amir, the rug similar to Kaffel’s and said (at the beginning) to be dated 1311 turned out to be dated 1310 (AD 1892). If you look at the bigger image, you can see the point (zero) at the right of the last 1.


Posted by Amir Aharon on 11-16-2005 04:36 AM:

'Deciphering Dates'

Hi Filiberto,

You are right about the Sharon Larkins-Pederson rug. It is 1310
and not 1301 (nor 1311).

The dot after the 3 is not the usual zero (in Farsi) but rather as
in our other cases it belongs to the 'S' (seen in Arabic) of the
word 'sanah' which I mentioned in my last post.This would rule
out 1301.


Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-16-2005 04:50 AM:

Hello Amir, Tim and all

I can see where the confusion starts in the ‘Kraffel Rug’. Some figures are in mirror image, others are ordinary. This is how my son drew his first figures and letters. Its is normal at that age and stabilizes at around seven or eight years.

It is different with my rug though: all figures are in the same order and in mirror image. Therefore we have less reason to assume that the weaver was illiterate to the degree that she did not even could tell apart figures two and three. She may not have been able to do so but we don’t know. Assuming it would mean we are entering speculation.

I also reject the idea that she may simply have forgotten one black knot or may have mixed up white and black wool or was confused and has hit the wrong line of knots. All speculative as well. I am perfectly aware that dates can be fiddled to make a rug appear older. Without any inscription I would have placed the rug in the age span of 1880 – 1910 and so would have most of us, I believe. For the time being I keep up the research attitude and hypothesize that there is an idea behind this odd constellation, only I don’t know which. For sure I’ll ask the Afghani at a higher lever of knowledge about the conflicting issues next time I meet him, and the merchant as well.

Back to your explanation, Amir, I am afraid I still can’t make out head and tail of what you are saying and hope, you can help me on a bit. I cite you: “… is the long line inside which there is a dot (for the S letter--'seen' in Arabic) and which underlines all of the numerals. It says 'sanah' (year). The 2-headed fork on the far left end seen in both inscriptions and which ALSO looks very much like the 2 numeral in Arabic is actually the letter H ('ha') in the word 'YEAR'.”

I can’t see a line with a dot in it, only one with a dot above it. Is it the line or is it the dot that says ‘sanah / year’?

The “2-headed fork” as you call it in the ‘Kraffel Rug’, looking like Arabic/Persian number two, but in fact being “the letter H in the word ‘YEAR’ “ makes my confusion perfect. Do you perhaps mean the letter H (‘ha’) in the word ‘sanah’ rather?

If yes, I would conclude you mean to say, the line and “fork” together form the word ‘sanah / year’. This however would imply – the date in my rug being mirror imaged – that the letter H / ‘ha’ would take first position (different to the ‘Kraffel Rug’), that it would be out off line with the mirror image and also, the figure two would have been omitted which stands for the exact year. This is something I have not encountered before. I only know of inscribed rugs where the figures indicating the millennium or the century have been left out.



Posted by Amir Aharon on 11-16-2005 10:24 AM:

Hi Horst,

Let's go back to your first post; the Afghan guy suggested the
word 'ALLAH' . I rule this out, specially because of the dot. There
is no dot in any of the letters spelling Allah.

As for the word 'sanah' , in your rug the numeral 2 (the fork with
two heads to the far left) OVERRIDES the letter H in the word sanah (all in Arabic). I wish I had Arabic or Persian numerals and
letters to explain the long line under the date with a dot over it.
This is the 'S' of the 'sanah' (year).

I hope I haven't made things more complicated.



Posted by Steve Price on 11-16-2005 11:21 AM:

Hi Guys

It seems clear enough to me that the inscription is unintelligible. When various speculations are introduced, it can be read in various ways.

The exercise of trying to decipher it is kind of fun, but the undercurrent of hostility that it seems to be generating among those whose preferred speculations differ is kind of disturbing.

Let's not allow it to become more than it is.


Steve Price

Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-16-2005 03:52 PM:

Hello all,

No, I can’t see any Allah in it either. Thank you, Filiberto, for those writing samples. Please, Amir, can you explain what you mean with ‘overrides’ the letter H in the word sanah?

Steve, no offence was given or taken that I was aware of.

I’ll be back in the office tomorrow and will see to a proper picture of the rug.



Posted by Amir Aharon on 11-17-2005 01:48 AM:

Hi Everyone,

"what I mean by overriding" :

If you look at the inscription on Kaffel's rug the figures 2 and 3
are stuck together between the two vertical lines (the ones).
The last letter to the left resembles the figure 2 but is actually
the letter H in the word 'sanah'.

In Horst's prayer rug, IF we decide on the date 1312, we need a
2 at the far end. So it could possibly be that the H of 'sanah' in
this case is also the figure 2 (overriding!)

Steve, I'm not aware of any undercurrent hostilities from any side
either. Thank you all the same for the sensitivity. We are only
discussing technical observations, and different angles of how
we see things. Some, or all of us can be wrong (including the


Posted by Chris Countryman on 11-17-2005 07:06 PM:


Greetings All,
We have a student, Ahmed, from Saudi Arabia living with us right now. He is studying English as a second language at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). I showed Horst's original rug and asked him what the inscription under the mirhab said. He reported it simply says, "Allah."

