The Islamic Coins From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE

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After the Muslims defeated the armies of Byzantine and Sassanian empires, there came the need to administer the conquered territories. The early Muslim from Arabia did not have a sophisticated system like that of the two defeated empires. So, the best recourse for them was to maintain the existing administrative systems just like other conquerers before and after them did. However, the early Muslims inherited two different administrative systems from the conquered two empires. Hence they had to maintain two parallel administrative systems one in the east and another in the west, which differed in their languages, culture, monetary systems and controls. The Muslims maintained these parallel systems for over 50 years until the reforms of the Umayyad caliph ʿAbd al-Malik.

Before the reforms of ʿAbd al-Malik, the Muslims used the existing monetary systems of their Sassanian and the Byzantine predecessors. There is a debate concerning the earliest coinage and their dating. Some argue that Muslims started striking coinage almost immediately as they did in the former Sassanian domain. Other argue that the Muslims did not strike coins in the former Byzantine realms until the reign of ʿAbd al-Malik. However, the middle ground appears to be more appropriate as the the coinage of the era before the advent of ʿAbd al-Malik was very complex. At some point in time, both in the east and in the west, the Islamic empire started to make its presence known via the coins that circulated in their domains. Initially, the changes were very minor with the addition of short phrases in Arabic and/or the addition of hijra dates. These lasted until a complete reform of the administrative system by ʿAbd al-Malik who united it in Arabic and changed the coinage drastically to what we essentially call as Islamic coins. The reformed coinage of ʿAbd al-Malik was different from its earlier predecessors in epigraphy as well as religious content. The new coins asserted the oneness of Allah and Muḥammad as His last Messenger.

Our aims here are quite modest. We would like to display the unique Islamic coins between 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE. These coins are unique in the sense of epigraphy as well as the religious content and not unique with respect to where they were minted.

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1. Chronological Arrangement Of Islamic Coins From 1st Century AH

Arab-Sassanian Coins From Year 20 (Assume Yazdgird Era, So 31 AH / 652 CE) Onwards.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: jayyid ("Valid" or "Good"). These are some of the earliest dated Islamic coins and believed to have been struck for about 15 years.

Arab-Sassanian Coins, Various Mints In Iran, From Year 20 (Assume Yazdgird Era, So 31 AH / 652 CE) Onwards.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh ("In the name of God").

Arab-Sassanian Coins, Various Mints In Iran, Known With Years 23-39 (Assume Yazdgird Era, So 34-50 AH / 654-70 CE).

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: lillāh ("Unto God").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Muʿāwiya, Darabgird, Frozen In Year 43 AH / 663-664 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse field has Maawia amir i-wruishnikan ("Muʿāwiya, commander of the faithful") written in the Middle Persian. Obverse margin: bism Allāh ("In the name of God").

Arab-Sassanian Coin, Bīshāpūr, Minted In 47 AH / 667 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh al-malik ("In the name of God, the King").

Arab-Sassanian Coins, Various Mints In Iran, From Year 35 (Assume Yazdgird Era, So 46 AH / 666 CE) Onwards.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh rabbī ("In the name of God, my Lord").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of The Governor Ḥakam Ibn Abī l-ʿĀs, Fars and Khuzistan, 57 AH / 676-677 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. It comes with a hephtalite countermark and testmark. Obverse margin: bism Allāh rabb al-ḥukm ("In the name of God, the Lord of judgement").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Yazīd Bin Muʿāwiya, 61 AH / 681 CE.

Typical Arab-Sassanian bust, i.e., standing profile potrait of Khusraw II. The reverse field has a unique Middle Persian legend that says: ŠNT ’YWK Y YZYT ("Year one of Yazīd"). The dating "Year one of Yazīd" belongs to Sassanian system; the "Year one" being the first year of the current reign. There is no indication of the "Islamic" character of this coin.

Arab-Sassanian Coinage Of Ṭalha Ibn ʿAbd Allāh, 64 AH / 683 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: Ṭalha lillāh ("Ṭalha, unto God").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of The Governor, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Ibn ʿAbd Allāh Ibn Āmir, Sistan, 66 AH / 685-86 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. It comes with a hephtalite countermark and testmark. Obverse margin: bism Allāh al-ʿazīz ("In the name of God, the Great").

Drachm Of ʿAbd al-Malik Ibn ʿAbd Allāh, Zubayrid Governor Of Bīshāpūr, 66 AH / 685-686 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / Muḥammad rasūl / Allāh ("In the name of God, Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). This is the earliest occurance of the name "Muḥammad" in a dated Muslim text.

Transitional Fals Issue From The Time Of Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik, 66 AH / 685 CE.

