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Object Name: Rug
Place Made: Asia: Central Asia, Afghanistan
Period: Late 20th to early 21st century
Date: 1980 - 2007
Dimensions: L 150 cm x W 84 cm
Materials: Wool
Techniques: Knotted pile; plain woven; weft-float; fringed
ID Number: T2008.1.24
Credit: Gift of Max Allen

Ahmad Shah Massoud is here portrayed (oddly) as the hero of the ancient tale of Layla and Majnun. This tragic love story is set a century before the coming of Islam. Here is a summary of the story by Jean-Pierre Guinhut, the French ambassador to Azerbaijan: Layla and Majnun have been separated by her family, and Majnun is left at a crossroads between death and madness. Instead of praying for relief from his madness, Majnun pleads, “Dear God, let my love grow stronger with each passing hour. Love is all I have, all I am, and all I ever want to be!” Without this emotion, Majnun knows his life would be deprived of all meaning. Eventually, Majnun retreats to the wilderness, preferring the company of wild beasts to that of men. There he communes with the animals and recites his poetry. Layla comes to see him, but he keeps his distance. After his final meeting with his beloved, he no longer wishes to live and so he dies, contented. Layla dies as well. But their love lives on. In some versions of the story, it is Layla who dies first. Lying on her tomb, Majnun passes away, guarded by his only friends, the wild animals. Perhaps the weaver meant to suggest a parallel between this story and Ahmad Shah Massoud’s love for Afghanistan.