Jerusalem 32 - An Inscription Witnessed By Three Companions Of Prophet Muḥammad, 32 AH / 652 CE
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First Composed: 14th July 2018
Last Modified: 28th April 2020
Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:
Figure (a) photograph of original inscription, (b) photo of plaster copy at two different angles, and (c) its transcription.
32 AH / 652 CE.
0.8 m x 0.5 m x 0.5 m.
The translation of the inscription is given below:
- In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
- the protection of God and the guarantee of His Messenger.
- And witnessed it ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin ʿAwf
- al-Zuhrī, and Abū ʿUbaydah bin al-Jarrāḥ
- and its writer - Muʿāwiya....
- the year thirty two (?).
This inscription was unearthed at the south-west corner of the Ḥaram al-Sharīf in Jerusalem during excavations conducted by Professor Benjamin Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1968. Presently, we have a plaster copy and several photographs of the inscription - the original was inadvertently destroyed under the auspices of those tasked with its conservation. The inscription is not an epitaph but appears to be a legal document (as suggested by shahidahu in line 6). There are quite a few interesting highlights of this inscription. Firstly, the mention of dhimmat Allāh wa ḍamān rasūlih. This is the earliest mention of this phrase in a dated document. As for the phrase dhimmat Allāh, it is mentioned about three decades later in P. Nessana 77 dated 60s AH / 680s CE in the form of dhimmat Allāh wa dhimmat rasūlih. Secondly, the mention of prominent companions of Prophet Muḥammad, namely, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin ʿAwf al-Zuhrī, Abū ʿUbaydah bin al-Jarrāḥ, and a certain Muʿāwiya, presumably Muʿāwiya bin Abū Sufyān. The first two persons are two of the ten companions of the Prophet who were promised Paradise. Thirdly, Muʿāwiya was a well-known scribe of Prophet Muḥammad which this inscription also confirms. Fourthly, going by the dates of death of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin ʿAwf (d. 31 AH / 651-52 CE or 32 AH / 652-53 CE) and Abū ʿUbaydah bin al-Jarrāh (d. 17 AH / 638 CE or 18 AH / 639 CE), it appears that the inscription commemorates an event or refers to a document connected with the names of these two men.
Something not discussed by Sharon is that this text would also be the earliest mention of Prophet Muḥammad in an Arabic text, preceding the next earliest mention of him by some three decades. If the date given by Sharon is correct (see below), this would be a truly remarkable discovery. Sharon ties the content of the inscription to the treaty of Jerusalem. On comparing the text in the inscription with the historical sources, Sharon notes that Ṭabarī's report makes mention of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin ʿAwf and Muʿāwiya as two of the four witnesses he lists, it should be noted that no narrative source has Abū ʿUbaydah bin al-Jarrāh as witnessing this event. From the date of this inscription, it is from the time of the caliphate of ʿUthmān.
It was in the first volume of Sharon's magisterial Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, that he first mentioned this text to be presented in the series. Here, however, he states the date could be 52 AH / 672 CE in addition to 32 AH / 652-653 CE. The possible date of 52 AH is not given in his editio princeps and the date 32 AH cannot be discerned from the photographs given in the publication. Youssef Ragheb received an image of the inscription from Sharon and lists the date in his article as 32 AH rather than 52 AH, suggesting that Sharon had since moved away from this date as a possibility. Unfortunately none of this is discussed by Sharon. Additionally, it is not clear if Sharon's reading is based on the original inscription, the plaster copy, or a combination thereof. A high resolution capture of the plaster copy using advanced imaging techniques may allow a better reading of the inscription and provide more certainty with respect to its reading.
 M. Sharon, "Witnessed By Three Disciples Of The Prophet: The Jerusalem 32 Inscription From 32 AH / 652 CE", Israel Exploration Journal, 2018, Volume 68, No. 1, pp. 100-111.
 M. Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarium Palaestinae, 1997, Volume I, Brill: Leiden, p. xiii.
 Y. Ragheb, "Les Premiers Documents Arabes De L'Ère Musulmane", Travaux Et Mémoires, 2013, Volume 17, pp. 705-706. We had tried to contact Professor Sharon a few times over the last 10 years regarding this inscription without success!
 S. W. Anthony, Muhammad And The Empires Of Faith - The Making Of The Prophet Of Islam, 2020, University of California Press: Oakland (CA), pp. 34-35, see footnote 34 for criticism of the reading.
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