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

M S M Saifullah & ʿAbdullah David

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

First Composed: 7th January 2007

Last Modified: 3rd May 2014

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

1. Introduction

A host of recent publications have challenged the traditional view of the development of Islam. For example, Christoph Luxenberg has attempted to show that the Qur'an was drafted in a mixed Aramaic-Arabic tongue and based upon Christian Aramaic texts, contrary to the traditional view of its composition in Arabic or derived from Arabian religious traditions.[1] On the other hand, Yehuda Nevo argued that the religious beliefs of the early Arabs constituted paganism along with 'a very simple form of monotheism with Judaeo-Christian overtones'.[2] There is no doubt that the study of early Islamic history is contentious among the Western scholars,[3] where agreement about various issues is quite rare. In this kind of a situation, one might expect that the existing documents such as papyri, coins and inscriptions will be taken into account while formulating a hypothesis. Unfortunately, such has not been the case and the result of which is often the proposal of extravagant hypotheses on the origins of Islam.[4] What makes this situation particularly bizarre is that the Western scholars have access to what can be called a treasure-trove of documentary evidence when compared with other major world religions. Judaeo-Christian scholars studying the earliest Christian artefacts are presently unable to call forward even a single item of documentary evidence from the first one hundred years of Christianity and beyond.[5]

Our aim here is quite modest. It is to simply present the corpus of dated Muslim writings along with their contents from 1-72 AH / 622-691 CE. These writings include inscriptions, coins and papyri. By just going through their content, the reader would be able to establish certain landmarks and conclusions. Why the date 72 AH? This is because when we come to the Marwanid period, the dated Islamic texts become much more numerous and with varied content. After this period the citations from the Qur'an also begin to appear.

The list below is based on Robert Hoyland's collection[6] with some additions from our side.

List Of Dated Muslim Texts From 1-72 AH / 622-691 CE

Various demand notices and receipts on papyri (in Greek and Arabic or Greek only), Egypt, 22 AH / December 642 CE onwards.

Opening formulae: bism Allāh / en onomati tou theou ("In the name of God"); bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm. ("In the name of Allāh, the Compassionate, the Merciful"); syn theō ("With God").

Papyri ERF No. 552, containing an acknowledgement for receipt of six nomismata by ʿUbayd ibn ʿUmar, concludes kai eirēnē soi apo theou ("And the peace from God be upon you"). Papyri ERF Nos. 552-573 are dated between 22 AH and 57 AH (except for 572, which may be later). See papyri PERF 555, PERF 556, PERF 557 and PERF 558.

Arabic graffito from Muthallath (near Yanbu’), 23 AH / 643-4 CE.

Kataba salmah thalāthah wa-ʿishrīn.

Salmah wrote in twenty-three.

A signature believed to be of ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb, before 23 AH / 644 CE.

ʿUmar bin Al-Khaṭṭāb.

ʿUmar bin Al-Khaṭṭāb.

Arabic graffito from Qāʿ al-Muʿtadil, N. W. Arabia (near al-Hijr), 24 AH / 644 CE.

Bism Allāh anā Zuhayr katabt zaman tuwuffiya ʿUmar sanat arbaʿ wa-ʿishrīn.

In the name of God, I Zuhayr wrote [this] at the time ʿUmar died in the year twenty-four.

Arabic graffito from Wadi Khushayba, S. W. Arabia (near Najrān), 29 AH / 650 CE.

Taraḥḥama Allāh ʿalam Yazīd ibn ʿAbdallāh al-Salūlī wa-kataba fi Jumādā [kadhā] min sanat tis‘ wa-‘ishrīn.

May God have mercy on Yazīd ibn ʿAbdallāh al-Salūlī and he wrote [this] in Jumādā of the year twenty-nine.

Tombstone of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Khair al-Hajrī, 31 AH / 652 CE.

Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm. hadhā l-qabr li-ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Khair al-Ḥajrī. Allahumma ighfir lahu wadkhulhi fī rama minka wa ātinā maahu. istaghfir lahu idhā qara’a hādha l-kitāb wa-qul amīn. wa-kutiba hādha l-kitāb fī Jumādā al-ākhar min sanat iḥdā wa-thalāthin.

In the name of Allāh, the Compassionate, the Merciful; this tomb belongs to ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Khair al-Ḥajrī. O Allāh, forgive him and make him enter into Thy mercy and make us go with him. (passer by) When reading this inscription ask pardon for him (the deceased) and say Amen! This inscription was written in Jumādā II of the year thirty-one.

Arab-Sassanian coins, various mints in Iran, known in large quantities from year 20 (assume Yazdgird era, so 31 AH / 652 CE) onwards.

All bear the legend bism Allāh ("In the name of God"), sometimes with additional words in Arabic and Persians.

Arab-Sassanian coins, various mints in Iran, known with years 23-39 (assume Yazdgird era, so 34-50 AH / 654-70 CE).

All bear the legend lillāh ("Unto God").

Arabic inscription on the Darb Zubayda caravan route, 40 AH / 660-661 CE.

Raḥmat Allāh wa barakatuhu ʿalā ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin Khālid bin al-ʿĀs wa kutiba li-sanat arba‘īn.

Allah's mercy and blessing be upon ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin Khālid bin al-ʿĀs, and written in the year forty.

Arabic tax demand notice (entagion) on marble, Andarin, northern Syria, from the time of Muʿāwiya (40–60 AH / 661–80 CE).

Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm min al-Layth bin al-Diyāl ʿāmil al-amīr Muʿāwiya... ʿalā ard Qinnasrīn wa-ahlihi. takfi mukūs min iqlīm...

In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful: from al-Layth ibn al-Diyāl agent of the amīr Muʿāwiya ... over Qinnasrin and its people. You should meet in full the taxes of the district of...

Arabic inscription on a dam, Medina, Arabia, of Muʿāwiya, 40–60 AH / 661–80.

Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm hadhā l-sadd li-ʿabd Allāh Muʿāwiya [kadham] amīr al-mu’minīn Allāhumma baraka [kadhā] lahu fihi rabb alsamawat [kadhā] wa-l-ard banahu [kadhā] Abū Raddād mawlā ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbbās bi-ḥawl Allāh wa-quwwatihi wa-qāma ʿalayhi Kathīr ibn al-Ṣalt wa-Abū Mūsā.

In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful, this dam is on behalf of the servant of God Muʿāwiya commander of the believers. O God, bless him for it, Lord of the heavens and the earth. Abū Raddād client of ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbbās built it by the power and strength of God, and Kathīr ibn al-Ṣalt and Abū Mūsā oversaw it.

A protocol (a protective cover at the beginning of a papyrus roll, bearing caliph/governer's name and formulae), in Greek and Arabic, from the time of Mu‘āwiya (40–60 AH / 661-80 CE).

Greek: abdella Mouaouia amilalmoumnin

Arabic: ʿabd Allāh Muʿāwiya amīr al-mu’minīn

Five Arab-Sassanian coins of Muʿāwiya, Darabgird, year 41 AH / 661-62 CE.

On the obverse is written in Persian Maawia amir i-wruishnikan ("Muʿāwiya, commander of the faithful"), and in Arabic bism Allāh ("In the name of God").

A papyrus, now in the Louvre, bearing an acknowledgment of a debt, dated 42 AH / 662 CE.

The dating formula is sanat qadā’ al-mu’minīn ("the year of the dispensation of the believers").

Greek inscription in the baths of Hammat Gader, 42 AH / 662-63 CE.

In the days of the servant of God Muʿāwiya, the commander of the faithful (abdalla Maavia amēra almoumenēn), the hot baths of the people there were saved and rebuilt by ʿAbd Allāh son of Abū Hāshim, the governor (Abouasemou symboulou), on the fifth of the month of December, on the second day (of the week), in the 6th year of the indiction, in the year 726 of the colony, according to the arabs (kata Arabas) the 42nd year, for the healing of the sick, under the care of Ioannes, the official of Gadara.