Ahmed went on to explain that there are five ways of writing in Arabic. He compared them to printing and cursive in English. I showed him some of the later discussions and he said again that it says only "Allah."

God only knows for sure, but I'll take the word of an Arab about Arabic.

Chris Countryman

Posted by Steve Price on 11-17-2005 07:18 PM:

Hi Chris

It's always best to get someone who knows. I'm convinced.


Steve Price

Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-18-2005 05:46 AM:

Hello Chris and all

What a funny development. It is taking my breath.

Here come two more images of the rug, showing the inscription from the reverse and the other one the rug in total.

Thanks to all who have partaken so far.



Posted by Amir Aharon on 11-18-2005 08:35 AM:

Hello again,

Can't argue with Ahmed, can we?

This would be my first Caucasian prayer rug with the "Allah"
inscription. But then there is a saying "Kulha men Allah".
(Everything is God's wish!)

Supposing the inscription IS a word and not a mistaken copy of
figures then I guess it's Kufic calligraphy.

I rest my case now, just in time before gets


Posted by Cevat Kanig on 11-18-2005 08:50 AM:

Hi All,

The name of the God { Allah } in islamic world newer put down specialy in a prayer rug, very rarely you can see allah word in rugs, but they are wall hanging pieces not to pray on it.

That looks to me a date, not Allah.


Posted by Steve Price on 11-18-2005 10:38 AM:

Hi All

The two images to which Horst referred a couple of posts ago have arrived. Here they are:

Thanks, Horst.

Steve Price

Posted by Steve Price on 11-18-2005 11:40 AM:

Originally posted by Cevat Kanig
Hi All,

The name of the God { Allah } in islamic world newer put down specialy in a prayer rug, very rarely you can see allah word in rugs, but they are wall hanging pieces not to pray on it.

That looks to me a date, not Allah.


Hi Cevat

Could this be different in different parts of the world, or with different Muslim groups? The Topkapi collection includes a number of prayer rugs with the name, Allah, inscribed in them. I don't know whether they were ever used on the floor, of course.


Steve Price

Posted by Cevat Kanig on 11-18-2005 12:27 PM:

Hi Steve,

I don't think any Muslim groups puts the name of god below the body level, some prayer carpets speacialy court rugs are wall hanging they have the names of the god, god has 99 names in Arabic, it knowns as Esmaul-Husna ,some rugs has all the 99 names of the god and they are mostly in good condition because never prayed on it. specialy Ottaman Turks they used allah inscribed rugs in the ottaman courts. not on the floor.


Posted by Johanna Raynor on 11-18-2005 01:33 PM:

Looks like Allah to me. On a prayer rug this placing would have been to the front and above the prayer's head. My friend doesn't walk all over her prayer rug. It is stored carefully to be kept clean.
I'm fairly confident I have seen Allah used - not alone - in modern commercial persian city rug inscriptions, but have no hard evidence before me - and I'm banned from the souk at present.
Reflection on the numbers. Arabic numbers are read left to right just like we do it. Only words are r to l. Makes reading arabic only business cards fun!

If this weaver was writing numbers she only intended them to read from the back Or she copied from the back of another rug. Either she could read numbers and intended to communicate a date, in which case they would have been the right way on the front, or she was just copying another rug (which may have been an old scrap she was replacing thirty years after it had worn out )
The result is this nice rug has an inscription that either invokes the God of the its user or a bunch of meaningless but decorative symbols.

have fun

Posted by Cevat Kanig on 11-18-2005 02:30 PM:

Hi to all,

Here is how Allah write in arabic.

there is no similarity betwen the writing and the date. if some body says there is, please show us how it is. horst rug's dated 1312

And here is the 99 name of God.


Posted by Tim Adam on 11-18-2005 02:46 PM:

Hello all,

I maintain my hypothesis that the date has been tampered with. If you look closely, then you will see that the one knot in question has a different shape than all the other knots. Looks like a clear case to me.


Posted by Amir_Aharon on 11-18-2005 06:11 PM:

Hi Horst, Everyone,

Here is a list of Persian numerals and their mirror images invariably used for inscribing dates on Caucasian rugs. They look almost exactly like the Arabic ones.

Farsi and Arabic letters and words are written from right to left, but a series of numbers is written and read from left to right. On the other hand an individual digit, say 2, is written starting from right to left. See figure 3 in my chart.

Weavers normally do the knotting from left to right. A weaver who knows her numerals well, will imagine inscribing the no. 2 from right to left as in fig. 3, but must weave from left to right (no going back!). Thus producing a MIRROR IMAGE of the no. 2 as seen in Fig. 4.

The problematic digits are 2, 3, 4, and 6 . The mirror image of the rest stays the same, as you can see in the chart.

Now back to Horst's prayer Kazak(the case refuses to rest!); if anyone finds a CAUCASIAN rug with "ALLAH" inscription, let him come forth, and I for one, shall definitely SALUTE him.

