Al-Mahdi al-Haqq, amīr al-mu'minīn - article ; n°7 ; vol.6, pg 329-341

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Revue numismatique - Année 1965 - Volume 6 - Numéro 7 - Pages 329-341
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George C. Miles
Al-Mahdi al-Haqq, amīr al-mu'minīn
In: Revue numismatique, 6e série - Tome 7, année 1965 pp. 329-341.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Miles George C. Al-Mahdi al-Haqq, amīr al-mu'minīn. In: Revue numismatique, 6e série - Tome 7, année 1965 pp. 329-341.
doi : 10.3406/numi.1965.939
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/numi_0484-8942_1965_num_6_7_939George G. MILES
AL-MAHDI AL-HAQQ, AMIR AL-MU'MINÏN
(PL XXXV)
This paper is concerned with three very curious unpublished
revolutionary issues of silver dirhems of the late 2nd or early 3rd
century of the Hijrah (early 9th century A. D.). One of these is
represented by three specimens; the second and third are unique.
All five pieces were presented to the American Numismatic Society
by a private collector who obtained them a year or two ago in
Iran from the same dealer and at the same time. They are very
similar in style and fabric, and in fact the obverse dies of all five
specimens are identical, so that there can be no doubt that they are
closely related to each other. None of the three issues bears a mint
name or date, and in the circumstances it is particularly unfortunate
that there is no record of any other coins associated with the find1 might help in establishing more firmly the date of the coins
to be discussed.
The three issues are to be described as follows:
1. Dirhem. No mint or date.
Obverse:
1. With one possible exception, a crude, possibly contemporary counterfeit dirhem
of al-Muhammadiyah, 180 H., acquired by the collector at the same time.
11—1 330 GEORGE C. MILES
Margin :
ů
JubllJl J^A jj J^JÍ í\Sr JJj [sic] ^[Д-îî ^
Dotted border enclosing area; linear border enclosing marginal legend.
Reverse :
4)1
JLJI
'*A L»
Margin: Qur'an IX, 33.
Double linear border enclosing area; linear border enclosing marginal
legend.
a) /R, ANS 64.117, 25 mm., 1.66 gr. PL XXXV, 1 a.
b) /R, ANS 65.152, 25 1.79 gr. PL 1 b.
c) /R, ANS 23 mm., 1.70 gr. PL XXXV, lc.
The obverses of all three specimens are badly struck, and the obverse
marginal legend of one specimen would certainly not have been decipherable
without the aid of the other two specimens.
2. Dirhem. No mint or date.
Obverse: Identical with no. 1, marginal legend about one-half preserved.
Reverse :
1 u AL-MAHDI AL-HAQQ 331
Margin : Largely effaced, probably Qur'ân IX, 33.
Beaded or dotted border enclosing area; outer border, if any, effaced.
M, ANS 65.152, 23 mm., 1.45 gr. PL XXXV, 2.
The reverse area is very imperfectly struck and obscure, although the
second and third lines can be easily read because of their conventional
formulae. The single word at the top might possibly be <djl. The
single word at the bottom is illegible, but might perhaps be a blurred JLp
as on no. 3. Al-khalïfah is clear enough. The following word appears
to be al-rashld.
3. Dirhem. No mint or date.
Obverse: Identical with no. 1, marginal legend completely preserved;
3 (of 6?) annulets preserved outside legend.
Reverse :
4Í1I
<y.
Margin: Qur'àn IX, 33.
Linear border enclosing area; dotted border enclosing marginal legend;
3 (of 6?) annulets on outer border.
/R, ANS 65.152, 24 mm., 1.78 gr. PI. XXXV, 3.
The reverse is slightly double-struck, and this fact together with the
damage caused by corrosion in the center lower left portion of the area
has resulted in rendering the important third and fourth lines of the
extremely obscure and difficult to read. Cleaning and removal of the
metallic deposit has been of some help, but the damage remains. Al-
khallfat is clear. Al-rashld (?) is uncertain. ' Ali bn is obscure, and there
is damage both above and below the line. The name Zayd at the beginning
of the fourth line and the same name at the end of the line are almost
certain, although the ya in both instances has a slight slant that suggests
a jim, ha or kha. It might be Ahmad. The name read as Ja'far is extremely GEORGE C. MILES 332
obscure; an alternative reading might be Husayn, but one would expect
al-Husayn. In the last line, the word looks like 'abdi, but what appears
to be a retrogressive уп is doubtless the result of the double-striking, and
the word is almost certainly 'abd and is to be read with the top line as
'Abdullah.