Two Coptic texts on behalf of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀs (d. 43 AH / 663 CE) in Pap. BM 1079.

I, Philotheos the ape (village headman, protokometes), son of the late Houri, the man from Tjinela, swear by God Almighty and the well-being of ʿAmr not to have left out any man in our whole village from fourteen years (up) but to have accounted for him to your lordship. I, Ioustos, the komogrammateus (village scribe), swear by God Almighty and the well-being of Amr not to have left out any man in our whole village but to have accounted for him to your lordship.

I, Philotheos, together with Esaias, the apes, and together with Apater the priest, the men from the village of Tjinela, we write, swearing by the name of God and the well-being of ʿAmr not to have left out any man in our village from fourteen years on; if you produce any we have left behind we will put them in our house. Sign of Philotheos the protokometes, he agrees. Sign of Esaias, he agrees. Apater, the humble priest, I agree.

Two Seals From The Time Of Muʿāwiya Bin Abī Sufyān, c. 44 AH / 664 CE.

Among those things ordered by the Commander of the Faithful Muʿāwiya to dismiss the amīr ʿAbd Allāh bin Amīr from the rule of al-Baṣra.

Three Arab-Sassanian coins, Bīshāpūr, years 45 AH / 665 CE and 47 AH / 667 CE.

All bear the legend 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.

All bear the legend bism Allāh rabbī ("In the name of God, my Lord"), sometimes with additional words in Arabic and Persian.

Arabic graffito from Wādī Sabil, 46 AH / 666 CE.

Allahumma ighfir li-ʿAbd Allāh ibn Dayrām kutiba li-ʿarbaʿa layāl khalūn min Muḥarram min sanat sitt wa-arba‘īn.

O Allah grant pardon to ʿAbdalllāh bin Dayrām written when four nights had passed of [the month of] Muḥarram of the year forty-six.

Seven bilingual entagia, Nessana, 54-57 AH / 674-77 CE. Click here to view one of them.

All begin Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm ("In the name of Allāh, the Compassionate, the Merciful").

Seven Arab-Sassanian coins of the governor Hakam ibn Abī l-‘Ās, Fars and Khuzistan, 56-58 AH / 676-78 CE.

All bear the legend: Bism Allāh rabb al-ḥukm ("In the name of God, the Lord of judgement").

Arabic graffito on the Darb Zubayda caravan route, 52 AH / 672 CE.

Allāhumma ighfir li-Hadya ibn Alī ibn Hinayda wa-kutiba li-sanat ithnān wa-khamsīn.

O God, forgive Hadya ibn Alī ibn Hinayda, written in the year fifty-two.

A papyrus about debt settlement at the Austrian National Library, Vienna, 57 AH / 676-677 CE.

The dating formula is sanat qadā’ al-mu’minīn ("the year of the dispensation of the believers").

Inscription on the dam built by Caliph Muʿāwiya, 58 AH / 678 CE.

Hadhā l-sadd li-ʿabd Allāh Muʿāwiya amīr al-mu’minīn banahuʿAbd Allāh ibn Ṣakhr bidhn Allāh li-sanat thaman wa khamsīn. Allahumma ighfir li-ʿabd Allāh Muʿāwiya amīr al-mu’minīn wa-thabbithu w-unṣurhu wa mattiʿ l-mu’minīn bihi. katabaʿAmr ibn Ḥabbāb.

This dam [belongs] to servant of God Muʿāwiya, commander of the believers. ʿAbdullāh b. Ṣakhr built it with the permission of Allāh, in the year fifty-eight. O Allāh, pardon servant of God Muʿāwiya, commander of the believers, and strengthen him, and make him victorious, and grant the commander of the believers the enjoyment of it. ʿAmr b. Habbāb wrote [it].

Coin of Yazīd I, no place, year 1 (61 AH / 681 CE).

Obverse has the standard profile of Khusrau II and bears his name; reversal has usual Sassanian iconography (fire altar, stars and crescents etc.), but in the margin is written in Persian "Year one of Yazīd".

