P. Louvre Inv. E 7106 - Record Of A Debt, c. 44 AH / 664-665 CE

Islamic Awareness

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

First Composed: 28th November 2015

Last Modified: 1st May 2020

submit to reddit

Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:



(a) P. Louvre Inv. E 7106. (b) Its transcription.


c. 44 AH / 664-665 CE.

This leather document records a debt of a third of a dinar owed by a woman. It refers (in line 4) to the Nile's inundation (June-October) in 44 AH / 664-665 CE as the term for the repayment of the debt. Consequently, it was likely composed earlier that year or in the preceding year.[1]


11 cm x 8.5 cm.

Accession No.

P. Louvre Inv. E 7106


The translation of the Arabic document is given below.

  1. In the name of God. Due from Tarīs
  2. bint Muqayr from Liʿsān
  3. then al-Ḥaritha. Due from him [!] is a third of a
  4. dinār until the flooding of the basins of the year
  5. forty-four – in accordance with normative practice. Witnessed by Wahb b. ʿAlī
  6. and Nāfiʿ. It has been written.


Based on Ragib's initial description of the text,[2] until very recently, this item was considered the earliest piece of documentary evidence attesting to the concept of al-jizya.[3] However, based on a closer reading of the text, specifically the diacritical marks that indicate the letter thāʾ (see line 3), the word is more properly read as al-Ḥaritha.[4] Written in the style of the ḥijāzī script, notice the alif inclines to the right, is curved at the bottom (lines 1 and 4) and the overall tendency toward elevated ascenders. Also typical of texts from this early period, there is a large space after letters not attached to a following letter within a single word.[5]

This document belongs to the category of acknowledgement of debts. There are a growing number of very early papyri that can now be placed into this category whose geographic scope is early Islamic Egypt and Palestine. A unique aspect of these group of documents is that they bear witness to a previously unattested calendar designation, expressed variously as abbreviated sanat (year/calendar), to qaḍāʾ al-muʾminīn (decree/reckoning/jurisdiction of the believers) and sanat qaḍāʾ al-muʾminīn (year of the decree/reckoning/jurisdiction of the believers). qaḍāʾ has been variously interpreted as jurisdiction (Rāġib), reckoning (Shaddel), and decree (Tillier and Vanthieghem), each of which carry their own specific nuances.[6] All agree however that the phrase references a calendar system.[7]

Based exclusively on the earliest documentary evidence available, there can be no doubt that the calendar system adopted by the early Muslims, however it may have been designated, began in the year 622 CE (i.e., year 1). Excluding Arabic-only papyri, there are dozens of Greek, Greek-Coptic and Greek-Arabic fiscal papyri showing a hijra year in addition to a Byzantine indiction.[8] Likewise, similar examples can be found in Christian Syriac manuscripts showing hijra dates alongside the Seleucid era.[9] There is also a unique triple dated early inscription from 662 CE, showing a hijra date, Byzantine indiction and year of the colony of Gadara.[10] When the dates of all the aforementioned documents are independently calculated and calibrated against each other, they almost always correspond to 622 CE / 1 AH.[11]

Documents containing the abbreviated phrase sanat or qaḍāʾ al-muʾminīn or sanat qaḍāʾ al-muʾminīn have come from around 20 AH, 42 AH, c. 44 AH, 48 AH, and two (1, 2) from 57 AH.


Musée du Louvre, Paris (France).

Bookmark and Share


[1] J. Bruning, "A Legal Sunna In Dhikr Ḥaqqs From Sufyanid Egypt", Islamic Law And Society, 2015, Volume 22, pp. 352-374. This paragraph summarised from p. 358.

[2] Y. Ragib, ''Les Plus Anciens Papyrus Arabes'', Annales Islamologiques, 1996, Volume 30, Issue 1, p. 14, Fig. 3. Latterly also see, idem., "Une Ère Inconnue D'Égypte Musulmane: L'ère De La Juridiction Des Croyants", Annales Islamologiques, 2007, Volume 41, p. 194, Footnote 65; idem., "Les Premiers Documents Arabes De L'Ère Musulmane", Travaux Et Mémoires, 2013, Volume 17, p. 707, No. 14.

