The Arabic & Islamic Inscriptions: Examples Of Arabic Epigraphy

The Arabic & Islamic Inscriptions: Examples Of Arabic Epigraphy




Mohamad Mostafa Nassar

Twitter:@NassarMohamadMR

Epigraphy is a study of inscriptions, i.e., text traced upon some hard substance for the sake of durability, as on a monument, building, stone, metal, coin, ceramic, textile, etc. Max van Berchem (1863-1921) was the first to recognize the importance of Arabic inscriptions for a more precise reconstruction of early and medieval Islamic history.

He can be rightly called as the founding scholar of Arabic epigraphy. In the course of his travels, Max van Berchem collected an impressive number of Arabic inscriptions from all over the Islamic world. His main published works are聽Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, principally volumes devoted to Cairo and Jerusalem, the聽Voyage en Syrie聽and articles collected in the two volumes of his聽Opera Minora. Adolf Grohmann’s聽Arabische Pal盲ographie II: Das Schriftwesen. Die Lapidarschrift聽remains an indispensible reference for studying the evolution of Arabic paleography from pre-Islamic era until after the advent of Islam.

Here we will deal with examples of pre-Islamic Arabic and Islamic inscriptions from first century of聽hijra聽as well as those聽containing the Qur’anic verses聽from this time.

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1. Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscriptions

The pre-Islamic Arabic is often referred to as the “Old Arabic” by scholars. The most obvious characteristic of the Old Arabic is the use of the definite article 示l-, the precursor of classical Arabic 示al-. Old Arabic seems to have remained a purely spoken language until the late fifth / early sixth centuries CE which means that no specific script was associated with it before that period.

Thus, on the rare occasions when it was written, the script associated with the local language of prestige was used: South Arabian in the southern half of the Peninsula; Nabataean at 岣jr, 士En 士Avdat in the Negev, and at al-Namarah; a form of eastern Aramaic at Mleiha on the Oman Peninsula; and early Arabic, mainly in Syria.

The Arabic script originated from the Nabataean script. T. N枚ldeke was the first to establish the link between the Nabataean and Arabic scripts in 1865, which later confirmed against J. Starcky’s Syriac thesis by Grohmann. The affiliation between Nabataean and Arabic scripts has now been fully documented by J. Healey. Following are the example of some of the inscriptions written in Old Arabic.

A First Century BC Arabic Inscription In聽Musnad聽Script At Qaryat Al-Faw.

Although the inscription is in the “old” Arabic, it was written in the musnad script. This is the earliest known Arabic inscription written in the musnad script.

A First/Second Century Arabic Inscription Of聽En聽Avdat.

The inscription contains six lines; first four of which are in Aramaic and the last two are in Arabic, written in Nabataean alphabet. The Arabic portion is composed of verses of poetry. The inscription shows us that not only was Arabic poetry being composed around the turn of first/second century, but also that it was much like the poetry that was familiar to us from four centuries later. The Arabic part of the inscription consists of three hemistichs in al-tawil, the most commonly used of the classical meters.

Raqush Inscription (Jaussen-Savignac 17): The Earliest Dated Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription (267 CE).

Healey and Smith have hailed it as the earliest dated Arabic document. The salient point of this inscription is that it has diacritical points on the letters 丿貙 卮 and 乇.

Namarah Inscription: The Second Oldest Dated Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription (328 CE).

This inscription is unique is several respects. It is the earliest inscription so far discovered in the classical Arabic language. Also it is the one of the two Arabic inscriptions written in Nabataean alphabet. This inscription is the only contemporary evidence we have in Arabic about the life of King Imru’l Qais. This inscription, therefore, is of great interest both to the historians as well as philologians.

Jabal Ramm Inscription: A Fourth Century Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription.

This inscription is the second oldest so far discovered in Arabic alphabet after the聽Raqush inscription. The salient point of this inscription is that it has diacritical points for the letters 噩貙 賷 and 賳. The grammar in this inscription is straightforward classical Arabic. The language in this inscription is closer to modern Arabic than the language of Shakespeare is to modern English.

Two Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscriptions From Sakakah, Saudi Arabia.

The discovery of these two inscriptions is of considerable importance in confirming suggestions of the evolution of the Arabic writing inside the Arabian peninsula rather than outside its borders.

A Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription At Umm Al-Jim膩l.