Arabic graffito near Karbala in Iraq, 64 AH / 683-684 CE.

Bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm. Allāh wa-kabbir kabīran wa-l-ḥamd lillāh kathīran. wa subḥān Allāh bukratan wa-asīlan wa-laylan tawīlan Allahumma rabb Jibrīl wa-Mīkā’īl wa Isrāfīl ighfir li-? ibn Yazīd al-As‘adī mā taqaddama min dhanbihi wa-mā ta'akhkhara wa-li-man qāla amīn amīn rabb al-ʿālamīn. wa-katabat hādha l-kitāb fī Shawwāl min sanat arbaʿ wa-sittīn.

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Allah is the greatest Great. May Allah be abundantly thanked and May Allah be praised morning and evening. O Lord of Gabriel, Michael and Isrāfīl, forgive Layth (?) Ibn Yazid al-Asʿadi his early sins and the ones that followed and (forgive) whoever says Amīn. Amīn, O Lord of the worlds. I wrote this inscription in (the month of) Shawwāl in the year sixty-four.

A ṭirāz inscription from the time of Marwan I, 64-65 AH / 683-85 CE.

[ʿAbd] Allāh Marwān amīr al-mu’[min]īn mimmā amr.... fī ṭirāz ifrīqīyya.

[The servant of] God, Marwān, Commander of the Faithful. Of what was ordered... in the ṭirāz of Ifrīqīyya.

Three Arab-Sassanian coins of the governor, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Āmir, Sistan, 66 AH / 685-86 CE.

The legend is bism Allāh al-ʿazīz ("In the name of God, the Great").

Two Arab-Sassanian coins of the governer ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Abd Allāh, Bīshāpūr, 66 AH and 67 AH.

The legend is bism Allāh Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God, Muḥammad is the Messenger of God").

An Arab-Sassanian coin of Muṣʿab ibn al-Zubayr, Basra, 66 AH (?) / 685-86 CE.

The legend is muṣʿab ḥasbuhu Allāh ("Muṣʿab, God is his sufficiency").

Bilingual Greek–Arabic papyrus, release from labour contact, from Nessana, southern Palestine, 67 AH / 687 CE.

Payment of money to release person from employ of al-Aswad ibn ʿAdī, who then returned part of the payment as alms: ṣadaqa ʿalayhi bi echarisato.

Eighteen Arab-Sassanian coins of the Zubayrid governor of Basra ʿUmar ibn ʿUbayd Allāh ibn Maʿmar, Fars, 67-70 AH / 687-89 CE.

All have the legend lillāh al-ḥamd ("Unto God be praise").

Inscription on a bridge in Fustat by the governor ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Marwān, 69 AH / 688-89 CE.

Hādhihi l-qantara amara bihā ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Marwān al-amīr. Allahumma bārik lahu fī amrihi kullihi wa-thabbit sultānahu ‘alā mā tardā wa-aqarra ‘aynahu fī nafsihi wa-ḥashamihi amīn. wa-qāma bi-binā'ihā Saʿd Abū ʿUthmān wa-kataba ‘Abd al-Raḥmān fī Ṣafar sanat tisʿ wa sittīn.

This bridge was commissioned by the governor ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn Marwān. O God, bless him in his affairs, strengthen his rule as You see fit and cheer him himself and his entourage, amīn. Saʿd Abū ʿUthmān undertook the building of it, and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān wrote [this] in Ṣafar of the year sixty-nine.

Arabic inscription in a bronze can, 69 AH / 688-89 CE.

mimmā ʿumila bi-l-Baṣra sanat tisaʿ wa sittīn barakah min sanʿah ibn Yazīd.

Made in Basra in year sixty-nine, "barakah", crafted by Ibn Yazīd.

An Arab-Sassanian coin of the Kharijite rebel Qatarī ibn al-Fujāʾa, Bīshāpūr, 69 AH / 688-89 CE. A coin of Qatarī ibn al-Fujāʾa from 75 AH / 694-695 CE is shown here.

