Islamic Coins, Arab Sasanian, Anonymous, but probably struck during the reign of ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan (65-86h/AD685-705), silver drachm, without mint name or date, obv. field: bust of ruler to right wearing a metal helmet and chain mail, holding sheathed sword in right hand, the name of the ruler Khusraw in Pahlawi to right and GDH APZWR (‘may his glory increase’) to left. Around in margin: bism Allah la i/laha illa Allah wa/hdahu Muhammad ra/sul Allah (‘in the name of God, no god but God unique, Muhammad is the messenger of God’), divided by stars and crescents at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and pellet within annulet at 12 o’clock; rev. field: impressive arch supported by decorated columns containing vertical barbed spear, two pennants to right, to either side of spear shaft nasr/Allah (‘the help of God’); to right of arch downwards: khalqat Allah (‘the image of God’), to left downwards amir al-mu’minin (‘Commander of the Faithful’); in border at 1 o’clock four stars in crescents with Pahlawi word PA (‘praise’); wt.3.22gms. (Morton and Eden, 27 April 2017; Miles, G: ‘Mihrab and ‘Anazah: A study in Early Islamic Iconography, in Archealogia orientale in memoriam Ernst Herzfelt, 1952), with Hephthalite countermark on obverse border at 3 o’clock, small edge chip at 9 o’clock, otherwise extremely fine and of the highest rarity
The key to reading this mihrab or ‘anaza drachm lies in the interpretation of the words khalqat Allah (‘the image of God’) rather than the later and usually accepted version khalifat Allah (‘the caliph of God’). This incorrect reading was introduced by the late George Miles, curator of the American Numismatic Society, when he first published this extraordinarily rare drachm. The portrait on the obverse is clearly different from the usual Sasanian bust of Khusraw II, in that it shows him wearing a metal helmet without the usual winged crown above and chain mail. The Arabic legends on the coin are correctly inscribed in the usual kufic script of the time, where it is inconceivable that such a clumsy error would have been accepted by any literate individual handling the piece. The rarity of this coin suggests that it was intended as a pattern issue designed to test whether its design and legends, representing the new faith of Islam, would be acceptable to the people. The barbed spear was clearly an image on the new coinage that should be used in place of the cross which had appeared hitherto. Its great rarity would also imply that this experiment was not successful and that it prompted the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik to reject the spear and to replace the use of any images with passages from the Holy Qur’an.
An example of this coin was sold by Morton & Eden, Auction 85, 26th April 2017, lot 3. The piece was graded very fine to good very fine and realised £80,000 plus 20% buyer’s premium.