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Calligraphy on Islamic Coins

DINARs from the Abbasid and Umayyad periods

Introduction

Western coinages in the Hellenistic tradition are praised for the beauty of their images complementing perfectly the circular space. The art of the portrait flowered in particular in the Hellenistic world, the early Roman Empire, and then again a millennium later in the Renaissance. Since the Renaissance, Greek and Roman coins have been understood in the antiquarian mind as objects of art comparable to sculpture or painting. The Italian sculptor Pisanello (c. 1395-1455) invented the art of the medal, imitating Roman coins. Western numismatics developed in the Renaissance and numismatics became part of art history. In the tradition of Johann Winckelmann (1717-68) it focuses on portraits, human depictions, and architec ture. While art historians trained in the classical Western tradition rarely appreciated the almost aniconic aesthetics of Islamic art in general and that of coins in particular, the beauty of written and embellished documents made of metal has become more acces sible to modern viewers, who have learned to appreciate aesthetic concepts others than those measured by Greek and Roman ideals.

Islamic and Chinese cultures developed different aesthetics in the design of coins than western Europe. Both cultures created outstanding numismatic artefacts. In the late seventh century, Islamic authorities initially created coins as text documents. Early coins are anonymous, containing parts of the Qur’an, the divine revela tion, and the necessary administrative information. Later, names of caliphs, sultans, kings, governors and even the names of the die- engravers were added.

The art of the coin in the Chinese and in the Islamic world focused on the beauty of the designed characters and a proportionate distribution of text on the available limited, mostly circular space. The roots of coin design in the Islamic world lay nevertheless in the Hellenistic tradition, whereas Chinese coinage drew on a different past. The early Islamic Empire covered the old Hellenistic world from western North Africa to Central Asia.

Fig. 82 – 85.

FIGS. 82-83

DINAR (Umayyads, Damascus/Syria; dated 93 H/711-12 CE)
DIRHAM (Umayyads, Kufa/lraq; dated 79 H/698-99 CE)
The style of the calligraphy on these coins is closer to the common curvilinear script of the Persian Pahlavi writing or the earlier private and official letters than to the elegant angular Kufic of monumental inscriptions such as are found at the same time on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

FIG.84
DIRHAM
Umayyads, Darband/Caucasus; dated 119 H/737 CE
In the course of later decades of Umayyadrule, the style of writing on coins shifted to elegant, angular Kufic such as that also used for Qur’an manuscripts and monumental inscriptions.

 

FIG.85
DINAR
Abbasids, near Baghdad/Iraq; dated 167 H/783-84 CE
Even after the Abbasid coup, calligraphy on gold coins retained certain features of Umayyad gold: less emphasis on the vertical and rectangular letters, and the word’s base line moulded into the round of the coins.

What sets Islamic coins apart from their Western counter- parts? Early Islamic coins can be described above all as bearers of texts of up to 150 words. The texts on coins during the first six and a half centuries of Islam reflect the entire hierarchy of power at the time and indicate where the coins vvoro minted. Usually they name the town, sometimes the urban quarter, and occasionally even the palace where the coin was minted. Coins typically indicate the year, sometimes the month and occasionally the day of striking. Religious legends provide clues to the political orientation of the authorities who commissioned their production. The inclusion of the name in the coin protocol (sikka) and the Friday serrnon (khutba} served to prove to subjects who the actual ruler was. Both the coin protocol and the Friday sermon had the same political value. The Friday sermon, however, was purely verbal and therefore transient, whereas on coins the protocol is permanently stored on a metal object which was reproduced in greatf numbers, like a published ‘bulletin of State’. Images – although never a dominant trait – were almost always present in Islamic art in general and on slamic coins in particular, although they never played a major role. With few exceptions, images were almost all confined to copper coins, In corttrast to other artistic objects or written documents, coins were industrially manufactured mass products. Due to the division of labour the engraving of the die (naqqäsh} is sometimes highly artistic, whereasthe preparation of the flan (the unstruck metal disc) and striking were done rather superficial^ in order to produce as many coins as possible as rapidly and as economically as possible, at times almost mocking the mastery of the engraver.

