Gold coins with Qur'anic verses


Gold coin showing the figure of a ruler


Brief IdentificationEdit

These gold coins were issued by Caliph Abd al-Malik, the ninth Caliph overall and fifth Umayyad Caliph. The coins were minted in Damascus , Syria in the 77th year of the Islamic calendar (696-697 CE). Made of gold and having a width of 1.9 centimeters, these coins, known as dinar, come from a period of reform during the rule of Abd al-Malik . In the images above, the first set of coins show the replacing of images of a ruler by Qur'anic verses. Currently, these coins can be found in the British Museum

Technical EvaluationEdit

These coins, according to Stefan Heidemann , were minted in the central mint, located in Damascus [See Heidemann 1998, 97]. The mint required the administrator of the public treasury to ensure that the correct amount of precious metal, in this case gold, was used. It was also the responsibility of the administrator to ensure that the compositions of the alloys, the weight of the coins, and the size of the coins was correct. According to Dr. Wijdan Ali, obsolete coins, including coins from other locations, and gold bullion were collected by the mint where they were refined and struck into new currency [See Ali 2004, 4].

After arriving at the mint, the gold was examined to determine the purity [See Ali 2004, 4]. Then, the metal was heated and refined in order to meet the stardards required of the alloy. Then, the metal underwent smelting and casting, after which, the ingots were rolled out and cut into discs [See Ali 2004, 4]. The discs were placed on a die with a reverse die placed on top. Finally, the dies were struck with a mallet in order to create the design on both side of the coin, a process called die-sinking. The dies, made of bronze, could be reused thousands of times before being replaced [See Ali 2004, 4]. Generally, according to Ali, the coins would "indicate the place and date of their mint, the name of the ruler, his father's name, and that of his heir-apparent or envoy" [See Ali 2004, 4]. Initially, the coins continued on the tradition of having a picture of the ruler on one side of the coin. Later, the image of the ruler was replaced by a Qu'ranic verse. New caliphs would have new coins minted in order to make the change of rulers official.

Local Historical ContextEdit

The coins minted in 690s were a result of Caliph Abd al-Malik's attempt to reform the coinage of the Umayyad. The Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty, included the lands of Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and part of North Africa during the reign of Abd al-Malik. Abd al-Malik , who ruled the Umayyad from 685 to 705 CE, was born in Medina , Arabia and moved the political center of the Umayyad to Damascus, Syria. He is known for strengthening the governmental administration and adopting Arabic as the official language of his administration. Abd al-Malik is also known for having the Dome of the Rock built, considered by Jeremy Johns to be a "watershed" after which religious declarations became common [see Johns 2003, 416].

The coinage reform under Abd al-Malik replaced the gold solidus of Emperor Heraclius with purely Islamic gold dinars [See ʻAdnān Bakhīt 2000, 273]. This act freed the economy from dependence on the Byzantine and Persian dinar and indicated a new era of Islamic financial supremacy. The coinage was circulated throughout the caliphate.

The verses on the coins, according to Venetia Porter of the British Museum , include the phrase 'there is no god but God, he has no associate, Muhammad is the prophet of God' (Qur'an 9:33 and 112). These phrases, according to Ms. Porter, proclaim the very essence of the Islamic faith. These phrases emphasize the fact that the Islamic Empire was ruled by God and not man, an important distinction.

World-Historical SignificanceEdit

The Umayyads would rule until 750 CE, after which the Abbasid dynasty would take over. However, the coinage under the successors would maintain the tradition of having verses inscribed on the coins instead of images of the ruler. This lasts at least through the Fatimid dynasty, which ended in 1171 CE.

In the greater scheme of world history, the coins help place the evolution of the Arabic language. According to Ms. Porter of the British Museum, Arabic was initially an oral language which was turned into script in order to put down the words of Muhammad. The first alphabet used was based on Aramaic which evolved into a Kufic script. This script became a defining feature of Islamic works. The coins also represent a shift in Islamic rule. Abd al-Malik, through his reforms, created a model for Islamic states that would followed for over 1000 years. The religious aspects of al-Malik's coinage reform are also important. The earliest declarations of Islam are found on coins and documents produced under the rule of Abd al-Malik [see Johns 2003, 416].


ʻAdnān Bakhīt, Muhammad. History of Humanity. London: Routledge, 2000.

Ali, Wijdan. "Islamic Coins During the Umayyad, Abbasid, Andalusian, and Fatimid Dynasties." Manchester, UK: FSTC Limited (2004): 1-11.

Note: The above article is reconstructed from the book-

Ali, Wijdan. "The Arab Contribution to Islamic Art from the 7th-15th Centuries." Jordan: The American University in Cairo Press & The Royal Society of Fine Arts (1999).

Heidemann, Stefan. "The Merger of Two Currency Zones in Early Islam. The Byzantine and Sasanian Impact on the Circulation in Former Byzantine Syria and Northern Mesopotamia." The British Institute of Persian Studies: Iran 36 (1998): 95-113.

Johns, Jeremy. "Archaeology and the History of Early Islam: The First Seventy Years." Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient / Journal de l'histoire economique et sociale de l'Orient 46, no. 4 (2003): 411-436., "Stefan Heidemann,"

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