Two standing figures, facing, wearing long robes and Arab head-dress adorned with six-pointed stars. Their right hand is on their swords. Between them, on three steps, a pointed staff with globe. Obverse margin: bism Allāh ʿAbd Allāh ʿAbd al-Malik Amīr al-Muʾminīn ("In the name of God. The slave of God ʿAbd al-Malik, Commander of the Faithful"). Although the coins bears no mintmark, the kufic inscription leaves no doubt that it was an official issue of the Umayyad caliph. Clive Floss is of the opinion that this type apparently represents the caliph ʿAbd al-Malik and his brother ʿAbd al-Azīz, who were jointly proclaimed as successors to their father Marwan in 684/85 CE.

Anonymous Arab-Sassanian Fals From Dārābjird, 67 AH / 686-87 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust with Pahlavi afzut before bust. Obverse margin: bism Allāh ("In the name of God") in the second quadrant of obverse margin. Reverse field: Fire altar between mint (Dārābjird) and date, in margin afzut (Pahlavi) and baraka ("blessing").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of ʿUmar Ibn ʿUbayd Allāh Ibn Maʿmar, Fars, 68 AH / 687-688 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: lillāh al-ḥamd ("Unto God be praise").

Arab-Sassanian Coins Of Muṣʿab Ibn Al-Zubayr, 69 AH / 688 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh ("In the name of God") BPRWY (in Middle Persian) with a countermark lillāh ("Unto God") in the fourth quadrant.

Anonymous Arab-Sassanian Coin From Kirmān, 70 AH / 689 CE.

Obverse field: Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust without the name of governor. Instead it is occupied by Middle Persian legend MHMT PGTAMI Y DAT ("Muhammad is the messenger of God"). Obverse margin: bism Allāh walī / al-Amr ("In the name of God, the Master / of affairs"). The reverse field has typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants with unidentified mint (GRM-KRMAN) in the Kirman province and the date. This is the second earliest known record where the name "Muḥammad" is mentioned in a dated Muslim text. Furthermore, this is the earliest mention of the name "Muḥammad" in Middle Persian (Pahlavi).

Transitional Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Governor ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Ibn ʿAbd Allāh Ibn Āmir, 72 AH / 691-92 CE.

Obverse field: Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. Middle Persian legend on the left of the bust: GDH ’pzwt' xwarrah abzūd ("Increase in glory") and on the right: ’pdwl ’cyc Y ’pdwl’ Y ’myl’n ("ʿAbdul ʿAzīz ī ʿAbdullāh ī Āmirān"), i.e., the name of the governor. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / al-ʿazīz ("In the name of God / the Great"). Reverse field: Absence of typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants. Instead it contains the legend in Middle Persian in five line, three of which state full shahada in Middle Persian. This full shahada is perhaps the earliest surviving physical record of it in Pahlavi.

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Maqātil Ibn Misma, 72 AH / 691 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / bakriyya ("In the name of God. Bakriyya"). This is the only known instance of appearance of the word bakriyya on any of the Arab-Sassanian coins. Bakriyya is a reference to the Bakr bin Wā’il tribe.

Anonymous Arab-Sassanian Coinage Of Syrian Origin Under ʿAbd al-Malik, 72 AH / 691 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Written in Arabic to downwards to the right of the bust: Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). The conventional Pahlavi benediction formula khurra afzut is behind the bust. Obverse margin: bism Allāh ("In the name of God"). This is an extremely rare coin and marks the initial steps of ʿAbd al-Malik's monetary reforms in Damascus.

Arab-Sassanian Coinage Of The Kharijite ʿAtiya Ibn Al-Aswad, 72 AH / 691 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh walī al-Amr ("In the name of God, the Master of affairs"). This is a lesser known slogan of the Kharijites.

The Arab-Byzantine One And Two “Standing Imperial Figures” Dīnārs From The Time Of Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik, 72-74 AH / 692-694 CE.

These Arab-Byzantine gold solidi imitations including the one which has "three standing imperial figures" bear no Kufic legends to identify themselves as Arab issues. They are recognized as such only by the defacement or elimination of the crosses. Another noticeable feature of these imitation coins is the clumsy arrangement of the legend on the margins of both obverse and reverse sides, with little attention paid to positioning of the letters. G. C. Miles is of the opinion that these coins are roughly contemporary to each other.

The Arab-Byzantine “Three Standing Imperial Figures” Dīnār From The Time Of Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik, 72-74 AH / 692-694 CE.

This is the Umayyad imitation of the Byzantine prototype - both of them consist of three standing imperial figures on the obverse side. Reverse field: Staff ending in globe in steps. Reverse margin: bism Allāh lā-ilaha il-Allāh waḥdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). This full shahada is perhaps the earliest surviving physical record of it in Arabic.

