Gold coin of Abd al-Malik

Probably made in Syria, AH 77 / AD 696-7

This is the first issue of coins struck by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (reigned AD 685-706) as part of his revolutionary reform of the Islamic coinage in AD 696-7.

The reform involved substituting any images on the coins for writing. It was principally done because of the unease felt by Muslim clerics against the portrayal of images. From this time inscriptions predominate on Islamic coins, although there are some exceptions.

The inscriptions, which do not include the name of the caliph or the mint, state the essence of the Muslim message in Arabic, the Islamic profession of faith, the shahada. The inscriptions are in the angular Kufic script.

Along with the new design came a new weight standard. The Byzantine standard of 4.55 g, which had been previously used, was adjusted to 4.25 g, a weight also known as the mithqal.


Gold coins of Abd

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Object details

Umayyad dynasty


Diameter: 1.9 cm
Weight: 4.250 g


CM 1874 7-6 1

Room 34: The Islamic world


    Gift of E.T. Rogers


    M. Broome, A handbook of Islamic coins (London, 1985)

    S. Album, A checklist of Islamic coins, 2nd ed. (Santa Rosa, 1998)

    J. Walker, A catalogue of the Muhammada-1 (London, 1956)

    J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    M.L. Bates, ‘The Coinage of Syria under the Umayyads, 692-750 AD’, Fourth International Conference on the History of Bilad al-Sham (1989), 195–228

    M.L. Bates, ‘History, Geography and Numismatics in the First Century of Islamic Coinage’, Revue Suisse de Numismatique, 65 (1986), 231–62

    M. Bonner (ed.), Arab-Byzantine Relations in Early Islamic Times (Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing, 2004)

    P. Crone, and M. Hinds, God’s Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam (Cambridge, 2003)

    F. Garrard, ‘Myth and Metrology: the Early Trans-Saharan Gold Trade’, Journal of African History, 23 (1982), 443–61

    T. Goodwin, Arab-Byzantine Coinage (London, 2005)

    P. Grierson, ‘The Monetary Reforms of ‘Abd al-Malik: their Metrological Basis and their Financial Repercussions’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 3 (1960), 241–64

    W.E. Kaigi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic conquests (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992)

    C.F. Robinson, Abd al-Malik (Oxford, Oneworld Publications, 2005)