Origins Of Islam: King Offa, John Of Damascus & The Arabic Inscriptions

M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahmān Robert Squires, Muhammad Ghoniem, cAbdus Samad & Elias Karīm

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

Last Updated: 9th September 1999

Assalamu 'alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

This work is an addition to the refutation of Joseph Smith's apolegetic paper by cAbdur Rahīm Green. The 'new' historians such as John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, have taken a stance that the origins of Qur'ān and Islam as we see today were at least 150+ years AH.[1] This position is now taken by Christian missionaries such as Jospeh Smith whose methodology has been well exposed by cAbdur Rahīm Green.

Briefly, this work is about showing the evidence in writings, coins and inscriptions of pre-200 years AH. They are King Offa's gold coin, John of Damascus, the first Christian polemicist and Arabic inscription which are dated before 200 year AH.

Gold Coin Of King Offa

King Offa of Mercia (757-96CE) was the most powerful and successful of all the Mercian kings. He dominated England, and his power was acknowledged on the Continent by the great Charlemagne himself.

Offa also made a significant contribution to the English coinage when he introduced his silver penny these coins were probably minted in Cantebury and influenced the design of english coins for many centuries. When a hoard of some 300 coins were found during excavations for a new school in 1877 more than 30 of the coins came from the ancient Tamworth mint.

One of the famous coins of King Offa is the gold coin with Arabic inscription in Kūfic script.[2] Below is the description of coin.[3]

Obverse Field:

There is no God [worthy of worship] except Allah who has no partner or associate.


Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, who sent him with the doctrine and true faith to prevail over every religion.
Reverse Field:

Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah


In the name of Allah was coined this dinar in the year one hundred and fifty seven (157AH).

Between the three lines forming the inscription of the field of the reverse are the words OFFA REX.

Offa's reign over Mercia began in 757AD and continued until 796. The date inscribed upon the gold coin bearing his name is 157AH = 774AD. This piece is considered to be a copy of an Arabic dinar of the year 157AH issued by Caliph al-Mansur, and was issued in, or more probably, subequently to the year 774AD.

The history and various hypothesies of the origin of this gold coin can be found in the literature.[1,4,5]

There are many examples of 'reformed coinage' from the time of cAbd al-Mālik which also had inscriptions similar to that of Offa's gold coin. They were first issued in 696-699 CE comprising of gold, silver and copper.

These reformed coins bear on the obverse the Muslim profession of faith

There is no god but God: He has no associate.

and around it the marginal legend

In the name of God; this dinar (or dirham) was struck at . . . in the year. . . .

The reverse area has a quotation from Qur'ānic sūrah CXII,

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.

Around is Qur'ān IX, 33:

He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolaters may be averse.

The gold coin of Offa definitely shows that basics of Islamic faith have already come into being, like the shahadah, as does the coins from the period of cAbd al-Mālik.

So, the numismatic evidence dismisses the 200+ year revisionistic theory of Crone-Cook-Wansbrough school.

John Of Damascus

St. John of Damascus also called Saint John Damascene, (Latin Johannes Damascenus) born in 675 in Damascus and died on Dec. 4, 749, near Jerusalem. He was the first Christian polemicist against Islam. Talking about the Dome of the Rock and the issues surrounding it, Oleg Grabar says:

Our only almost contemporary source is John of Damascus. In his account of heresies, he has several extremely interesting pages on Islam.[6]

So, the Dome of the Rock already existed when John of Damascus was writing his book De Haeresbuis which became the armory for all future controversial writings againsts Islam.

If Islam started so late (200+ years AH) as claimed by the revisionistic school of Patricia Crone, Michael Cook and John Wansbrough, what was John Damascus, the fountain of all Christian polemic to this day, writing about the religion of Islam? Further John of Damascus labelled Arabs as Sarcens which became the common name by which the Muslims were referred to in the early literature of Islam in the West.

John of Damascus and others after him always insisted on the fact that the new masters of the Near East are Ishmaelites, that is, outcasts; and it is with this implication that the old term Sarakenoi is explained as meaning "empty (because of or away from?) of Sarah (ek tes Sarras kenous) and that the Arabs are often called Agarenois, obviously in a perjorative sense.[7]

So, what was he writing about? A Qur'ān which did not exist? A religion which had not yet come into being? It seems John of Damascus has given some real guidance to his Christian progeny.

Arabic Inscriptions & Manuscript Evidence

Here we present some of the Arabic inscriptions before 100AH. Notice in some of them there is the familiar basamalah used in Islam. Though there are quite a few, only three of them will suffice, inshallah. This will add a few more nails to the coffin to the arguments made by Crone-Cook-Wansbrough followers such as Joseph Smith.

Tombstone inscription of cAbd ar-Rahmān al-Hajrī at Aswān, Egypt.
Dated 31 A. H. / 654 C. E.
(Islamic Museum, Cairo, Egypt)

Inscription on a dam at Tacif, Saudi Arabia, built by Mu'āwiyah Ibn Abū Sufyān, first Umawi Caliph.
Dated 58 A. H. / 681 C. E.

Roadsigns engraved in stone from the time of the Caliphate of cAbd al-Mālik Ibn Marwān, builder of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (al-Quds).
Circa 66-86 A. H. / 690-710 C. E.
(Jerusalem Museum, Israeli Occupied Palestine)

Yet another recent example of the inscription from the time of cAbd al-Mālik can be discussed by Moshe Sharon can be seen in which is dated around 73AH.[8]

And Allah knows best.

Related Articles

Nevo & Negev Inscriptions: The Use & Abuse Of The Evidence

   Islamic Awareness History Islam King Offa, John Of Damascus & The Arabic Inscriptions


[1] Please see Nevo & Negev Inscriptions: The Use & Abuse Of The Evidence for a detailed study of their theories.

[2] P W P Carlyon-Britton, The Gold Mancus Of Offa, King Of Mercia,The British Numismatic Journal & The Proceedings Of The British Numismatic Society, 1908, First Series, Volume V, pp. 55-72.

[3] Ibid., pp. 55-56.

[4] J Allan, Offa's Imitation Of An Arab Dinar, The Numismatic Chronicle & Journal Of The Royal Numismatic Society, 1914, Fourth Series, Volume XIV, pp. 77-89.

[5] C E Blunt & Michael Dolley, A Gold Coin Of The Time Of Offa, The Numismatic Chronicle, 1968, Seventh Series, Volume VIII, pp. 151-160.

[6] Oleg Grabar, The Umayyad Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, Ars Orientalis, 1959, 3, p. 42.

[7] Ibid., p. 44.

[8] Moshe Sharon, An Arabic Inscription From The Time Of The Caliph cAbd al-Mālik, Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental & African Studies, 1966, Volume 29, pp. 367-372.

Back To Index