 

The Written Word of God as Representation of Islam and Its Empire


 The Zubayrid and Kharijite challenges of the early Umayyad Caliphate between 681 and 697 CE – the years of ftie Second Fitna – created the political context for the definitive creation of epigraphic coin design. The activities of the caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685-705 CE) that followed the Second Fitna can be seen as embracing the defeafed moderate Zubayrid and the more extremist Kharijite Propaganda as far as possible in order to reunite the Islamic elite. It was at this point in history at the latest that the idea of an Islamic universal empire in its own ideological right emerged. In 72 H/691-92 Ct-Abd al-Malik built the present Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem as the stage of the imperial religious cult. Between the years 72/691-92 and 77/696-97 the Umayyad government experimented with new symbols of religion and imperial power, no; all of which arg’well understood today. However, the recurrent themes of all experiments in coin design was the inclusion of the name of the Messenger of God as the putative founder of the empire (Muhammad rasül Allah), and sometimes also the profession of faith,the shahada. Finally, the definitive iconic Representation of Islam and the Islamic Empire on coinage was launched. In 77/696 new dinärs (fig. 82) – probably minted in Damascus – bear the new religious symbol of Islam: the shahäda, encircled by the risala, the prophetic mission of Muhammad and on the opposite side, as a symbol the ultimate sovereignty of the empire of the Word of God, a variation of the süra ikhläs, and the date,of minting. Late in 78/697-98, the goveror of the East ordered the reform of the dirham design in his realm, almost similar to the new dinärs, but adding the mint name. These coins are among the oldest surviving text carriers of the Qur’an. Until the time of the Abbasid caliph al Mansur (r. 754-75 CE) precious metal coinage remained anonymous. The reform of Abd al -Malik constituted a higtorically unprecedented breach with Hellenistic coin imagery going back about a millennium in the Roman west and the Iranian east. The aniconism, the non-use of images, of the precious metal coins is the result of the character of the ‘iconic’ new symbols: the Qur’anic Word of God as an expression of sovereignty and the empire and the profession of faith as an expression of the religion. Anonymity on coins did not mean modesty, because the new Islamic universal emperor claimed to be nothing less than khallfat Alläh, “deputy of God”. This presupposes an entirely new understanding of the role of the Islamic Empire and its religion, and led to coins becoming objects of calligraphy.

Kufic Script in the Early Islamic Period

The models for the calligraphic art on coins later always vacillated between the styles of the chanceries, the art of Qur’anic calligraphy and epigraphic inscriptions on monumental architecture. Although the Umayyad Empire was far from being a centralized State, Umayyad and early Abbasid coinage shows a high degree of uniformity owing to its Sasanian heritage. The style of script used on early reformed gold and silver coinage maintained a curviliniear appearance, probably a legaey of early die-engravers trained to engrave the much rounder Pahlavi script (figs. 82-83). At the same time in contrast – the calligraphy of the inscriptions in the Dome of the Rock shows a highly artistic elegant rectangular Kufic of a quite different – although currently unknown -tradition. Düring the more than fifty years following the introduction of the-epigraphic coins, the style of script graduaily changed, from an ordinary scribe’s script to the style of monumental inscriptions and Quranic vellum manuscripts (fig. 84), Like the calligraphers of early Qur’an editions, engravers exploited the inherent tendencies of the Arabic script. The letters became more rectangular shaped and elongated, the Kufic style. They exaggerated the vertical Characters and the horizontal lines between the letters. Rectangular letters were also horizontally elongated. Letters consisting of one or more short vertical lines or which were rounder or had an oblique component were reduced in size to highlight the exaggerated components. The end-nün or the tail of the end-‘ayn could result in accentuated crescents, dipping sometimes far below the line. Although the script had to be placed in the circle, on dirhams the elongated base line of each word remains stiff and straight and does not bend to the circular shape of the coin (figs. 85,86). The peak of these exaggerated elongations of vertical and horizontal lines was reached in the period from Harun al-Rashid (r, 786-809) until the style reform of al-Ma’mun (r. 810-33). The more text had to be crammed in the limited Space, the more untidy it looks (fig. 87).

