Arabic Gold Dinar

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The Arabic gold dinar was the official currency of the Ottoman Empire, from 77 AH (696-7 AD) where it was commissioned and subsequently issued by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. The name dinar is itself a derivative of a Roman coin, the denarius which was a silver coin of Imperial Rome used much throughout its smaller states. Made from 95% pure gold and weighing 4.25 grams, the gold dinar became well known in the empires outside of Byzantium, as it was a gold coin which was produced outside of the Byzantine Empire, a practice which was uncommon at the time. Many examples of gold dinar that date from its earliest production show wear and tear typical of softer gold coins, as unlike Byzantine coinage such as the solidus (a standard coin of Byzantium at the time) gold dinars did not get re-minted and was soon worn out.

The earliest types of coins used by the Arabs outside of the Byzantian border were the solidii of Byzantium, and it was not until the end of the 7th century well into the Christian Era that caliph Abd al-Malik made copies of these solidii with gold supply from the upper Nile, replacing the Christian symbolisms in the coinage with Arabic calligraphy and quotations from the Q'uran. These were the earliest type of dinar, and while they only amounted to 20 carats of gold by weight at the time, this weight matched that of the worn solidii that circulated outside of Byzantium. [1] Both solidii and prototype dinar circulated together outside of Byzantium for a time, until too much wear elicited melting and eventual loss of the coins as they were melted down to be used for other things.

The first dinars to possess a date (Anno Hegirae) that corresponds with the Islamic calendar dates back to the time of Yazdegerd III (74 AH) and was struck during the Caliphate of 'Uthman, deviating slightly from the original dinars which possessed writing only in the center field of the coin. Examples dating from Yazdegerd III's period of rule show that Q'uranic quotations had already been incorporated in the margins of the currency – a feature that would become more commonplace all throughout the production of the coins. Other variants would eventually spring up working on these designs, with inscriptions in the center field, the obverse margin, or both – more often than not featuring Q'uranic verses, while others show a 'repossessed' coin, an originally Christian solidus with its Christian symbolism erased. All examples of gold dinars usually carry the dates, governors' or rulers' names, and the inevitable Q'uranic exhortations. There are even examples of dinar which were minted in the shape of a square, although such examples are rare. [2]

The need for a smaller fraction of currency came to be, and so the production of silver dirhams came about when Abd al-Malik decided on a change in the coinage at around 75 AH / 695 CE. These silver dirhams were tooled in a far more ornate and artistic flourish, possessing many inner circular borders and marginal detail – a feature that was lacking in the gold dinars of the time. Both the production of the silver dirhams and the gold dinars were strictly controlled, maintaining a constant weight out of 4.4 grams by weight of 20.5 carats of pure gold, until the weight later coincided with the weight of the Byzantine solidii and amounted to the standard 4.25 grams. [3] Other Islamic nations followed the gold standard and issued their own type of gold coins adopting as their base the more popular dinar. And example of just a coin is the tari, a gold coin originally minted by the Muslims of Sicily and Italy. Originally called 'ruba'i' it was a fractional of the dinar (quarter-dinar). It was later adopted by the Christian conquerors of Sicily, and all Islamic influence in later versions of the tari was replaced by either Christian symbolism or pseudo-Kufic script in imitation of Arabic. [4]

The gold dinar is one of the longest gold coins ever issued, with the end of its use following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1924. From A. D. 700 to A. D. 1924 the gold dinar has been minted in various versions, possessing a variety of different designs. One of the most noticeable changes in the dinar is the 'coin wars' which ensued between Christian and Islamic Byzantium, which would regularly change the design of the coin (Christian to Islamic and Islamic to Christian) as it changed hands through trade or plunder. Both the ancient examples as well as the ones that were minted well into the modern age are sought after by both collectors and investors for their beauty and the value of their metal. The influence of the gold dinar remains strong to this day, as, in 2002, Malaysia's prime minister proposed the revival of the gold dinar for standard use in all Islamic countries. The proposal for the revival of traditional Islamic currency in real gold and silver was launched shortly thereafter and was consecutively adopted by many Islamic nations such as Libya and Indonesia, although they are yet to possess legal tender status in and are used simply for personal transactions or investments. [5] Today, both ancient and modern gold dinars are sought after by investors and collectors alike.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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