The grammar in this inscription is straightforward classical Arabic. The language in this inscription is closer to modern Arabic than the language of Shakespeare is to modern English.

A Pre-Islamic Nabateo-Arabic Inscription From South 岣ma (North Of Najr膩n) Dated 470 CE.

An inscripion written in Nabateo-Arabic script.

Zebed Inscription: A Pre-Islamic Trilingual Inscription In Greek, Syriac & Arabic From 512 CE.

As the name suggests, it is a trilingual inscription. The Arabic, though, does not translate the Greek but merely listing six names, not all of which are mentioned in Greek.

A Pre-Islamic Nabateo-Arabic Inscription From 岣ma, 513 CE.

An inscripion written in Nabateo-Arabic script.

Jabal Usays Inscription: A Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription From 528 CE.

A pre-Islamic Arabic inscription with historical content.

D奴mat Al-Jandal Inscription: A Pre-Islamic Nabateo-Arabic Inscription From 548-549 CE.

An inscripion written in Nabateo-Arabic script. It is the only text dated to the sixth century from north-west Arabia.

Harran Inscription: A Pre-Islamic Arabic Inscription From 568 CE.

A Greek-Arabic bilingual inscription from Harran, near Damascus, Syria.

A Peculiar Inscription Containing Arabic & Nabataean Characters At Sakakah, Saudi Arabia.

A inscription contains a curious mixture of Arabic and Nabataean characters showing the dots associated with Arabic letters 亘貙 鬲貙 and 賳.


2. Inscriptions Of General Interest

A Pre-Islamic Nabataean Inscription Mentioning The Place Yathrib.

The place Yathrib, known as Madina after the advent of Islam, has a long history of settlement. It is mentioned in cuneiform, and Minaean inscriptions. The Greek authors such as Ptolemy and Stephanus Byzantinus also mention it. The latest one is in the Nabataean script.


3. Dated Inscriptions From First Century Of Hijra

An Arabic Inscription From Turkey, 22 AH / 642-3 CE.

An inscription from Batman Su (or Nymph忙us), Turkey. Although this inscription had generated a lot of discussion but it failed to provide a sustained interested due to lack of a photograph.

Arabic Graffito From Muthallath (Near Yanbu鈥), 23 AH / 643-4 CE.

This inscription written in old kufic script is interesting as it leaves out tantalizing detail of its dating.

The Inscription Of Zuhayr – The Earliest Dated 岣j膩z墨 Inscription, 24 AH / 644 CE.

This is the earliest dated聽岣j膩z墨聽inscription. It was written by Zuhayr “at the time of 士Umar’s death” in 24 AH, thus mentioning the name of the second caliph. This inscription, it appears, is destined to be the most famous of all the Arabic inscriptions as the UNESCO has added it to the聽Memory of the World Register of Documentary Collections. The聽Discovery Channel聽also聽mentioned聽the importance of this inscription in the news.

Arabic Graffito From W膩d墨 Khushayba, S. W. Arabia (Near Najrn), 29 AH / 650 CE.

This inscription was found by a Japanese team doing archaeological surveys in South Western Arabia.

An Arabic Inscription From Cyprus, 29 AH / 650 CE.

Dated to Rama岣峚n, 29 AH / May, 650 CE. No photograph was provided for this inscription, although the content was given. Recently, this inscription was discussed at length by Amikam Elad who has shown using the historical sources that it is a genuine inscription.

 Tombstone Of Abd al-Ra岣膩n Ibn Khair al-岣jr墨, 31 AH / 652 CE.

This is perhaps the most celebrated inscription, quoted often in the references dealing with Arabic inscriptions and palaeography.

 Jerusalem 32 – An Inscription Mentioning Witnessing By Three Disciples Of Prophet Mu岣mmad, 32 AH / 652 CE.

This inscription was unearthed at the south-west corner of the 岣ram al-Shar墨f in Jerusalem during excavations conducted by Professor Benjamin Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1968. It mentions dhimmat All膩h wa 岣峚m膩n ras奴lih, the earliest mention of this phrase in a dated document. There are also names of prominent companions of Prophet Mu岣mmad, namely, 士Abd al-Ra岣膩n bin 士Awf al-Zuhr墨, Ab奴 士Ubaydah bin al-Jarr膩岣, and Mu士膩wiya bin Ab奴 Sufy膩n.