FIGS. 86–87
DIRHAM (Abbasids, Rayy/Iran; dated 146 H/763–64 CE)
DIRHAM (Abbasids, Isfahan/Iran; dated 204 H/819–20 CE)
On Abbasid dirhams the tendency toward extreme emphasis of the vertical, horizontal and rectangular letters was continued. The more text had to be accommodated into the circular fi eld of the coin with words set on a stiff and straight base line, the more disorderly and thus unsatisfactory the design of the coin appears.

FIG. 88
DIRHAM
Abbasids, Madinat al-Salam; dated 208 H/823–24 CE
Due to al-Ma’mun’s coinage reform, a curvilinear script was used for dirhams and a second verse from the Qur’an added to the margin. The legends on the coins became anonymous again.

FIG. 89
QUARTER DIRHAM
Abbasids, Baghdad/Iraq; dated 282 H/895–96 CE
Special coins were minted for occasions at court as multiples or fractions of the standard dirham. Compared with customary coins these coins stylistically and in terms of the quality of minting were always outstanding. The quarter dirham is one of the smallest silver denominations. It shows the name of the caliph with split tops of vertical letters and a swirling arabesque for the fi nal round letters.

There were differences in the calligraphic treatment of gold and silver. The tendency to exaggerate vertical and horizontal lines applied to both. But until the reform of al-Ma’mun the style on gold coins remained closer to the more archaic curvilinear early Umayyad coins. This is evident in those mints which produced gold and silver at the same time, such as Madinat ul-Salam (the palace city of Baghdad), and al-Rafiqa (the garrison and palace city of Harun al Rashid on the Euphrates). The reasons for this preference for an old, almost archaic style for the gold are not known. The old style probably symbolizes trusted values. Coin hoards from Iran show that Early Abbasid dinärs remained in circulation at least for hoarding purposes until the first half of thetenth Century.

The devastating war of succession between the caliphs al- Amin (r. 809-13) and al-Ma’mun marked a turning point, After his decisive victory, the latter initiated a coinage reform which went along with a reorganization of the system of mints. In 201/816-17, the reform started by adding more text to the coin design (fig. 87) and achieved its definitive form in 206/821-22 (fig. 88), The new slyle was adopted over the next few years in almost all mints. The words of two marginal inscriptions now bend to the circular shape of the coin, becoming neat curvilinear and: enhancing legibility. The new style of coinage of al Ma’mun reverted to anonymity. The return to simple curvilinear script, the anonymity of coinage and the inovation of the added Qur’anic phrase on the outer margin was an attempt by al Ma’mun to regain political credibility by pointing to traditional values and design.

In 219/834, al-Mutasim billah (r. 833-42) abolished anonymity again and added his name to the coin reverse. In the last third of the third/ninth Century occasionally new embellishments were added in coin design: on some coin issues
the tops of the vertical letters became slightly split (FIG. 89). This feature soon spread all over the empire until it became almost common feature. At the same time whipping floral arabesques with split endings for nun, ya or ra appeared as the Samarra style spread. About the 290s/900s swirling arabesques were a regular feature on Samanid dirhams in eastern Iran and Transoxiana. Pointed tops of circular letters such as qäf, fä, mim, and wäw were added early in the föurth/tenth Century (FIG. 90). In the central lands of the caliphate, namely in Western Iran, Kufic calligraphy on coins reached its artistic zenith between the 350s/960s and 370s/980s when Buyid die-engravers marked their products with their names in a minuscule script.

New Developments from the East

The success of naskhi, the copyist’s script would not have been possible without the new medium of the chanceries, paper, and the attendant spread of literacy. The art of Chinese papermaking entered the slamic world before 700 CE and was first mentioned for Samarkand in Transoxiana. During the eighth Century, the use and manufacture of paper spread Iran and raq. The availability of paper as an affordable writing material was the basis of the extraordinary success of Islamic civilization in the ninth and tenth centuries. The blossoming of theology and law, of: historical writing and literary production, of translation and natural sciences. It served as a driving force for the remarkable centralization and bureaucracy of the State. Paper changed the style of writing.

