Saturday, July 01, 2006

Did King Offa Become a Muslim?

Offa was the King of Mercia from 757 until his death until 796. Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in what is now the Midlands of England. Mercia was a Christian Kingdom but some are now making the claim that King Offa was a convert to Islam.

The only evidence of this claim is that a coin was issued during his reign. Written in Arabic was the phrase, "There is no god but ALLAH and there is no associate unto Him." The Muslim (London), V. 15, no. 3 claimed a conspiracy based on this, "Like the FLAG of any country, so its MONEY is a sign of its SOVEREIGNITY and independence, and Offa's gold coins represent this beyond any dispute and doubt! If any man is found dead in the street and he carries the passport of a country with his photo, name and signature, certainly he has the Nationality and Citizenship of that passport that had been found on him! When I asked several Englishmen (male and female alike) all of them were unanimous in their decision that King Offa must have acquired the Faith of Islam, and this is the reason that all English history-books state that they have very little documents about him; these documents might have been destroyed by The Church of England at its infancy!"

Paul Hannah refuted this in Did King Offa Become a Muslim? He wrote, "Unfortunately, the coin in question provides no evidence of Offa's supposed conversion. Perhaps the most obvious thing to point out is that the Latin inscription is upside-down with relation to the Arabic text. This can clearly be seen on the helpful images of the coins provided by Dr Zahoor[4]. Further to this, although the Arabic text is generally a good reproduction, the word for year has been bungled, something that an Arabic speaker would never do. It is clear, then, that neither Offa, his coin-makers nor his officials could read Arabic. Seeing as the first Latin or English translations of the Qur'an were made after Offa's time, it seems certain that he did not understand what he was printing. If his coins had been in order to declare his faith in Allah to the people of his realm, he would surely have written the Muslim creed in a language which his subjects could have understood. If Offa's purpose was not to declare Islam, what was it? Copying the coins of other kingdoms is a well-known practice and was done for several reasons, not necessarily forgery. For purposes of international trade, it was necessary for coins to be accepted in the country to which they were going. Copying the established currency of that country would be a logical way to ensure that coins were accepted in trade."

Although the coin provides little evidence of a supposed conversion by King Offa to Islam, it is interesting. Who would have thought a coin from 8th century England would be proclaiming "La Ilaha Il-ALLAH wahido la shareeka laho?" It is clearly a strange historical artifact and one many coin collectors would love to have!

1 comment:

Publia said...

If you have ever seen pictures of Jesus, and I am sure you have, you will notice every culture makes him look a lot like them. Hence we have Black Jesuses and White Jesuses blond, brown haired, and black haired Jesuses etc. What's not to like about Offa? Most likely the same effect.