Muhammad's-Ladder Pesh Kabz
Place of Origin: Persia
Date: 18th Century
A beautiful Persian dagger known as a Pesh Kabz with Walrus Ivory (jauhar-dar) grips, and elegant sweeping blade of wootz with ‘Kirk-Narduban’ or ‘Muhammad's ladder’ patterned steel.
The walrus ivory grips are coarsely veined and spotted, a quality that Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1569 - 1627 A.D.) came to admire greatly having first being exposed to this material when Shah Abbas, King of Persia, through Khan ‘Alam (the ambassador to Persia) bestowed upon him a dagger the hilt of which was made of walrus-tooth (piebald) with black spots and veins. Of a subsequent jauhar-dar hilt that had been given as an offering to Jahangir by his son Shah-Jahan, Jahangir says “it was so delicate that I never wish it to be apart from me for a moment. Of all the gems of great price that are in the treasury I consider it the most precious. On Thursday I girdled it auspiciously and with joy around my waist”. (Tuzuk translation- Rogers, Beveridge 1909-1914, p.96-99).
The grip straps, also forged from wootz steel, are precisely chiseled with eleven panels of Islamic calligraphy* and panels of animals on the spine of the blade; a hare in one, and two birds fighting in another.
The watered pattern is even and in high contrast, the ‘rungs’ of the ladder, formed by a deliberate and decisive trauma to the hot steel in production, are very close together, an indication that the talented blacksmith had a steady hand and an eye for detail. It is likely that these laddered blades would have held a certain importance or reverence in the belief that the owner would have had a more likely entry to paradise. Complete with a later scabbard covered in red velvet.
*In cartouches along the butt and up the outside edge of the tang, Qur'an 112 (al-Ikhlas):
بسم ال / الرحمن / الرحيم قل هو ال احد ال / الصمد لم / يلد و لم يولد و لم يكن له / كفوا احد
“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah,
the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.”
(Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an, Lahore,1938)
In cartouches up the inside edge of the tang, appellations to attributes and Names of God (Asma al-
يا حنان / يا منان / يا ديان
ya hannan / ya mannan / ya dayyan
“O Clement! O Generous! O Judge!”
On either side of the choil, further appellations to attributes and Names of God:
يا رضون / يا برهان
ya ridwan / ya burhan
“O Satisfaction! O Proof!”