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Mohammed Albastaki

During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad and his early companions, the Arabs and early Muslims used coinage that originated from neighboring empires. For the most part, gold and bronze coins were imported from the Byzantines while the silver was imported from the Sasanians. The early Muslims depended upon these empires for their monetary supply. They did not issue their own coins until the reign of the third Rashidun caliph and companion of the prophet 'Uthman ibn 'Affan.

Under 'Uthman's reign and after the Muslims overcame the Sasanian Empire and conquered their territories, the first Islamic coin was introduced out of necessity, since the Sasanians were no longer in power and the early Muslims could not afford to halt any minting operations. This first Islamic coin imitated the style of the Sasanian drachm from the reign of Yazdigerd III, who was the last Sasanian king. Note: although there might have been coins struck by the Muslims before this first known issue, there is no concrete evidence or indication on the coin itself to suggest this; therefore, this coin is considered the first definitive Islamic coin.

The following is a Sasanian drachm from the reign of Yazdigerd III:

It is worth noting that the entire span of legends on the coin is in the Pahlavi script (a written form of the Middle Persian language). The obverse (front face of the coin) carries a portrait of the Sasanian king Yazdigerd III wearing a crown. To his right is his name in Pahlavi, and to his left is the inscription in Pahlavi that roughly translates to "may his glory grow". On the reverse side we find a scenic image of a fire altar surrounded by two attendants, and this is indicative of the religion that the Sasanians followed: Zoroastrianism. To the right is usually a Pahlavi abbreviation for the mint name (where the coin was minted) and to the left is the Pahlavi inscription indicating the regnal year when this drachm was minted.

The first Islamic coin imitated the style of Yazdigerd III's drachmas, even bearing images of the Sasanian king and the fire altar. The following is a high-grade example of the first Islamic coin:

As is clear, the imitation of the Sasanian style is evident on this Arab-Sasanian style dirham (Arabic for drachm). What truly distinguishes these Islamic issues from earlier Sasanian issues is the addition of an Arabic word/phrase in the outer margin field on the obverse. In the case of this dirham, it is the addition of the "basmala" (which is "bism Allah", Arabic for "in the name of God"), although in very crude Arabic script. There are other examples with other phrases known from Arab-Sasanian issues, ranging from "jayyid" ("good") to the whole kalima ("there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah") on later issues under the Umayyads.

Furthermore, Arab-Sasanian issues also mention the date and mint name in the Pahlavi script, except for some very rare later issues. This dirham of 'Uthman carries the mint abbreviation for Sijistan, which is SK in Pahlavi. The date mentioned is the regnal year 20, which corresponds to the end of AH 30 and the majority of AH 31 (in the Hijri calendar).

Arab-Sasanian issues continued to be minted under the Rashidun caliphs, the Umayyad caliphs, and even the Zubayrid rulers, anti-Umayyad rebels, and the Kharijites. The minting of this pre-reform style remained even for a number of years after the reformation of coinage in AH 77 into purely Islamic issues with no Byzantine or Sasanian influences.

Purchase examples of the first Islamic coin in history:

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Mohammed Albastaki

The following is a project that serves as an online resource for numismatists on the mints that were active under Umayyad authority. The need for this effort arose out of the realization that most of the information on mints are scattered in many different resources, which this project aims to compile and further contribute to them. This project only covers the mints that were operational for post-reform dirhams, regardless of their dates of operation. The list below orders the mints in alphabetical order, without considering the "الــ" / "Al-" that precedes some of the mint names.


