By Joël van Dam – Owner of Joëlnumismatics, for MA-Shops.com ……
When is a coin an Islamic coin?
Before we can answer this question we should have a little historic background information. In the year 622 AD, Muhammad left the city of Mecca because the Meccan authorities didn’t like his religious teachings (for several reasons). The first Muslims then emigrated to a city called Yathrib, 280 miles to the north. This event, called the Hijra (“migration”), came be seen as the beginning of Islam.
Here in Yathrib (eventually renamed Medina), Muhammad and his Meccan supporters were wholeheartedly welcomed by the tribal elders, who thought that one shared religion could create a better city. The Muslim arrival in Medina is the point from which the Islamic year system (AH, Anno Hijra) begins.
Since then Islam has grown into one of the world’s major religions, with almost 1.6 billion followers today. More important for people who are interested in how the Islam inflected coinage is how the Islam influenced politics.
It is a very interesting and vital part of world history but to very generally summarize one can say that it consists of rulers who were followers of Islam destabilizing the balance of powers in the area between India and the Atlantic Ocean in the centuries after Muhammad left Mecca. Islamic rulers controlled large parts of this area for centuries until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.
So, using this as a personal guide, for me an Islamic coin is any coin minted under the authority of a ruler who used or uses Islam as his chief guide to ruling an empire or city.
But how can we deal with this huge and perhaps difficult-to-learn numismatic history?
My advice to all new collectors is start with reading about the coinage and the history of the period/area/rulers you want to collect. Therefore, I will recommend certain books you that will serve you best (in my opinion). It must be kept in mind, of course, that no book has all the information or all the coins in it, and that for further specialization your own research is a must. For the history of the Islamic world I recommend Egger’s A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization (2004) and Cleveland and Bunton’s A History of the Modern Middle East (2009).
For the coinage there are several books to start with but I remind you again that you should search for books that discuss your specific interests in regions and times. Good general books are Broome’s Handbook of Islamic Coins (2006), Plant’s Arabic Coins and How to Read Them (1973), and Wilkes’ Islamic Coins and Their Values, Parts 1 and 2 (2015).
When you have read some of these books you may notice how varied Islamic coins are and how interesting their history is. Most of the time Islamic coins do not have what might be viewed as “interesting” iconography by outsiders because Islam has strict rules about the representation of individuals and religious figures. The variation in Islamic coinage lays in the use of their script. And believe me, after a while you start to read the Arabic legends and inscriptions on your coins like it is your own script. How awesome is that!
Later, you may decide to join the big hunt and start to collect all of the mints, rulers or maybe even all of the coins from a certain period and place. For example you can collect coins from the Umayyads, the ‘Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Buyids, the Mongols, the Turks and the Ottoman Empire.
Some Islamic Coin Highlights from MA-Shops
- Catalog: Izmirlier –
- Dinar Konya 4.53 g. Izmirlier – RR
- Weight: 4.23 g – Diameter: 19.00 mm
- Mintage: 1
From the time of al-Walid I, b. `Abd al-Malik (AH 86-96/705-715 AD). Gold Dinar, AH 87. 4.23 gms, 19 mm. A-127. Diacritical point below b of saba`.
Dinar of Ashrafi Islam Burji Mameluken
- Catalog: vgl. Mitchiner 1184
Tilla 1271 AH / 1854 Khiva Khanate Muhammad Khudayar Khan 1st Reign
- Catalog: KM 100
- Weight: 4.50 g – Diameter: 21.00 mm
Check out all Islamic Coins on MA-Shops
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 Broome, M. A. Handbook of Islamic Coins. 2006.