The conventional marginal legend of the reverse is almost completely
preserved and raises no problem.
Thus, while these dirhems have quite a conventional appearance
and certain common legends, they present several quite unconvent
ional and remarkable features. With an eye to establishing an
approximate date, let us first comment on the epigraphical style
and examine the conventional phrases that occur on the several
issues. The style of lettering is entirely characteristic of 'Abbâsid
numismatic epigraphy of the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries
of the Hijrah. As for the formulary phrases in the reverse areas,
some suggestive observations may be made.
Although the expression JU>^« Ac- 4JUI Л^> (on no. 1) is very rare
on 'Abbâsid dirhems, it does occur as early as 160 H.1 Much
commoner is the formula JL-j <lJp <\U1 JL^? (no. 2) following
4JI J yMj JU>«^, beginning during the reign of the Caliph al-Mahdi
Muhammad in the year 159 at Madïnat al-Salâm and thereafter
at many other 'Abbâsid mints;2 and the expression is also of
frequent occurrence on the coins of several of the later semi-inde
pendent dynasties within the 'Abbâsid empire. As for the
executive phrase aj j»\ L* (no. 1), «among those things ordered
by, » it is found on copper coins as early as the year 100, 3 and on
dirhems in the eastern provinces beginning in 146, when al-Mahdi
Muhammad was heir apparent.4 As an example of this executive
phrase on the reverse area of a dirhem a specimen of al-Muhamma-
dïyah of the year 184 is illustrated in PI. XXX V, 4, exhibiting both the
formula JL-j aJp <UJI ^JU* and <u y\ L*, followed by the name
of al-Amïn, son of Hârun al-Rashîd, as heir apparent. This
executive phrase continues to appear on 'Abbâsid dirhems down
into the reign of al-Ma'mun but thereafter is discontinued.
1. E.g., Lavoix I, n° 697.
2. Tiesenhausen, no. 881; Lavoix I, no. 723; BM I, p. 58, no. 122; Niitzel I, no. 856.
3.no. 484.
4.no. 755; Lavoix I, no. 632; BM I, p. 43, no. 46 ; Niitzel I, no. 669. AL-MAHDI AL-HAQQ 333
As for the unconventional aspects of the several issues, let us
enumerate them and examine the anomalies of each issue sépara-
tely.
No. 1:
a) Mint name and date, always present in the obverse margin
of 'Abbàsid dirhems, are lacking;
b) The place of the usual mint-date formula is taken by quotat
ions from Qur'ân XLII, 22, and XVII, 83;
c) The name of the 'Abbasid Caliph is lacking;
d) In place of the Caliph's name is the very curious
title al-Mahdi al-Haqq, Amir al-Mu'minïn, « the true Mahdi,
Commander of the Believers; »
e) There are two exhortations (apparently), above and beneath
the reverse area.
Anomaly (a), the lack of the usual mint-date formula, is
remarkable enough in itself. The substitution of the Qur'ânic
passages ( b) permits us to make some relevant and rather signi
ficant analogies. The legend, beginning with 4JJI j^, quotes
Qur'ân XLII, 22 (ed. Flugel) from qui as far as al-qurbâ, « Say, I do
not ask of you any reward for it other than love of (my) relatives. »x
The first numismatic occurrence of this verse is on a copper coin
of the 'Alid rebel and 'Abbâsid partisan 'Abdullah b. Mu'âwiyah,2
struck at Rayy in 127 H. In the ensuing years, from 128 to 131,
a number of mints in the east (Istakhr, Balkh, al-Taymarah, Jayy,
Râm-Hurmuz, Sâbûr, Mâhi, Marw and Hamadhân) issued dirhems
without the name of the issuer but with the same Qur'ânic legend,
and there are several other related copper coins struck at Bukhara,
Tawwaj,3 Rayy and at a mint or mints unnamed.4 Illustrated
1. Usually taken to allude to the ahl al-bayt, that is the Prophet's family. Cf.
s.v. in El2. Maulvi Muhammad AH, The Holy Qur~án (Lahore, 1935), p. 936, would
prefer to translate simply «relatives », i.e., anyone's relatives.