[3] For example see, A. Papaconstantinou, "Administering The Early Islamic Empire: Insights From The Papyri", in J. Haldon (Ed.), Money, Power And Politics In Early Islamic Syria: A Review Of Current Debates, 2010, Ashgate Publishing Limited (UK), pp. 64-65, Footnote 23; P. M. Sijpesteijn, Shaping A Muslim State: The World Of A Mid-Eighth-Century Egyptian Official, 2013, Oxford University Press (UK), p. 73, Footnote 178.

[4] J. Bruning, "A Legal Sunna In Dhikr Ḥaqqs From Sufyanid Egypt", Islamic Law And Society, 2015, op. cit., p. 358, Footnote 22. Unfortunately the low resolution image that Bruning was able to include in his article is only marginally better quality than the one published around 20 years earlier by Ragib. This may explain why many scholars continued to read the word al-jizya even though the (barely legible) diacritical marks do not allow such a reading.

[5] Summarized from ibid., p. 357.

[6] Y. Ragib, "Une Ère Inconnue D'Égypte Musulmane: L'ère De La Juridiction Des Croyants", Annales Islamologiques, 2007, Volume 41, pp. 187-207; M. Shaddel, "“The Year According To The Reckoning Of The Believers”: Papyrus Louvre Inv. J. David-Weill 20 And The Origins Of The Hijrī Era", Der Islam, 2018, Volume 95, Issue 2, pp. 291-311; M. Tillier & N. Vanthieghem, "Recording Debts In Sufyānid Fusṭāṭ: A Reexamination Of The Procedures And Calendar In Use In The First/Seventh Century", in J. Tolan (Ed.), Geneses: A Comparative Study Of The Historiographies Of The Rise Of Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism And Islam, 2019, op. cit., pp. 148-188.

[7] Bruning disagrees and asserts that s.n.t. should be read as sunnatan and proposes P. Louvre Inv. E 7106 contains a previously unattested validity clause that is identifiable in three different versions - that is, not a previously unattested calendar designation. Here the shorter variant sunnatan ("in accordance with normative precedent") is present. The other two versions that are contained in documents dated 42 AH and 57 AH respectively are sunnat qaḍāʾ al-muʾminīn ("in accordance with the normative procedure of the believers") and qaḍāʾ al-muʾminīn ("in accordance with the procedure of the believers"). Their purpose is to state the validity of the aforementioned financial transaction. See J. Bruning, "A Legal Sunna In Dhikr Ḥaqqs From Sufyanid Egypt", Islamic Law And Society, 2015, Volume 22, pp. 352-374.

[8] K. A. Worp, "Hegira Years In Greek, Greek-Coptic And Greek-Arabic Papyri", Ægyptus, 1985, Volume 65, Issue 1/2, pp. 107-115; R. S. Bagnall & K. A. Worp, Chronological Systems Of Byzantine Egypt, 2004, Second Edition, Koninklijke Brill NV: Leiden (The Netherlands), p. 300.

[9] S. Brock, "The Use Of Hijra Dating In Syriac Manuscripts: A Preliminary Investigation" in J. J. Van Ginkel, H. L. Murre-Van Den Berg, T. M. Van Lint (Eds.), Redefining Christian Identity: Cultural Interaction In The Middle East Since The Rise Of Islam, 2005, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta - 134, Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oosterse Studies: Leuven (Belgium), pp. 275-290.

[10] Y. Hirschfeld & G. Solar, "The Roman Thermae At Hammat Gader: Preliminary Report Of Three Seasons Of Excavations", Israel Exploration Journal, 1981, Volume 31, pp. 203-205.; J. Green & Y. Tsafrir, "Greek Inscriptions From Hammat Gader: A Poem By The Empress Eudocia And Two Building Inscriptions", Israel Exploration Journal, 1982, Volume 32, pp. 94-96; Y. Hirschfeld, The Roman Baths Of Hammat Gader (Final Report), 1997, Israel Exploration Society: Jerusalem, pp. 237-240; M. Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, 2013, Volume V (H-I), Koninklijke Brill NV: Leiden (The Netherlands), pp. 284-286.

[11] Where they do not match, on occasion it seems to be a mistake on behalf of the scribe caused by a lack of familiarity with the hijra calendar (e.g., lunar not solar calendar).

The images above are reproduced from the stated sources under the provisions of the copyright law. This allows for the reproduction of portions of copyrighted material for non-commercial, educational purposes.

With the exception for those images which have passed into the public domain, the use of these images for commercial purposes is expressly prohibited without the consent of the copyright holder.

Back To The Arabic Papyri