 

FIG.90
‘ADL DIRHAM
Buyids, ShirazjIran; dated 400 H/1009-1O CE
At the end of the 10th and 11th centuries, the monetary system of the Islamic empire deteriorated. Nevertheless, from time to time some rulers attempted to reform the system of coinage in their regions, but without permanent success. The Buyids in the province of Fars in south-western Iran introduced a new ‘adl (just) coinage based on the model of the popular coins from the period before al-Ma’mun’s reforms. They only used a single inscription on the margin ofthe obverse side of the coins and decorated the coins with excellent calligraphy.

FIG. 91
DIRHAM
Banijurids, BalkhjNorth Afghanistan; dated 292 H/904-05 CE
This dirham is one of the earliest examples for the use of naskhi script. On the obverse side is the name of the Banijuridruler in naskhi. The Kufic script in this composition is highly artistic, for example the ligature of three letters ra, ya’ and kaf the third line on the obverse side is designed as an abstract flower.

FIG.92
DINAR
Ghaznavids, Ghazna/Afghanistan; dated 406 H/1015-16 CE
The playful element in calligraphic art on coins is continued under the Ghaznavids in eastern Iran with the importance of the inscriptions emphasized by differently sized letters. The name of the caliph, who resided far away in Baghdad without real power, is always acknowledged in a very small script on the obverse side as suzerain. The arabesques, swooping finals and three triangular fins on the ends of the verticals find their counterparts for example in contemporary metalwork in eastern Iran.

FIG.93
DINAR
Eastern Saljuqs, north Afghanistan; dated 493 H/1099 CE
Although the floral Kufic script does not appear especially fine, this coin shows how much text can be accommodated in minuscule script: the hierarchy of three rulers with their detailed titles, the location of the mint and the month of minting, and finally parts of three different verses from the Quran, and a sword as tamgha with heraldic character. The die-engraver used punches for specific letter forms such as a ringlet punch for circular letters to ensure efficient production.

In the early Islamic period, the copyist’s handwriting of the chanceries does not seem to be refined enough for Qur’anic manuscripts and representative epigraphic inscriptions including texts on coins. In about the 290s/900s, naskhi was first applied on coins in the remote but prosperous east of the empire in Samanid Transoxiana. The coins continued the style of Abbasid dirhams in the tradition of al-Ma’mun’s reforms; inscriptions and protocol remained written in angular Kufic script, but the Samanids and some of their vassals used naskhi for the first time to emphasize the name of the actual issuing local ruler (fig. 91). It took more than a century until a refined version of the naskhi became used for ceremonial and sacred functions. The famous calligrapher Ibn Bawwab (d. probably 423/1031) in Baghdad is much revered for his refinement of naskhi. The earliest surviving Qur’an manuscript in naskhi by his hand is dated to 391/1000-01.

FIG.94
SIKANDARI DIRHAM
Khwarazm Shahs, Samarkand/Uzbekistan; dated 610 H/1213-14 CE
A strangely formed Kufic often appears on large, strongly alloyed dirhams from Central Asia in the 7th-13th centuries: it is angular and instead of playing with elongated verticals or with balanced proportions of breadth and density; the inscriptions make the impression of a broad frieze on a wall with some rounded letters. Models for a script of this type can be found in the bands of inscription on brick architecture of the period.

FIG. 95-96
DIRHAM (Zangids, Aleppo/Syria; dated 572 H/1177 CE)
HALF D I R HAM (Zangids, possibly Aleppo; undated, possibly 1175-80 CE)
Successful introduction of a weight regulated dirham coinage in Syria in 571{1175 under the rule of the Zangids led to two different pattems, one for the dirham (fig. 95) and another for the half dirham (fig. 96).  The first was struck in an attractive Kufic style with suggestions of floral Kufic. On the second, all inscriptions - for the first time in a regular coin series – were written in naskhi with vocalization marks such as fatha,damma, sukun and shadda.