2. See E/2, s.v. 'Abd Allah b. Mu'âwiya.
3. Actually an 'Abbàsid fais issued after the enthronement of al-Saffàh but still
with the partisan slogan (G. G. Miles, Excavation Coins from the Persepolis Area,
NNM 143, New York, 1959, p. 66, no. 504). Still more remarkable are a number
of coppers of Samarqand bearing the same slogan issued by a certain Dâ'Od b. Girâz
in 143 H. (see O. I. Smirnova, Katalog Monet s Gorodishta Pendjikent, Moscow, 1963,
nos. 799-814). Also I have recently come across an unpublished fais with the same
verse, without mint name but dated 133 H . and with the name of an unidentified
amir, perhaps Zuhayr b. al-Tawwaji.
4. In my Numismatic History of Rayy (New York, 1938), pp. 16-17, I drew up 334 GEORGE C. MILES
in PI. XXXV, 5, is a dirhem struck at Jayy in the year 128, with the
Qur'ânic verse clearly engraved in the inner margin of the obverse;1
and in PL XXXV, 6, a copper fais of Abu-Muslim of the year 131,
without mint name, with the same quotation in the obverse
margin.2 It is of importance to note that both Abu-Muslim at
this time and 'Abdullah b. Mu'âwiyah had more or less close
connections with the 'Alid ShFites. The latter especially, a great-
grandson of 'Ali's brother Ja'far, was declared by his followers to
be the rightful imám, and among his adherents were many Zaydites.
After his death (ironically he was executed by Abu-Muslim in
Khorâsân), the Janâhiyyah, by which name some of his followers
were called, maintained that he was still alive and would return.3
The next recorded revolutionaries to make use of Qur'ân XLII,
22 on their coins, so far as I know, were the 'Alids (or Zaydites)
of Tabaristân. A dirhem (PI. XXXV, 7) in the American Numismatic
Society collection4 bears the name of al-dâ'ï ilâ'1-haqq al-Hasan '
b. Zayd. It was struck at Amul in 253 H./867 A. D. The
Qur'anic verse in question occupies the outer margin of the obverse
and continues (with some effaced gaps) after al-qurbâ as far as
husnan, i. e., u_~->- \.ir^ <u ijj 4Jw~j>- ^J jJLjlj j_« j, « and
whoever earns good, we give him more of good therein. » A
similar dirhem is listed by Markov in his inventory of the
Hermitage collection (p. 966), and one of the following year,
254, also at Amul, was acquired by the British Museum after
the publication of Lane-Poole's catalogue.5 These dirhems also
' . * x i
carry in the reverse margin Qur'an XXII, 40 :6 joJLJLJ Oil
a list of these issues. Certain corrections need to be made in this list, and to it are
to be added: Balkh, 132 (Ibrahim Artuk in Tarih Dergisi, III, 1953, pp. 135-136),
Jayy, 128 (in a private collection in Iran), and al-Rayy, 128 (S. M. Stern in NC 1961,
p. 261). See also the coppers of Abu-Muslim published in NNM 143 (cited in the
preceding footnote), p. 51, nos. 256-257. Attention is there drawn to my confusion
of Khârijite and 'Abbasid partisan issues, as pointed out by D. Sourdel in his Inventaire
des monnaies musulmanes anciennes du Musée de Caboul, Damascus, 1953, p. 7.
1. /R, ANS 63.172, 24 mm., 2.86 gr.
2. /^, (ex Wood Coll.), 20 mm., 2.02 gr. Cf. Tiesenhausen, no. 660 ; Niitzel I,
no. 2064 ; Zambaur, NZ 1904, p. 46, no. 7.
3. See the El article on 'Abdullah b. Mu'âwiyah referred to above, and El2, s.v.
al-Djanâhiyya.
4. /R,'aNS 61.130, 24 mm., 2.94 gr.
5. Harvey Porter in NC 1921, p. 328, note 3.
6. Wrongly cited by Porter, /. c, p. 327, as Qur'ân XLII, 40, AL-MAHDI AL-HAQQ 335
« Permission to fight is given to those who are oppressed, and surely
Allah is able to assist them. » Hasan b. Zayd, founder of the
'Alid dynasty in Tabaristân, traced his ancestry back to 'Ali
through Zayd b. Hasan.1 A fews years later, in 267, 268, 269
and 270 H. /880-884 A. D., he was striking coins at Jurján, again
with the identical Qur'anic passages.2
Following this series is a dirhem of Amul issued in 306 H. /918-9
A. D. by a later 'Alid ruler of Tabaristân, al-Hasan b. al-Qâsim,
who traced his descent from 'Ali through the Husaynid line.3
This issue4 likewise carries Qur'ân XLII, 22 and XXII, 40. 5 Then,
a generation later, in Gilan, another 'Alid of the so-called Pâdusbâ-
nid family by the name of al-Thâ'ir fí Alláh abu'1-Fadl Ja'far
issued coins in a place called Hawsam, on which he entitles himself
« son of Muhammad son of the Messenger of Allah, »6 and here again
one of the marginal legends is Qur'ân LXII, 22, the characteristic
battle-cry of these Shï'ite messianic insurgents.