An Inscription Mentioning The Murder Of 士Uthm膩n B. 士Aff膩n,聽c.聽36 AH / 656 CE.

This is earliest inscription discovered so far with a political dimension. The author of the text was shocked by the murder of 士Uthm膩n and invokes God’s wrath on the assassins. It is worthwhile noting that the title am墨r al-mu示min墨n is absent and no eulogy follows after the mention of caliph 士Uthm膩n’s name. 士Uthm膩n was killed at the end of the year 35 AH / 655 CE. According to Imbert, this inscription most probably dates from the year 36 AH / 656 CE, when the Battle of the Camel occurred.

Arabic Inscription On The Darb Zubayda Caravan Route, 40 AH / 660-661 CE.

This inscription was found on the Darb Zubayda caravan route at W膩d墨 ‘l-Shamiya during an archaeological survey in 1970s.

Greek Inscription In The Baths Of Hammat Gader, 42 AH / 662-63 CE.

The valley of Hammat Gader is famous for naturally cold and hot springs known for their therapeutic powers. These once filled the large and small pools of an early Byzantine spa, supplying it with hot and cold waters. The Greek inscription from the time of the Umayyad caliph Mu士膩wiya refers to the restoration of the baths.

An Inscription From 岣sma Plateau Dated 43 AH / 663-664 CE.

This is the fourth oldest dated inscription to come from Saudi Arabia. This inscription mentions Ban墨 士Uday bin K士ab which belong to the tribe of Quraysh.

Two Seals From The Time Of Mu士wiya Bin Ab墨 Sufyn,聽c.聽44 AH / 664 CE.

Umayyad caliph Mu士膩wiya established two聽diwans聽in his administration –聽Diwan al-Rasa鈥榠l聽and聽Diwan al-Khatam. The former looked after correspondence received by caliph and drafted his replies. This was handled by his聽katib聽(secretary). Once a document had been drafted, it was passed on to the聽Diwan al-Khatam,聽or 鈥渙ffice of the seal鈥, where two or more copies of each document were made and sealed, at least one to be deposited in the archives while the other was checked, sealed and dispatched to its recipient. This arrangement was set up as a means of preventing forgeries.

After Mu士膩wiya was recognised as head of the Muslim community he named 士Abd All膩h b. Am墨r Governor of Ba峁a for the second time in 41 AH, where he served until his dismissal in 44 AH. These seals would have validated both the documents delivered to 士Abd All膩h and the official copy that was kept in the聽Diwan al-Khatam.

Arabic Graffito From W膩d墨 Sabil, 46 AH / 666 CE.

This graffito was found in W膩d墨 Sabil during the Philby-Ryckmans-Lippens expedition. The inscription shows a dot below 亘. This is the third earliest dated inscription.

Arabic Graffito On The Darb Zubayda Caravan Route, 52 AH / 672 CE.

This inscription was found on the Darb Zubayda caravan route at al-Khashna during an archaeological survey in 1970s.

Inscription On The Dam Built By Caliph Mu膩wiya, 58 AH / 678 CE.

It is interesting to note that this inscription shows the use of consonantal points for 賷, 亘貙 賳貙 孬貙 禺貙 賮 and 鬲.

Arabic Graffito Near Karbala In Iraq, 64 AH / 683-684 CE.

This inscription mentions the name of the three well-known angels in Islam, viz., Gabriel, Michael and Israfil whose Lord is Allah.

A Tiraz Inscription From The Time Of Marwan I, 64-65 AH / 683-685 CE.

A band of inscriptions usually on textiles is called the tiraz. The silk with the tiraz inscription in the name of Marwan, one of the Umayyad caliphs, exists in three pieces, all found in Egypt, is dated to the time of Marwan ibn al-Hakam. This dating makes it the earliest known Islamic textile.

A Signature Believed To Be Of 士Abd Al-Malik B. Marw膩n,聽Before聽65 AH / 685 CE.

Umayyad caliph 士Abd al-Malik bin Marw膩n reigned from 65 AH / 685 CE to 86 AH / 705 CE. His graffito is curiously succint. It does not refer to his caliph functions or his family status. Also absent are any religious elements seen in other Umayyad inscriptions. It is likely that he has inscribed it before his accession to the caliphate in 65 AH / 685 CE.

Arabic Inscription In A Bronze Can, 69 AH / 688-689 CE.

