A Zulfaqar style aradam sword




India (probably Deccan)


Late 18th or early 19th century


Forging, chiseling, damascening


Steel, silver


Overall length 856 mm; blade length 726 mm

The straight, double-edged steel blade is expanded and forked at the final quarter of its length, and both edges are alternately smooth and serrated. In addition, each side of the blade is chiselled with a pair of narrow decorative fullers forming a schematic image of Zulfaqar. The delhishahi type steel hilt is fitted with an S-shaped knuckle-bow terminating in a stylized bud. All parts of the hilt are decorated with silver koftgari flowering foliage. No scabbard.

COMMENT. Aradam is the general name for Indian swords and sabres with blades serrated along both edges. The word "aradam" derives from the Sanskrit "ara", which means "saw". The serrated blade was intended for cutting mail armour and causing severe lacerations to a victim. This unusual and rare sword represents one of the Indian versions of Zulfaqar. The forked tip and serrated edges reflect two different interpretations of the shape of the legendary sword. The special name for Indian swords with two serrated edges is aradam (Pant 1980, p. 34 and Tirri 2003, p. 313). An almost identical sword but with а purbiya type hilt are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inv. no. 36.25.1508, see Alexander, D.G., Pyhrr, S.W., Kwiatkowski, W. Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. – New York, 2015. – P. 187, no. 71). Two closely related swords with basket hilts are published in Bonhams: Antique Arms, Armour & Modern Sporting Guns. Wednesday 17 & Thursday 18 May 2017, London, Knightsbridge: [Auction Catalogue]. – London, 2017. – Lot 47; Runjeet Singh: Arms & Armour from the East: Iconic. November 2017, London: [Catalogue]. – Coventry, 2017. – P. 62-65, no. 20.

Zulfaqar is the name of the legendary sword, which belonged to the Prophet Muhammad (c. 570-632) and then to Ali ibn Abi Talib (c. 600-661), the Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, the fourth Caliph and the first Imam of the Shiites. According to some Muslim sources, the sword was taken as booty at the Battle of Badr in 624 by Muḥammad who gave it to Ali at during the Battle of Uḥud in 625. There are conflicting opinions on the shape of the famous sword, which are associated in turn with various interpretations of the meaning of the Arabic word dhū'l-faqār / dhū'l-fiqār. The Zulfaqar sword is one of the oldest and best-known symbols of Islam. It is particularly important to Shiite Muslims who consider Ali as the rightful successor to Muhammad. Over time, the word "zulfaqar / zulfiqar" became a common name for Muslim swords and sabres with forked blades, which corresponds to the most common interpretation of the Zulfaqar’s shape. The blade could bifurcate at different distances from the point, but in general the variations with a double-pointed tip was prevailed. In addition, the edges of the blades could be serrated or undulated, which is related to the alternative interpretation of the Zulfaqar’s shape. Such weapons were widespread in the Islamic world, but they had more symbolic rather than functional importance.

literature: Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 398-399, №154.