This is a very rare "Batik Bertulis" / " Kain Arab" or Calligraphic Batik. It is a square batik cloth made of cotton dyed in dark maroon/light brown with Arabic inscriptions. The calligraphy almost illegible most likely painted by illiterate makers or served talismanic purposes.
However I assume the writing on the background is similar to some other kain which I have seen in the catalog. The inscriptions are :
الله يرزقها وهوا السمع العليم ما يفتح الله للنا من رحمة فلا مما لها وما يمسك فلا بعده وهو العزيز الحكيم
So the scribbles could be imitating this inscriptions.
Interesting to note this cloth has 4 Ottoman tughras around a central flower like pattern. Michael Rogers, a curator for Khalili Collection identified the tughras as the signs of the Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II ( 1876-1918) only in the reversed side.
This piece was used predominantly as men's head cloth or "ikat kepala". Another usage might be as ceremonial hanging or wrapper for a Quran. It was found in Penang however not necessarily was produced there. Most likely it was brought in from Java island. I acquired this from a friend in Kuala Lumpur.
Ceremonial or Calligraphic batik is very rare to find. In an auction at Christie's, 3 similar batiks were sold at USD3358 under sale number 5682. Below is the link
Batik at auction
Below is the Tughra of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. I tried to match it with the Tughras on the cloth, though they have some resemblances they do not quite match confirming Michael Rogers remark i.e in reversed form.
See my other similar cloth on :
Blue Calligraphy Batek
Dim : 100mm x 900mm
Date : early 20th Century
Material :hand drawn batik
Origin : Malay Archipelago
Price : RM pr