A bronze can with an inscription placed around the rim, perhaps originating from Basra during the Umayyad period.

Inscription On A Bridge In Fustt聽By The Governor 士Abd al-士Az墨z Ibn Marw膩n, 69 AH / 688-689 CE.

This inscription was first attested by Maqr墨z墨 (d. 845 AH / 1442 CE).

Tombstone Of聽Ab膩ssa Bint Juraij, 71 AH / 691 CE.

An interesting inscription that mentions the name of Prophet Mu岣mmad along with the phrase “ahl al-Isl膩m“. It also mentions the shahadah. Interestingly, Crone and Cook (Hagarism: The Making Of The Islamic World, 1977, Cambridge University Press) chose to ignore this inscription only to conclude that the word “Islam” was used only in the eighth century CE!

The Arabic Islamic Inscriptions On The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, 72 AH / 692 CE.

The inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock can be rightly called as the “big-daddy” of all the first century Islamic inscriptions. Built by the Umayyad Caliph 士Abd al-Malik, these inscriptions have copious amount of Qur’anic verses.

The Copper Plaque Inscriptions At The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, 72 AH / 692 CE.

The Arabic inscriptions in copper plaques at the eastern entrance and the northern portal of the Dome of the Rock are not as well known as the ones inscribed inside the Dome of the Rock. Inscribed by the Umayyad Caliph 士Abd al-Malik, these inscriptions have five Qur’anic verses quoted partially.

The聽士Aqabah聽Inscription From The Time Of 士Abd al-Malik, 73 AH / 692-693 CE.

This is the聽oldest inscription in Islam relating to the inaugral of a road聽and it is also聽the second longest and almost the fullest inscription from the time of 士Abd al-Malik聽after that of the聽Dome of the Rock聽in Jerusalem. This inscription furnishes clear evidence that 士Abd al-Malik did not satisfy himself with repairing the old roads and maintaining them in a fit state of traffic, but that he also thought of, and at least in this instance executed enterprises on a large scale.

An Inscription Asking For Forgiveness, 74 AH / 693 CE.

This unique inscription has a supplication for forgiveness of a person, his friends, his two children (or parents, given the reading of scriptio defectiva).

An Inscription Mentioning The Rebuilding Of Al-Masjid Al-岣r膩m, 78 AH / 697-698 CE.

This 1st / 7th century inscription, hitherto unknown in published western scholarship, is of great importance as it mentions not only the full shahadah (i.e., Islamic testimony of faith) but also an important historical event and an independent documentary verification of it, that is, the reconstruction and remodelling of al-Masjid al-岣r膩m in Makkah.

An Inscription About Belief In God And Fellowship Of People, 78 AH / 697-698 CE.

This inscription was found on the 岣jj route from Syria.

An Inscription Affirming Islamic Monotheism, 79 AH / 698-699 CE.

An Inscription Written By A Client Of 士Urwa b. Al-Zubayr, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

This inscription written by an individual called Hab墨b who was a client of 士Urwa b. al-Zubayr, a well-known personality of early Islam. The writer is supplicating for his guidance and that his death be upon the path of God. 士Urwa b. al-Zubayr, a famous jurist from Madinah, was the brother of 士Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and cousin of Mu峁J縜b b. al-Zubayr, the latter two struck Arab-Sassanian coins in their names.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 38:26, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

The inscription contains complete Qur’an 38:26.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur鈥檃n 56:28-40, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

The inscription contains complete Qur’an 56:28-40 with an addition of the phrase “What will be the Companions of the Right Hand” between verses 38 and 39 perhaps to give a fitting conclusion to the inscription.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 4:87, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

The inscription contains complete Qur’an 4:87.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

The long, slender and slightly inclined form of writing is reminiscent of 岣j膩z墨 script.

An Inscription Asking For The Paradise, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

This inscription was found on the 岣jj route from Syria.

An Inscription Mentioning Supplication For Intercession Of Prophet Mu岣mmad, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

The interesting part of this inscription is the mention of intercession (shaf膩士atahu) of Prophet on behalf of his community (ummah) on the Day of Judgment.

The Tombstone Of Ya岣a Bin Al-岣kam,聽c. 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

Moshe Sharon, who published this inscription, inclines to the view that the person mentioned in this inscription is Ya岣a b. al-岣kam, uncle of the Umayyad caliph 士Abd al-Malik. The date is deduced from the fact that Ya岣a b. al-岣kam died c. 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

The Qasr Burqu士 Building Inscription Of Prince Al-Wal墨d Dated 81 AH / 700 CE.