Project Contents

  • Finding the Mint and Date

  • Mints

  • Mint Epigraphs

  • Date Epigraphs

  • References


Finding the Mint and Date

Post-reform dirhams of the Umayyad Caliphate are completely anepigraphic, bearing no images or influences from previously circulating Sasanian and Byzantine coins. Normally, on both the obverse and the reverse, there is a central legend encircled by a marginal legend. There are slight variations that rarely occur with these legends across some mint and date combinations. Taking a dirham of AH 94 minted in Junday Sabur as an example, here is an illustration of how legends are usually ordered on Umayyad post-reform dirhams:


Central legend: لا اله الا الله وحده لا شريك له

Central legend translation: there is no god except Allah, alone, [He] has no partner

Marginal legend: بسم الله ضرب هذا الدرهم بجندي سابور في سنة اربع و تسعين

Marginal legend translation: in the name of Allah, this dirham was struck at Junday Sabur in the year four and ninety

The legend colored red represents the mint name while the legend colored blue represents the year this dirham was struck. This is almost always the case, though as mentioned earlier, there are slight variations that rarely occur with these legends across some mint and date combinations. The mint is preceded by "بـ" ("at") most of the time, though there are instances when "في" ("in") replaces it.


Central legend: الله احد الله الصمد لم يلد و لم يولد و لم يكن له كفوا احد

Central legend translation: Allah the one, Allah the eternal absolute, He neither begets nor was he begotten, and there is nothing alike unto him

Marginal legend: محمد رسول الله ارسله بالهدى و دين الحق ليظهره على الدين كله و لو كره المشركون

Marginal legend translation: Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth to proclaim it over all religion, even if the polytheists detest it

See tables below for a guide that helps in the identification of all the mint and date epigraphs for Umayyad post-reform dirhams.



A / أ

Abarqubadh / أبرقباذ

It was a town and subdistrict situated between Wasit and Al-Basra east of the Tigris. It was named after the Sasanian king Kavad I, son of Peroz. Abarqubadh is referred to by some Arab sources as Abazqubadh.

Abarqubadh was one of the districts captured by 'Utba ibn Ghazwan, a companion of the prophet Muhammad, in his campaign across the Tigris river. His successes were acknowledged by caliph 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab, who appointed him as governor of Al-Basra.

Abarshahr / أبرشهر

An alternative name for Naysabur (Nishapur), capital of the westernmost quarter of Khurasan. Abarshahr translates to “city/land of the clouds”. Abarshahr also appeared on Arab Sasanian dirhams.

See Naysabur for further information.

Adharbayjan / أذربيجان

One of the major provinces of the Sasanian Empire, Adharbayjan is a mountainous region spanning area between modern-day northwestern Iran and Azerbaijan.

Adharbayjan was first subject to Islamic rule during the reign of caliph 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab, who sent an order to Huthayfa ibn Al-Yamman to govern Adharbayjan. Huthayfa made way from where he was at Nihawand to Adharbayjan with a larger force, which clashed with local fighters until their losses were too heavy to bear and through a treaty they conceded the land to Huthayfa.

Adharbayjan was one of the few mints that struck dirhams in the year AH 78, the first for silver post-reform dirhams.

Al-'Al / العال


Albanaq / البنق


Anbir / أنبير


Al-Andalus / الأندلس

Al-Andalus refers to the Iberian Peninsula, modern-day Spain and Portugal. Al-Andalus is an Arabic name appointed to Iberia by the conquering Arabs, and academics contend there are multiple theories as to the origin of the word. Before the post-reform dinars and dirhams cited Al-Andalus, the Umayyads struck dinars (Arab-Latin solidi) citing Iberia as SPN (abbreviation for Spania).

The Umayyad army first invaded Al-Andalus in AH 92, led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, who commanded a force of 12,000 men. It was this outnumbered force that fought the army of the Visigothic king Roderic in Southern Iberia, starting a brief but fierce battle that ended with the death of Roderic and many Visigothic nobles. The forces of Tariq ibn Ziyad were then reinforced by the forces of general Musa ibn Nusayr. This larger force was led to a series of conquests that saw the entire Iberian Peninsula fall under Umayyad rule.