Anonymous Arab-Sassanian Coinage Of Syrian Origin From The Time Of ʿAbd al-Malik, 73 AH / 692 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il-Allāh wa / ḥdahu Muḥammad ra / sūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Bishr Ibn Marwān - I, 73 AH / 692 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. In the place of the usual Sassanian fire-altar and two attendants, three bearded figures standing, the central one facing with hands raised on either side of his head, in an attitude of prayer, with smaller figures left and right, respectively, having their heads turned toward him. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il-Allāh / waḥdahu Muḥammad / rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Bishr Ibn Marwān - II, 75 AH / 694-695 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. In the place of the usual Sassanian fire-altar and two attendants, three bearded figures standing, the central one facing with hands raised on either side of his head, in an attitude of prayer, with smaller figures left and right, respectively, having their heads turned toward him. Obverse margin: bism Allāh Muḥammad / rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of The Kharijite Rebel Qatarī Ibn al-Fujā'a, Bīshāpūr, 75 AH / 694-695 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: lā ḥukm illā lillāh ("Judgement belongs to God alone"), the typical Kharijite slogan.

A Mixed Arab-Sassanian And Arab-Byzantine Coin From The Time Of Caliph ʿAbd Al-Malik, 75 AH / 694-695 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust. In the place of the usual fire-altar and the two attendants, a standing figure of the caliph, bearded and with his right hand resting on his sword-hilt in the attitude of the imām delivering a khutba. Kufic legends on sides running downwards khalfat (sic) Allāh / amīr al-mu'minīn ("khalifa of God, Commander of the Faithful"). Obverse margin: bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il-Allāh / waḥdahu Muḥammad ra / sūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God").

The Arab-Byzantine “Standing Caliph” Dīnār From The Time Of Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik, 76 AH / 695-696 CE.

Obverse field has an image of the caliph standing in the centre, bearing a sword in a scabbard. Obverse margin: bism Allāh lā-ilaha il-Allāh wa / ḥdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the messenger of God"). Reverse field shows a mutiliated cross on steps along with the date. The "standing-caliph" coin was only minted for three years (74-77 AH / 693-697 CE) before giving way to a wholly aniconic form, that is, engraved only with words and no images at all.

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Al-Ḥajjāj Bin Yūsuf, 77 AH / 696-697 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust with the name "al-Ḥajjāj bin Yūsuf" written in Arabic on the right hand side of the bust. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / lā-ilaha il- / Allāh waḥdahu Muḥammad / rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God. There is no god but God alone. Muḥammad is the Messenger of God"). This is a very unique coin. The shahadah is arranged in striking fashion radially in the obverse margin. As far as we are aware, no other coin from 1st century of hijra which shows this feature. The Arab-Sassanian and Arab-Byzantine coins which show either full or partial shahadah, show its arrangement running along the obverse margin.

Aniconic Silver Coins (“Reformed Coinage”), Minted By The Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik, From 77 AH / 696 CE.

The aniconic reformed silver coinage of ʿAbd al-Malik was different from its earlier predecessors in epigraphy as well as religious content.

Aniconic Gold Coins (“Reformed Coinage”), Minted By The Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik, From 77 AH / 696 CE.

The differences between the reformed Umayyad gold and silver coins are quite subtle. The obverse margin in gold became the reverse margin in silver. The reverse margin in gold became obverse margin in silver. The silver also adds wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad ("And there is none like unto Him") which is absent in the gold.

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Yazīd Ibn Al-Muhallab - I, 78 AH / 697 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: quwwat Yazīd billāh ("Strength of Yazīd is from God").

Arab-Sassanian Style Coins In The Era Of Reformed Coinage - From The Time Of Al-Ḥajjāj Bin Yūsuf, 79 AH / 698-699 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: lā-ilaha il-Allāh wahdahu Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("There is no god but God alone, Muḥammad is the messenger of God").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān Ibn Muḥammad, 81 AH / 700 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / rabb ḥarasahu ("In the name of God. May God protect him").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of ʿAbd Allāh Ibn Bastām, 82 AH / 701 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / baraka ("In the name of God. Blessing").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of Yazīd Ibn Al-Muhallab - II, 82 AH / 701 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust, but with a new type of head-dress with a top like weather-vane. On the reverse side, in place of the usual Sassanian fire-altar and two attendents, a standing figure, facing, in armour, wearing helmet with "weather-vane" like that on the obverse side and holding in his left hand a spear, while grasping with his right hand a sword in its scabbard. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / al-ʿAẓīm ("In the name of God, the Mighty").

Arab-Sassanian Fals From Veh-az-Āmid-Kavād (Arrajān), 82 AH / 701-702 CE.

Typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: Naṣr Allāh al-ḥaqq ("May God give victory to the truth").