I turn now to the other Qur'anic passage in the obverse margin,
XVII, 83, which follows immediately after the one just discussed.
It runs from wa-qul to al-bâiil, i.e., « and say, the truth has
come and the falsehood vanished. »7 I find that this verse, usually
jlS" JJ?CJl j\ « verily continuing to the end, that is, Uj_a j
falsehood is a vanishing thing, » appears on a number of Idrîsid
dirhems of the 170's, 180's and 190's of the Hijrah, struck at
several different mints in Morocco.8 Illustrated in PI. XXXV, 8, is
1. Cf. EI\ s.v.
2. I have not made a systematic search for a complete bibliography of these issues,
but a partial listing includes: Tornberg, p. 153, nos. 1, 2, 3, 5; Sauvaire, Annuaire de
la Soc. fr. de Num., 1887, pp. 345-346; Markov, Inventory, pp. Ill, 883, 966; Zambaur,
Windisch-Grátz, no. 209; Porter, op. cil., p. 327; 0strup, nos. 765-767; U. S. Linder-
Welin, Nordisk Num. Ârsskrift, 1941, p. 115.
3. Cf. Zambaur, Manuel, table D.
4. Sauvaire, loc. cit., pp. 396-397.
5. It is curious that a dinar of the same mint and date in the British Museum
[BM IX, p. 257, no. 617P = Le Strange, JRAS, Oct., 1880) has Qur'an XXXIII,
33, on the obverse in place of Qur'ân XLII, 22.
6. These dirhems are dated 344 H. (Tornberg, p. 119, no. 527), 34 (5?) H. (Sauvaire,
loc. cit., p. 390), 351 H. (private collection in Teheran), and 355? H. (same collection).
7. D. B. Macdonald explains s.v. Hakk in El1 that the correct theological meaning
of haqq is « the real » or « reality » and of balil, « vain » ou « imaginary ». Cf. the article
Fâsid iva-bâtil in El2, « non-existent, invalid. » The customary translations are
« truth » and « falsehood ».
8. E.g., Lavoix II, nos. 890-891, 893, 895, 902, 903; Zambaur, NZ 1914, pp. 120-121,
nos. 422-425. After this article had gone to the printer I found that another series
of coins carries the same verse, i.e., those of al-Hàdi ilâ'1-Haqq, the Rassid or Zaydid
imam of Sa'dah and San'â {BM X, p. 74, nos. 360-200, dated 298 H., and Zambaur,
Contributions I, nos. 67-68, undated). 336 GEORGE C. MILES
a specimen of the year 174 H., issued at Tudghah (Tadghah) by
Idris I,1 on which the Qur'ânic verse is clearly legible in the reverse
margin after the name of Idris b. 'Abdullah. Idris, the founder
of the first Shi'ite dynasty, was a great-grandson of Hasan b.
'AH b. abi-Tâlib,2 and thus was a distant cousin of Hasan b. Zayd
of Tabaristân, on whose coins we have observed the other verse
in question, Qur'ân XLII, 22.
Reverting now to anomalies (c) and (d) of issue no. 1, we would
expect to find the name of the Caliph on the reverse, with the title
al-khalîfah or al-imàm, during the period suggested by the fabric
and epigraphical style. Instead we have, following « God bless
Muhammad, peace be upon him : » « among those things ordered
by al-Mahdi al-Haqq3 (the true Mahdi), Commander of the Belie
vers. » For the moment, and until all three issues can be considered
together in conclusion, I will postpone comment on this curious
title of an unnamed individual who claims the leadership of the
Muslim community.