Al-Andalus represents the farthest extent of Umayyad expansion into Europe, which was halted at the Battle of Tours, also known as "معركة بلاط الشهداء" ("Battle of the Highway of the Martyrs"), in the heart of France. For many, Al-Andalus represents a romanticized part of Islamic history, hence the high demand in the marketplace for its coinage, especially those of the first Umayyad period.

Anibar / أنيبار


Ard / أرد

It has been suggested that Ard is a die-engraver's error for Ardashir Khurra. This does not seem like a plausible explanation as Ard is known for more than one date and there are at least two different dies for the AH 82 issue, so it would not make sense that such an error would be repeated across different dates and dies.

Another proposed explanation considers Ard to be the Arabic form of ART, which is the Pahlavi abbreviation for Ardashir Khurra that is found on Arab Sasanian dirhams. I do not think that this is a valid explanation as dirhams of Ardashir Khurra are known from the year AH 80, so it does not seem likely that an already established mint name would be taken down and replaced again with the older abbreviation system.

There is the possibility that the mint name refers to Ard, one of the villages of Pushang as recorded by Yaqut Al-Hamawy in his Mu'jam Al-Buldan. Pushang was supposedly founded by Shapur I and was captured as part of a series of conquests under the governor of Khurasan 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amir. If this was the case, Ard would have operated as a mint subsection of Pushang. This is still a tentative attribution as pinpointing a location to this mint would be quite difficult given the many possible readings of the Kufic word.

Ardashir Khurra / أردشير خره

The mint name derives from the Middle Persian phrase meaning "the glory of Ardashir". Ardashir refers to the king Ardashir I, founder of the Sasanian Empire.

Although the city existed in the pre-Sasanian era, it was a destroyed city having been ransacked by Alexander the Great centuries before the reign of Ardashir, who revived it and made it into an important Sasanian administrative city. Ardashir Khurra was captured by the Umayyads under the command of 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amir in AH .

Arminiya / أرمينية


Arran / أران


Astan / أستان


Awdh / أوذ


B / ب

Al-Bab / الباب



The tables below illustrate the epigraphs of each mint as they appear on the coin. It is important to note that mint inscriptions begin with either "بــ" ("at") or "في" ("in"). These mints could be available in both variations but are only inscribed as the more common below. It is also worth noting that there might be stylistic variations from the illustrations below, though the form should generally be the same.

Mint Epigraphs

A / أ










Ardashir Khurra





B / ب



Date Epigraphs

As previously mentioned, the date on an Umayyad post-reform dirham usually appears in the obverse marginal legend after the mint. The date is read number by number from right to left, so for instance, the date AH 125 is inscribed as "خمس و عشرين و مئة" ("five and twenty and one hundred"). The word "and" connects different digits in the date, except for dirhams of years AH 111-119, where the last digit is connected to the decade without the "و" ("and"), but the decade is still connected to the century with the "و" ("and"). For example, a dirham of AH 114 is inscribed as "اربع عشرة و مئة" ("four ten and one hundred"). There is only one "و" ("and") here that connects the decade with the century.

The following table showcases the different varieties in form of different digits in the date. The date always follows the word "سنة" ("year"), which should make it easy for the reader to locate the date.






If you would like to contribute to this project, kindly send additions/corrections to and your changes will be given credit in this article.



Album, Stephen. Checklist of Islamic Coins. Santa Rosa: Stephen Album Rare Coins, 2011.

Bearman, Peri, et al. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960-2005.

Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition. New York, 1996-.

Al-Hamawy, Yaqut. Mu'jam Al-Buldan. Beirut: Dar Ihya' Al-Turath Al-'Arabi, 2008.

Klat, Michel. Catalogue of the Post-Reform Dirhams: The Umayyad Dynasty. London: Spink, 2002.

Al-Naqshabandi, Nasir. Al-Dirham Al-Umawi Al-Madrub 'Ala Al-Tarraz Al-Islami. Damascus: Dar Al Watha'eq, 2006.

Al-Tabari, Muhammad. Tarikh Al-Umam Wa'l-Muluk. Beirut: Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, 2012.

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