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of The Governor ʿAmr Ibn Laqīt, Kirmān, 83 AH / 702 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: bism Allāh / ʿAmr lillāh ("In the name of God. ʿAmr, unto God").

A Unique Arab-Sassanian Fals From Veh-az-Āmid-Kavād (Arrajān), 83 AH / 702-703 CE.

Typical Arab-Sassanian fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: Muḥammadun rasūlu’llāhi wa’lladhīna yatlūna maʿahu ashiddāʾu ʿalā’l-kuffāri ruḥamāʾu baynahum ("Muḥammad is the Messenger of God, those who recite with him are severe [in their dealings] with the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves").

Arab-Sassanian Coin, Sijistān, Minted In 89 AH / 708 CE.

Typical late Arab-Sassanian bust and fire-altar with attendants. Obverse margin: MY (Pahlavi) / bism Allāh / al-ʿizza lillāh ("In the name of God. Unto God belongs the honour").

2. Coin Weights

Coin weights were made to correspond to the weights of particular coin denominations, and the denomination in question was usually indicated in the design. Measuring the weight of a coin is an objective measurement. It can be repeated and it will come out the same time and time again and by different people. The purpose of the coins weights was to check the weight of coin in circulation and ensure that coin received was of good quality. Normally they would correspond to the lowest weight at which the coin remained legal tender. They could be used to guard against clipped, worn or counterfeit coin and to check the standards of foreign coin permitted in currency.

Coin Weight Of The Umayyad Governor Al-Ḥajjāj Ibn Yūsuf, c. 75 AH / 695 CE.

This is a unique coin weight in bronze was issued by the authority of the Umayyad governor al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf. Walker identified it as a weight of six mithqāls (= six dīnārs, in modern terms 25.5 gms). It weighs 25.14 gms, very close to Walker's suggested six mithqāls.

A Glass Dirham Weight In The Name Of Muḥammad Ibn Marwān, 73-91 AH / 692-709 CE.

This standard weight was issued by Muḥammad bin Marwān while he was serving as Governor of the North, where he would have been in charge of implementing the Umayyad coinage reform of 77-78 AH. This piece would have acted as the control tool against which the mint could validate the standard weight of its precious metal coinage. It is certainly the earliest surviving documentary evidence of the famous seven to ten ratio between the weight of the mithqal and the dirham, a standard which has survived in the traditional usage ever since that time.

A Glass Half Dīnār Weight In The Name Of Caliph ʿAbd Al-Malik Ibn Marwān, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE.

This glass half dīnār weight may be from the latter part of Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān's rule when coinage reforms came into effect, for the gold coinage, in 77 AH / 696-697 CE.

A Glass Dīnār Weight In The Name Of ʿAbd Al-ʿAzīz Ibn Marwān, c. 86 AH / 705 CE.

The weight of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Marwān's (r. 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE) glass piece, 4.29 gms, shows that it must be dated to the latter part of his governorship in Egypt, for it is clearly on the standard introduced for the dīnār in ʿAbd al-Malik's coinage reform, which came into effect, for the gold coinage, in 77 AH / 696-697 CE. The standard is normally calculated at 4.25 gms. Other than the coins themselves it is one of the earliest, perhaps the earliest, of the documents we possess for the standard of the reform dīnār.

A Bronze Weight Of Saʿīd Ibn ʿAbd Al-Malik, c. 126 AH / 744 CE.

This disc type weight is well known to have been used under Byzantine rule in the sixth century. Only one half of the weight survives.

3. Miscellaneous

Dīnār Minted By King Offa, 157 AH / 774 CE.

Albeit not an Islamic coin, this unique dīnār or the gold coin of King Offa of Mercia is generally considered as one of the rarest and most remarkable coins in the world. This piece is considered to be a copy of an Arab dīnār of the year 157 AH issued by caliph al-Mansūr, and was issued in, or more probably, subsequently to the year 774 CE.

Dated Muslim Texts From 1-72 AH / 622-691 CE: Documentary Evidence For Early Islam.

The corpus of dated Muslim texts until 72 AH / 691 CE for the study of early Islam.

Dated Texts Containing The Qur’an From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE.

The corpus of dated texts containing the Qur'an from 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE proving the early codification of the Qur'an in Arabic.

Dated Texts Mentioning Prophet Muḥammad From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE.

The corpus of dated non-scriptural Muslim and non-Muslim texts mentioning Prophet Muhammad from the first Islamic century.

4. External Links

The Maskukat Collection. This is perhaps the most comprehensive collection of Islamic coins on the web. The arrangement of material is chronological.

Arab-Sasanian (Or Early Muslim) Coinage. Not as comprehensive as the above collection, this site has coins containing different epigraphic material. It also has very useful tables of the Arab-Sassanian mints and Arab-Sassanian ornamentation.

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