Namarah Inscription: The Second Oldest Dated Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription (328 CE)

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First Composed: 6th March 2005

Last Modified: 5th May 2005

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:




328 CE.


It is the one of the two Arabic inscriptions written in Nabataean alphabet. The other one is the ʿEn ʿAvdat inscription of 1st/2nd century CE.


The translation of the inscription is (after Bellamy):

  1. This is the funerary monument of Imru'l Qais, son of ‘Amr, king of of the Arabs; and (?) his title of the honour was Master of Asad and Madhij.
  2. And he subdued the Asadis, and they were overwhelmed together with their kings, and he put to the flight Madhij thereafter and came
  3. driving them into the gates of Najran, the city of Shammar, and he subdued Ma‘add, and he dealt gently with the nobles
  4. of the tribes, and appointed them viceroys, and they became phylarchs for the Romans. And no king has equalled in his achievements.
  5. Thereafter he died in the year 223 on the 7th day of Kaslul. Oh the good fortune of those who were his friends!

The date is equivalent to 328 CE, i.e., 223 plus 105, the Bosra era.


The Namarah inscription was discovered by Réné Dussad and Macler 100 km southeast of Damascus. This inscription is unique is several respects. It is one of the earliest inscription so far discovered in the classical Arabic language, though many Arabic personal names and isolated words are found in other Nabataean inscriptions. The presence of classical Arabic in this inscription validates the conservatism of Arabic language.

As stated earlier, it is the one of the two Arabic inscriptions written in Nabataean alphabet. Also it is the only contemporary evidence we have in Arabic about the life of King Imru'l Qais. This inscription, therefore, is of great interest both to the historians as well as philologians.


Musée du Lovure, France.

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[1] J. Cantineau, Le Nabatéen (Choix De Textes, Lexique), 1932, Volume II, p. 49f.

[2] A. Grohmann, Arabische Paläographie II: Das Schriftwesen. Die Lapidarschrift, 1971, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch - Historische Klasse: Denkschriften 94/2. Hermann Böhlaus Nachf.: Wein, p. 11.

[3] J. A. Bellamy, "The New Reading Of The Namarah Inscription", Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 1985, Volume 105, pp. 31-48.

[4] B. Gruendler, The Development Of The Arabic Scripts: From The Nabatean Era To The First Islamic Century According To The Dated Texts, 1993, Harvard Semitic Series No. 43, Scholars Press: Atlanta (GA), pp. 11-12.

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