The ascendancy of naskhi in the decades around 400/1000 marks the final apogee of Kufic calligraphy on coinage in the east, probably because the rise of naskhi allowed for more artistic playful variations. Surprisingly, the most outstanding results were not achieved in the old central lands of Islam but in Central Asia, the realm of the Turkic Qarakhanids (first period 991-1040), especially in regions which had recently come under the sway of Islam; cities such as Balasaghun (present-day Burana near Bishkek, Kyrgyztan), Uzkand (present-day Özkend, Uzbekistan), and others produced extraordinary calligraphic art. At the same time, to the south in eastern Iran, in the realm of the Ghaznavids, calligraphic art on coins also reached a high level, using different-sized letters, swirling arabesque tails and triangular fins at the tip of the vertical characters (fig. 92).

The production of dies was nevertheless subject to the division of labour and the rationalization of workflow. The rulers demanded more elaborate titles; and more religious inscriptions had to be squeezed onto the limited space available on the dies. Prefabricated punches came into use, mostly ringlets for circular letters (fig. 93), but sometimes whole words were just punched with a single tool onto the die.

Calligraphy on monumental architecture also influenced coin design. In eastern Iran beginning with the seventh/thirteenth century we find an odd rectangular Kufic on broad thin, debased fiduciary dirhams in Central Asia (FIG. 94). The broad band of script has its nearest parallel in contemporary decoration and inscriptions set in bricks on mosques, minarets and mausoleums.

The Era of the Scribe’s Script - Naskhi


FIG.97
DIRHAM NASIRI
Ayyubids, Damascus/Syria; dated 616H/1219-20 CE
Also on Ayyubid coins which were reformed in the same year, Kufic alternated with well-proportioned naskhi. Sometimes diacritical dots are found on Ayyubid coins, for example here in the date sitta ‘ashara (sixteen) in the margin.

FIG.98
DINAR
BahriMamluks, Hamah/Syria; dated 698-708 H/1299-1309 CE
The fine pen of the scribes in the Mamluk chanceries even led to the use of ligatures in naskhi on coins,which was not otherwise permitted, for example here the letters dal and alif maqsura in the word bil-hudd on the other side.

FIG. 99 A-B
DIRHAM
Rum-Saljuqs, KonyajTurkey; dated 641 H/1243-44 CE
Three different types of script are used on this coin: on the obverse side a Kufic inscription frames a lion and the sun, and the middle of the reverse side shows naskhi script. The administrative information on the edge, the mint and date, are written in divani, another cursive of the chancery.

Although Kufic remained the predominant style until the seventh / twelfth century on coinages in the Islamic world, naskhi had occa sionally been used on coins from the end of the third/beginning öf the tenth century, in the west it probably occurred for the first time in 490/1096-97 on a unique issue of a Fatimid dinar in Egypt. After 558/1162-63 Nur al-Din Mahmud (r. 1127-46) introduced naskhi or better a hybrid küfi-naskshi style as an almost regulär feature of his copper coins in Damascus. A change occurred with the introduction of the first silver coinage with a regulated weight in 571/1175-76. The dirham itself remained in a pleasing Kufic (fig. 95), while the half dirham was entirely in naskhi-without distinguishing dots but including diacritical vocalization (ashkäl) (fig.96). The parallel and succeeding Ayyubid coinage in Syria also changed from Kufic to nakshi during Saladin’s reign (r. 564-89/1169-93) (fig.97). Distinguishing dots and vocalization were sometimes applied. On Mamluk coins scribal ligatures even appeared which combined those letters which should be set apart(Fig. 98). The play between Kufic and naskhi style is a recurrent theme in coin design in the middle period of Islam. In the Rum-Saljuq realm in Asia Minor, a third form of chancery script (divoni) was added to coins, providing administrative information about mints and dates (fig.99). The Almohads in the west applied a distinct ‘maghribi’ variant öf naskhi on their coins (fig. 100).

