A Ṭirāz Inscription From The Time Of Marwan I, 64-65 AH / 683-685 CE

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First Composed: 24th November 2005

Last Modified: 24th November 2005

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:







Figure: (a) Three pieces of ṭirāz inscriptions at various museums, (b) copy of the original inscription and (c) its content.


64-65 AH / 683-85 CE.




The translation of the inscription is:

  1. [The servant of] God, Marwan, Commander of the Faith-
  2. ful. Of what was ordered [8 cm., ... to be made by] al-R... (or, al-Z...)
  3. in the ṭirāz of Ifriqiyah.


A band of inscriptions usually on textiles is called the ṭirāz. This cloth inscription is embroidered in split stitch, with yellow silk on the red ground. Before being sown, the inscription was dotted with ink on the fabric.

The silk with the ṭirāz inscription in the name of Marwan, one of the Umayyad caliphs, exists in three pieces, all found in Egypt. The first piece, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, which contains the caliph's name. The second piece is in the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, and has the words "in the ṭirāz factory of Ifriqiyah". Finally, the third piece was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum.

Florence Day dates this ṭirāz inscription to the time of the Umayyad caliph Marwan I, i.e., Marwan ibn al-Hakam (64-65 AH / 684-85 CE). Her comparative study of the cloth motives with those in the mosaics of the Dome of the Rock and the wall-painting of Qusair ‘Amra corroborates this dating. This dating makes it the earliest known Islamic textile.


Three pieces at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; and the Brooklyn Museum.

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[1] F. E. Day, "The Tirāz Silk Of Marwān" in G. C. Miles (Ed.), Archaeologica Orientalia In Memoriam Ernst Herzfeld, 1952, J. J. Augustin Publisher: Locust Valley (NY), pp. 39-61 and Plate VI.

[2] 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. 16-17.

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