A First Century BC Arabic Inscription In Musnad Script At Qaryat Al-Faw

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First Composed: 23rd June 2005

Last Modified: 23rd June 2005

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

The Qaryat al-Faw Inscription: It is written in Arabic using the Musnad script.


c. 1st century BC.


It is written in the musnad script. Musnad is an Arabic term denoting the ancient South Arabian script (i.e., Sabaic, Qatabanic, Hadaramitic, Minaic and Himyaritic).


At Qaryat al-Faw, the capital of Kinda and other Arab tribes, a certain ʿIgl son of Hafʿam wrote the dedicatory text for his brother's tomb in Arabic using the script of the nearby Sabaean kingdom. Although the inscription is in "Old Arabic" (i.e., pre-Islamic Arabic), it was written in the musnad script. This is the earliest known Arabic inscription written in the musnad script. The text uses the article ʾl-, the *banā, rather than *banaya, the ʾfʿl form of the causative stem, and the preposition mn rather than bn.

Other scripts such as the Nabataean script was used to write Arabic, as seen in the ʿEn ʿAvdat and the Namarah inscriptions.


The inscription reads (after Beeston):

ʿIgl son of Hafʿam constructed for his brother Rabibil son of Hafʿam the tomb: both for him and for his child and his wife, and his children and their children's children and womenfolk, free members of the folk Ghalwan. And he has placed it under the protection of (the gods) Kahl and Lah and ʿAthtar al-Shariq from anyone strong or weak, and anyone who would attempt to sell or pledge it, for all time without any derogation, so long as the sky produces rain or the earth herbage.


Qaryat al-Faw, Saudi Arabia.

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[1] A. R. Al-Ansary, Qaryat Al-Fau: A Portrait Of Pre-Islamic Civilisation In Saudi Arabia, 1982, University of Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), p. 146.

[2] A. F. L. Beeston, "Nemara And Faw", Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 1979, Volume 42, pp. 1-6.

[3] M. C. A. Macdonald, "Reflections On The Linguistic Map Of Pre-Islamic Arabia", Arabian Archaeology And Epigraphy, 2000, Volume 11, p. 50 and 61.

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