It bears the typically Kharijite slogan lā ḥukm illā lillāh ("Judgement belongs to God alone"), prefixed with bism Allāh. And written in Persian: "Servant of God, Ktri, commander of the faithful".

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

Obverse field: The legend in Middle Persian reads MHMT PGTAMI Y DAT ("Muḥammad is the Messenger of God"). Obverse margin: bism Allāh walī / al-Amr ("In the name of God, the Master / of affairs").

An Arab-Sassanian coin of the Umayyad governer of Basra Khālid ibn ‘Abd Allāh, Bīshāpūr, 71 AH / 690-91 CE.

The legend is bism Allāh Muḥammad rasūl Allāh ("In the name of God, Muḥammad is the messenger of God").

Tombstone Of ʿAbāssa Bint Juraij, 71 AH / 691 CE.

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. The greatest calamity of the people of Islām (ahl al-Islām) is that which has fallen them on the death of Muḥammad the Prophet; may God grant him peace. This is the tomb of ʿAbāssa daughter of Juraij (?), son of (?). May clemency, forgiveness and satisfaction of God be on her. She died on Monday, fourteen days having elapsed from Dhul-Qaʿdah of the year seventy-one, confessing that there is no god but God alone without partner and that Muḥammad is His servant and His apostle, may God grant him peace.

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[1] C. Luxenberg, Die syro-aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache, 2000, Das Arabische Book: Berlin.

[2] Y. Nevo & J. Koren, Crossroads To Islam: The Origins Of The Arab Religion And The Arab State, 2003, Prometheus Books: New York, pp. 10-11. Also see their earlier works Y. D. Nevo, "Towards A Prehistory Of Islam", Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1994, Volume 17, pp. 108-141; J. Koren & Y. Nevo, "Methodological Approaches To Islamic Studies", 1991, Der Islam, Volume 68, pp. 87-107.

[3] The most commonly quoted controversial Western scholars who attempted to reconstruct the early Islamic history are Patricia Crone and Michael Cook (Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, 1977, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge) and John Wansbrough (Qur’anic Studies: Sources & Methods Of Scriptural Interpretation, 1977, Oxford University Press; idem., The Sectarian Milieu: Content & Composition Of Islamic Salvation History, 1978, Oxford University Press).

[4] Even those sober publications which do make extensive use of the early dated corpus of evidence can inadvertently ignore some vital pieces of evidence. For example, whilst commending Beatrice Gruendler’s thorough use of the early dated Arabic texts in her volume The Development Of The Arabic Scripts: From The Nabatean Era To The First Islamic Century According To Dated Texts [1993, Harvard Semitic Series No. 43, Scholars Press: Atlanta (GA)], Healey and Rex-Smith note that vital pieces of paleographic evidence are still absent. Specifically, with regard to coins, glass weights and stamps they lament, “for how much longer will these essential pieces of palaeographic evidence be forgotten?” See J. F. Healey and G. Rex-Smith, "Beatrice Gruendler, The Development Of The Arabic Scripts: From The Nabatean Era To The First Islamic Century According To Dated Texts", Journal Of Semitic Studies, 1995, Volume XL, No. 1, p. 177.

[5] L. W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts And Christian Origins, 2006, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 2-4. The earliest extant Christian inscriptions are from the third century CE. The earliest extant example of a Christian Church is from the third century CE. Hurtado says [p. 3]:

… Among these pre-Constantinian manuscripts, a small but growing number are dated as early as the second century, and these second-century manuscripts now constitute the earliest extant artifacts of Christianity.

[6] R. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writings On Early Islam, 1997, Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam - 13, The Darwin Press, Inc.: Princeton (NJ), pp. 688-695; More recently, he has added some more sources to this corpus, see R. Hoyland, "New Documentary Texts And The Early Islamic State", Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 2006, Volume 69, No. 3, pp. 411-416.

The Arabic & Islamic Inscriptions | The Arabic Papyri | The Islamic Coins