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Ancient World Dinar Coins
By David Slone

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (646AD - 705AD) was the fifth caliph of the Umayyads, which was the ruling dynasty that built a huge medieval Islamic empire stretching west across North Africa into Spain and as far east as Pakistan. Whilst the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England lacked a written language, Abd al-Malik created the world’s first widespread uniform currency - the dinar.

Previous to his reign (685-705AD), the Arabs used silver Sassanian coins from the Persian empire and gold and copper Byzantine coins from the Byzantine or Roman empire, centered around it’s capital city, Constantinople.

Abd al-Malik had agreed to a decade long truce with the then Byzantine emperor, Justinian ll, a truce which was then broken when the emperor refused to accept al-Malik’s new Islamic coins in place of money bearing a picture of Christ or the cross.

Although the new gold dinars and silver dirhems were very similar in size and weight to the coins they replaced, their design for the day was completely revolutionary. Come 697AD the caliph had abandoned portraits of rulers or emblems of cities to adorn his coins in favor of simplistic inscriptions of verses from the Koran.

Al-Malik then decreed that the new currency should be the only one to be used throughout the entire empire, and anyone who failed to hand in their old coins for melting down and re-minting faced the death penalty.

This was the very first time that a state had defined a stable currency with such precision, producing coins in mints from as far afield as Spain to Tunisia, Azerbaijan to Afghanistan, which then for the ruler had the most advantageous position of strength since this allowed him to unify the tax systems across all the provinces.

The coins were also the very first to be marked with their individual year of issue - a practice elsewhere which became not widespread until the 15th century.

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