This building inscription in Qasr Burqu士 was built by al-Wal墨d before his ascension to the throne (705-715 CE).

An Inscription Mentioning Acceptance Of The 岣jj And Supplication For Forgiveness, 82 AH / 701-702 CE.

Lying on the Darb Zubayda pilgrimage route, this inscription has the earliest mention of the聽岣jj聽in a dated text. This is also the earliest mention of the聽岣jj聽on this route and comes close to the time when聽al-Masjid al-岣r膩m was reconstructed.

An Inscription Mentioning Rejection Of Faith Of People Of Al-岣jr, 83 AH / 702-703 CE.

This interesting inscription alludes to s奴rah 15:80 in the Qur’an wherein is mentioned a峁a弗膩b al-岣jr (“people of the stone-land”), also referred to as tribe of Thamud to whom 峁⒛乴i岣 was sent as a Prophet. Writing on a rock, the writer here affirms his belief in God via what was denied by a峁a弗膩b al-岣jr, the people who lived in the rocky tract.

An Inscription Mentioning Reliance On God, 83 AH / 702-703 CE.

This long inscription was perhaps one of the first to be executed on the rocky fa莽ade. The theme of reliance comes in many inscriptions from the 1st century AH.

An Inscription From Hisma Plateau – I, 83 AH / 702 CE.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Dated 84 AH / 703-704 CE.

It contains a mixture of verses 4:1, 2:21 and 2:189.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 20:130, 84 AH / 703-704 CE.

An Inscription Of 岣k墨m b. 士Amr From Negev, 85 AH / 704 CE.

This inscription was found in the Negev desert. Interestingly, there are nine other inscriptions that contain the name 岣k墨m b. 士Amr which Nevo says can be dated to the same time frame.

Milestone From Golan From The Time Of 士Abd al-Malik – 1, 85 AH / 704 CE.

A dated milestone at 52 miles from Damascus found in the village of F墨q (or Af墨q) in Golan.

Milestone From Golan From The Time Of 士Abd al-Malik – 2, 85 AH / 704 CE.

A dated milestone at 53 miles from Damascus found in the village of F墨q (or Af墨q) in Golan.

Supplication For Al-Wal墨d bin 士Abd al-Malik,聽Before聽85 AH / 705 CE.

Notice the absence of the title am墨r al-mu示min墨n, other officiate religious terminology, and any mention of his caliph-related functions. This suggests that this inscription was written before Al-Wal墨d bin 士Abd al-Malik became the caliph of the Umayyad empire in the year 85 AH / 705 CE.

An Inscription Asking For God’s Pleasure, 86 AH / 705 CE.

Inscription In A Mosque In Damascus, Built By Caliph Wal墨d, 86-87 AH / 705-706 CE.

This inscription is no longer extant and it is reported to us in two versions: a shorter one by Mas士奴d墨 and a longer one by Mu岣mmad ibn Sh膩kir al-Kutub墨 (d. 1363 CE).

The Inscription On The Turban Of Samuel Bin Musa, 88 AH / 707 CE.

An interesting woven inscription from Egypt and it is聽the second earliest dated Islamic textile聽after聽the聽tiraz聽inscription. The inscription was done on a turban for Samuel b. Musa, perhaps a Jew or a Christian, in the year 88 AH.

A Rock Inscription Asking For Forgiveness, 88 AH / 707 CE.

An Inscription From Hisma Plateau – II, 90 AH / 708-709 CE.

An Inscription Containing Supplication For Acceptance Of The 岣jj, 91 AH / 710 CE.

Found on the 岣jj route from Syria, this is the second earliest mention of the 岣jj in a dated inscription from the 1st century AH. From the date on the inscription, one can calculate the 10th Dhul 岣jjah 91 AH to be 8th October 710 CE. The 岣jj is likely to have had additional significance this year as it was personally led by the am墨r al-mu示min墨n, al-Walid (r. 86-96 AH / 705-715 CE).

The Kasr Kharana Inscription, 92 AH / 710 CE.

This inscription, a pious and moving invocation, is full of Qur’anic flavour.

An Inscription Asking For The Best In This World And The Hereafter, 92 AH / 710-711 CE.

