Category Archives: Welsh Borders

Life in the Welsh Borders especially Newchurch and surrounding areas

King Offa and the Muslim inscription: Linking Welsh borders and Islam

Humphrey Fisher is not the first link between the Welsh borders and Islam! The  fantastic Muslim Museum Initiative includes a coin that King Offa had minted with an Arabic inscription. Fascinating how the contact goes back so far: http://muslimmuseum.org.uk/king-offas-dinar/

Offa’s dyke runs through Newchurch, where Humphrey lives, and he has walked many sections of the Offa’s Dyke Path, little realising the connection with his academic work on Islamic history!

Off’as gold coin with Arabic inscription

Indeed another section on the website shows the Celtic cross with Islamic inscription, physical evidence of the long-thought of links between the Celtic and Arabic worlds.

Here is the text on the MMI website, courtesy of the British Museum where the coin is held.

In 773-774 King Offa of Mercia minted a coin that imitated a dinar. It bears the shahadah (Islamic declaration of faith). It is on display at the British Museum.

An Islamic inscription on an English coin

This unique gold coin of Offa, king of Mercia, is one of the most remarkable English coins of the Middle Ages. It is remarkable because it imitates a gold dinar of the caliph al-Mansur, ruler of the Islamic Abbasid dynasty. Although the Arabic inscription is not copied perfectly, it is close enough that it is clear that the original from which it was copied was struck in the Islamic year AH 157 (AD 773-74). It seems that the engraver had no understanding of the Arabic script: the name and title OFFA REX has been inserted upside down in relation to the Arabic inscription.

The purpose of the coin is uncertain. It has been suggested that it was made as a gift for the pope (it was first recorded in Rome), but it is unlikely that any Christian king would have sent the pope a coin with and inscription stating that ‘there is no God but Allah alone’, however badly the Arabic had been copied. It is more likely that it was designed for use in trade; Islamic gold dinars were the most important coinage in the Mediterranean at the time. Offa’s coin looked enough like the original that it would be readily accepted in southern Europe, while at the same time his own name was clearly visible.

(c) British Museum

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/cm/g/gold_imitation_dinar_of_offa.aspx