From the Mongols to the Gunpowder Empires


FIG.100
DINAR
Almohads, Madinat Bijaya/AIgeria;undated
Aform of naskhi was also used in the maghribi script in the West. Elegant whipping tails ofthe final letter in each word are characteristic of this style.

FIG.101
DOUBLE DIRHAM
Ilkhanids, Baghdad/Iraq; dated 699 H/1299-1300 CE
This coin shows the name of the Ilkhan and the standard profession of faith in a simple floral Kufic script, whereas the blessing wishes for the messenger of God at the edge and the administrative inscriptions are in naskhi.

FIG.102
DOUBLE DIRHAM
Ilkhanids, Gulistan/Azerbaijan; dated  720H/1320-21 CE
This coin bears another verse from the Quran which does not appear otherwise on coins, namely the verse “fa-sayakfikahumu Allahu wa-huwa l-sami’u l-’alim” - “God will protect you from them. He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing” (2:137). The first very long word of this verse about God’s protection is formed like an arch suggesting of a prayer niche.

In 1258, with the Mongol conquest of Baghdad and the downfall of the Islamic Empire, the canon of standard inscription for coinage changed in Mongol Iran and Central Asia. Political authority was now derived from the family of Genghis Khan which governed an empire from the borders of Silesia to Korea. New scripts and languages, such as Uighur, Phagspa, and Chinese entered Islamic coin design to address the new authorities (figs. 101,103). Uighur script developed from Aramaic-Syriac Sscript and Phagspa deyeloped from Tibetan at the court of the Great Khan Qubilai in Beijing in 1268-69. It was used on coins in the Mongol llkhanid and Chaghatay realms, The weight-regulated, almost pure silver coinage, which was aiready established in Syria and in Asia Minor and other territories, was now firmiy adopted in the Mongol realm, An almost regulär devaluation of the money was achieved by slightly reducing the weight of the standard denomination. Different designs had to be created in order to distinguish one coin issue from the other (figs.101-103). Some designs were taken from architectural elements, such as the prayer niche (fig. 102), tho square-kufi (fig.103), and the brick -küfi (fig. 103). The inscriptions – frequently the easily recognisable shahäda - is spirally scrolled, mostly from the outside inward.

Later, after c. 1500 CE, in Iran, calligraphy became more refined on coins even in provincial mints where the dies werg probably supplied by central workshops. The style of the script on the coins became dependent on the now dominant ceremonial style, the ‘hanging’ or ta’liq Script, for official documents and poetry. Epigraphic friezes in monumental architecture of that time achieve a kind of transparency by using glazed tiles or opus sectile (mosaic from segmented tiles); :the inscription is laid upon differently coloured scrolling foliage often on a dark or blue background. A similar effect is achieved on coins by exploring for the first time the coin’s potential as a three-dimensional relief. This aspect of the coin as a sculptural object was never preyiously exploited for calligraphy and marked a major step forward in the coin’s artistic appearance. A ta’liq inscription sometimes suggesting the rhythm of the pen’s movement in different heights of the relief is set on spirally scrolling foliage in the background. Safavid coinage often not only gives the name of the ruler, his title, religious inscriptions, and administrative information but frames the ruler’s name in couplet; “Throughout the world imperial coinage came, struck by God’s grace in Tahmasp Thani’s name; mint of Tabriz 1135″ is written on the reverse of the coins of one of the last Safavid rulers Tahmasp I (r. 1722-32} (fig. 104). This style of double-layered calligraphy was continued by the following Iranian dynasties (fig. 105). Similar in calligraphy are coins of the Mughal Empire from the seventeenth to the ninetefinth Century where we find ta’liq, but usually without scrolling foliage in the background (fig. 106). The third ‘Gunpowder Empire’, the Ottoman, applied a conventional proportionate nashki on its coins. In contrast to the other two post 1500 empires of the Islamic world, the Ottomans used a calligraphic tughrä as imperial symbol, somatimes as the only symbol of state on the coins. The tughrä is a heraldic device and a calligraphic Version of the sultan’s name, with his titulature and blessing for him (fig. 107).