Amir Aharon

Posted by Johanna Raynor on 11-19-2005 09:30 AM:

The point being...not only did she mirror image the individual numbers but the entire sequence....hey what if the two is a six...perhaps its the price. Knots are done one at a time. Why can't you change the next line. We all have rugs where this happens!
Tim I like your theory...
Horst if you need to have a valid readable date I know just the guy
Cevat - thats not how it looks in my dictionary and not how my teacher writes it and not how she is teaching me.
I'm humbly submit that I have no experience at all with kazak defer to you experience
Horst your rug is just a pleasure to have around. Thanks for sharing it

Posted by Johanna Raynor on 11-19-2005 09:35 AM:

Hey Horst,
What if it is the ONLY caucasian rug with Allah on it. Better than an common old date any day

Posted by Cevat Kanig on 11-19-2005 10:22 AM:

Hi Joanna,

That is how allah writes in basic, i wounder how it writes in your
dictionary,you can write Allah with diffrent style with sherif or oders even you can create a style for your self but that is how allah writes in arabic in basic.


Posted by Amir Aharon on 11-19-2005 11:45 AM:


Dear Ms. Johanna,

You wrote: "I have no experience at all with Kazak rugs."

How about forgeries? A dealer friend of mine once told me that
every other fine Esfahan rug crossed the Persian gulf, nice and
clean, 'sans inscription', but left the emirates with a good old
"SERAFIAN ESFAHAN" (woven perfectly as part of the elem) or any
other inscription you can think of.

I don't remember if it was Dubai or Abu Dabi. This went on until
they discovered Turkey , where you can reconstruct the whole piece!!

Luckily, no one dares forge "ALLAH".


Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-20-2005 12:15 PM:

Hello all,

I am not aware of any normative standards regarding variation of pile knots’ sizes or the regularity of weft treads as being the case with apples and eggs. However, there is something looking like an apparently black knot in the second figure from left (top row; large scale mirror image) that looks squeezed between rows of wefts more than other knots do. Filiberto has first remarked upon its absence on the face of the rug. I don’t know whether this is also the “tempered” with knot Tim Adams had in mind. But I propose it is because I love detective stories, Tim. In fact, I watched one on the telly last night. A wonderful piss-take, the great detectives of the last century being assembled and locked up overnight in the same room by an disenchanted reader of their stories who made all sorts of nasty things happening to them, starring Alec Guinness and David Niven amongst others.

Back to the rug. That ‘funny’ knot does not change a thing, I trust, not to the figure two and not to Allah. There may be other opinions though. The rug is not in the highest order of perfection anyway as you will have noticed. The weaver has struggled somewhat with the mirhab, and symmetry was no prime concern to her, as the arrangement of those little filler figures demonstrates. This, on the other hand is part of its attraction.

There is one more interesting aspect of it, and I think it was Cevat who has pointed in that direction. The rug may have never been used on the floor but served on the wall as an icon, perhaps as a focus for contemplation and prayer. For daily prayer another and perhaps more robust rug may have been used. In a parallel thread Detlev is presenting us with an Anatolian prayer rug that obviously has done long service to its owner, as indicated by the bold areas where the pile has been rubbed off by a set of knees in the course of time. This is or was a rug quite comfortable for prayer because of its long cushioning pile. Those Kazak prayer rugs on the other hand (along with this one there is another one I have), in a departure from the custom of leaving the pile rather long in ordinary Kazak rugs, has been clipped short, like Shirvans. This would not be nice for prayer (actually, this instant some old wooden church benches come up to my mind rather achingly, not nice either). But as an icon hanging at the wall this would do better because it shows the picture much clearer.

Any views on this?

Many thanks for your valiant efforts in trying to sort out this rug.



Posted by Tim Adam on 11-20-2005 05:45 PM:

Hi Horst,

Quote: "there is something looking like an apparently black knot in the second figure from left (top row; large scale mirror image) that looks squeezed between rows of wefts more than other knots do."

This is not the knot in question. Take a look at the date again (from the back side of the rug). Which white knot would need to be back in order to make the second number from the left a '3'? That's the knot I have in mind, and that one knot is tied differently from all other knots.



Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-21-2005 03:28 PM:

Hello Tim

It would need a black knot to turn the second figure from left into a proper three. I had another close look at the rug: all white knots are the same wool, colour, lengths, and fibre structure. The same applies to the black ones. The rug is virtually free of repairs. We can confidently put our minds at rest about this issue.



Posted by Cevat Kanig on 11-21-2005 07:32 PM:

Hi Horst,

As you can see your rug has alot of weaving mistake on it, i beleive the weaver made mistake when she was weaving the date too, the black dot should suppose to be 2 row up and 2 row left.

All oder mistakely woven design should be in order, this is a irregular piece what do you expect.


Posted by Horst Nitz on 11-21-2005 09:14 PM:

Hello Cevat

We have a comforting old saying in the north “A biten schep hat Gott leb” (God loves all the more what is not perfect).