Finally, with regard to anomaly (e), the exhortations above and
â' hamd and y ď mans пг, beneath the reverse area of issue no. 1, y
the latter may very well be an allusion to al-Mukhtâr's cry during
the 'Alid uprising in Kufah in the year 66, quoted by Tabari:4
clwjl j y^A li i Li, « yď mansur, kill! » I have no useful suggestion
to make about the other exhortation, yď hamd. Lane (I, p. 639)
observes that hamd « used as an epithet applied to a man, is
synonymous with mahmud. »
We must now consider the anomalous aspects of the two other
issues:
No. 2:
(a) and ( b) As no. 1 (a) and ( b ) ;
(c) The fourth line of the reverse area appears to read al-
khalïfat al-rashïd;
1. ANS 1930, 24 mm., 2.63 gr. There is some doubt about the name of this mint:
cf. Lavoix II, p. 370, and al-tarjumân al-mu'rib 'an duwal al-mashriq wal-maghrib
(ed. & transi. Houdas, Paris, 1886), p. 6. I am indebted to Mr. Muhammad Abu'l-
Faraj al-'Ush for checking this reference for me. The vocalization of the name is
not indicated.
2. El1, s.v. Cf. Zambaur, Manuel, table A.
3. I know of no other numismatic instance of the title al-mahdi al-haqq, but it is
interesting to note that the Caliph al-Mustakfi calls himself imam al-haqq on a dirhem
of 334 H. (Lavoix I, no. 1265).
4. Tabari, II, 2, 616, line 18. I am indebted to Professor S. D. Goitein for bringing
this passage to my attention, and also for citing Balâdhuri, Ansâb, V (Jerusalem,
1936), p. 225, line 6, which I have not seen. AL-MAHDI AL-HAQQ 337
(d) The words above and beneath the reverse area are too
obscure to merit speculation.
With regard to (c), if the correct reading is al-rashld, and if
al-rashïd refers to the Caliph Hârûn al-Rashîd, then issue no. 2
(and consequently nos. 1 and 3 with the same obverse dies) are
to be dated between 170 and 193 H./786 and 809 A. D., which
dates would of course accord well with our approximate dating
of these issues based upon style. If one were to consider
this legend alone one might then take this coin to be a regular
'Abbâsid issue (unless the illegible words above and beneath should
represent the name of a semi-independent personage), but the
anomalies of the lack of mint name and date and the use of the
revolutionary Qur'ânic quotations remain, and it is quite obvious
that this and the other coins are not regular issues. The legend
al-Khalïfal al-Rashïd, with reference to Hârûn al-Rashïd, is known
on ordinary 'Abbâsid dirhems but is restricted, I believe, to only
five mints: Zaranj, Sijistân, Madînat al-Salâm, al-Muhammadïyah
and al-Hârûnïyah. The earliest occurrence is at al-Muhamma-
diyah1 and Madînat al-Salâm2 in 170 H., and the latest at Zaranj
in 192 H.3 As for the numismatic use of the title al-khalïfah,
it goes back to the very early days of Islamic coinage, for example
khalifat Allah on Arab-Byzantine copper coins of the « standing
Caliph » type,4 and on the rare transitional Arab-Sasanian dirhems
of experimental type5. On 'Abbâsid dirhems al-khalïfah first
occurs under al-Mahdi in 159 H.e and appears sporadically there
after on dirhems of al-Hâdi and Hârûn al-Rashïd, as I have said. It
does not appear on al-Amin's dirhems, but it reappears on those
issues of al-Ma'mun's which carry the long legend announcing
al-Ridâ as heir apparent.7 On the coins of the succeeding Caliphs
the title is omitted and only the Caliph's name is given.
1. G. C. Miles, Numismatic History of Rayy, no. 70 C.
2. Lavoix I, no. 828.
3. Tiesenhausen, no. 1520. I have rejected attributions of dirhems of
al-Muhammadïyah supposedly dated 191 and 192 (see NHR, p. 89). Actually at
al-Muhammadiyah the title al-Khallfat al-Rashïd seems to have been in use from 170
to 175 only.
4. John Walker, Cat. of the Arab-Byzantine.... Coins (British Museum, London,
1956), pp. 30 ff.
5. Idem, Cat. of the Arab-Sassanian Coins (British Museum, London, 1941), pp. 24
and 25. Cf. G. С. Miles, « Mihrâb and 'Anazah », Archaeologica Orientalia in Memoriam
Ernst Herzfeld (Locust Valley, N. Y., 1952), p. 158.
6. E.g., Lavoix I, no. 723.
7. See p. 340, below.