FIG.103
DOUBLE DIRHAM
Ilkhanids, Barda/Azerbaijan; dated 734 H/1333-34 CE
This type of coin was only minted for two years under Ilkhan Abu Sa’id. Its design is derived from building decoration – geometric Kufic with the profession of faith on the obverse side and ‘cut-brick’ Kufic on the reverse side (fig. 94).

FIG.104
TEN SHAHI
Sajavids, Tabriz/Iran; dated 1135 H/1722-23 CE
In 1135{1722 upon his accession to the throne, Shah Tahmasp had large coins minted in several cities of his evanescent empire, including in Tabriz, the ceremonial capital of Iran. The name of the ruler is contained in a rhyming poem on the reverse side which is written in a script similar to taliq. The obverse side shows the profession of faith and the names of the twelve Shi’ite imams.

FIG. 105
TUMAN
Qajars, KhuyjIran; dated 1239 H/1823-24 CE
This inscription in taliq lies on a background ornamented with tendrils. The broad empty edge contrasts with the dense calligraphy in the middle.

FIG.106
200 RUPEES
Mughals, Shahjahanabad (Delhi)/India; dated 1083 H/,672-73 CE
The coin is partly struck and partly engraved. This is noticeable particularly at the end on those places on which the pressure of striking failed to produce a satisfactory result. On special occasions at the court, the Mughal rulers presented dignitaries with such huge coins of gold and silver. The calligraphy is in the attractive ta’liq script. The central panels on the front and back sides contain Awrangzeb’s name and titles together with the mint and the date. On the edge are written verses praising this money and the mild and glorious rule of Padishah Awrangzeb.

FIG.107
QUARTER ALTIN
Ottomans, Istanbul/Turkey; dated 1203 H/1791-92 CE
The calligraphic tughra with the name of Selim III and his titulature serves as a unique imperial symbol on the obverse side. The coin’s beauty is achieved by the balance between free space and dense calligraphy.

 

 


 

Conclusion

The brief survey of calligraphy on coins explores a field of islamic art which is hardly known although often admired, and commentary is sometimes given on the calligraphy of single issues. The art of writing on coins established itself at the moment when the Qur’anic message became an iconic symbol of Islam and its empire. The small form set ceritain limits; coins as documents required certain formulae, and their produetion as an absolute medium of exchange, meaning money, required techniques of mass production. As miniature official inscriptions of the Islamic Empire and its successor states, calligraphy on coins is always orientated towards the cur rent forms of representation of these states, be it the art of Qur’anic calligraphy, the style of monumental architecture, or the fine art of courtly poetry rendered in calligraphy or finally the sultan’s name in calligraphy.

 

Note: Text in this article was extracted from image files using OCR software and may contain a number of errors. You may read the article directly from the source (pdf) file

 

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About the Author
Faculty Member, Asien-Afrika-Institut. Over the past years he became known as a historian of the Middle East who has an equal command in the study of literary and legal sources, material culture, numismatics, and archaeological evidence. His focus is mainly on periods of transition and economic and cultural change in Islamic societies. Most prominent figure among his studies is the formation of the early Islamic empire, the apogee of the Abbasid Empire and the formation of the Middle Islamic civilization in the 12th and 13th century. He works with archaeological missions from Portugal to Mongolia, yet most of them excavate in Syria. In addition, he pursues a number of specific interests, the Abbasid invention of brass, the development of metalwork and neo-Mamluk art in the nineteenth century and the use of medieval history in modern visual political discourse as specific form of cultural memory. He also co-ordinated the activities of the Oriental Coin Cabinet Jena and the Alphons Stübel-Collection of Middle Eastern Photographs (1850-1890) which can be seen again on national and international exhibitions on Islamic art.
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. dear sir
    I have a coin i think belongs to Abbasids period. but i cant find any coin like it. Please help me if possible.

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