This inscription contains an elaborate supplication.

Jabal Usays (Syria) Inscription Containing First Line Of The Throne Verse (Qur’an 2:255), 93 AH / 711 CE.

A Dedicatory Inscription On An Earthen Bowl For Sulaym膩n Bin 士Abd al-Malik, 96 AH / 715 CE.

This earthen bowl was manufactured for Prince Sulaym膩n b. 士Abd al-Malik before his ascension to the throne 96-98 AH / 715-717 CE.

An Inscription Containing Invocation Of Wellness For A Descendent of 士Umar B. Al-Kha峁弓膩b, 96 AH / 714-715 CE.

An interesting inscription mentioning Rab膩岣, a descendant of 士Umar bin al-Kha峁弓膩b. Perhaps this inscription was written by a relative of Rab膩岣 when he was young and feeling sickly.

Arabic Graffito By A Descendent of 士Urwa B. Al-Zubayr, 96 AH / 714-715 CE.

This inscription is written by 士Umar bin 士Abdull膩h, one of the descendents of 士Urwa, affirming his faith in monotheism and rejecting all the false deities.

An Inscription Containing The聽Shahadah, 96 AH / 715 CE.

Inscriptions containing the full shahadah or the Islamic testament of faith are quite rare. This is a fine example from the first 100 years of Islam.

An Inscription Commemorating The 岣jj Of The Umayyad Caliph Sulaym膩n Ibn 士Abd al-Malik, 97 AH / 715-716 CE.

This inscription lies on the Syrian pilgrimage route near al-士Ula.

Glass Vessel With Stamp At Beit Shean From The Time Of Sulaym膩n Bin 士Abd al-Malik, 98 AH / 716 CE.

This deals with dated and undated glass vessels from Beit Shean that remind people of honesty and justice when dealing with customers.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Dated 98 AH / 716-717 CE.

It quotes part of 65:3 as it is and the rest of the verse is slightly modified without changing the meaning.

Ghayl Al-Mandaj (Al-Mabrah) Islamic Inscription, 98 AH / 717 CE.

A rock inscription found in the vicinity of Ghayl al-Mandaj (al-Mabrah) pilgrim station is located on the Yemeni highland pilgrim route (so called al-Najdi) which connects 峁n士膩示 and Makkah. It is the first dated rock-inscription to be discovered so far alongside that road.

An Inscription From Cnide Asking For Forgiveness, 98 AH / 716-717 CE.

This inscription from Cnide in Turkey has two graffiti. Graffiti 1 consists only of one line and has an incomplete invocation. The most interesting element is the mention of the word聽gazwa聽(expedition, raid) found in a very similar context in a聽graffito in Kos聽(Greece).

An Inscription From Kos About Profession Of Faith, 98 AH / 716 CE.

This profession of faith, based on the Arabic root w-th-q is very common in the Middle East. It is interesting to note that this is dated. In addition, the signature at the end of text appears to have been added; its etching is much thicker than the preceding lines.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Poetry, 98 AH / 716-717 CE.

Perhaps the earliest inscription mentioning pre-Islamic poetry. Ibn Qutayba attributes the poem to Tubba士, the king of Yemen.

Arabic Graffito Asking For Forgiveness, 98 AH / 717 CE.

An Inscription From Kos About An Expedition Against Infidels, 99 AH / 718-719 CE.

This interesting inscription from Kos in Greece refers to the expedition against the mushrik墨n (probably Byzantine Christians). However, due to the fragmentary nature of the inscription, it is hard to decipher the context and content fully.

An Inscription From Madinah Containing A Statement Of Belief, 100 AH / 718-719 CE.

This individual who wrote this inscription may be a descendant of 士Abd All膩h bin 士Umar bin al-Kha峁弓膩b.

An Inscription Mentioning The 岣jj And Supplication For The Paradise, 100 AH / 718-719 CE.

Found on the 岣jj route from Syria, this inscription is interesting because it mentions the name of the tribe 士Anzatul Azad rather than that of a particular person. In addition, the inscription refers to the pilgrims marching on the road for the 岣jj.

Arabic Graffito From W膩d墨 Al-Furaysh, 100 AH / 718-719 CE.

An inscription invoking God to make the writer truthful, asking for pardon and granting him health.

Arabic Graffito By A Descendent of 士Umar B. Al-Kha峁弓膩b, 100 AH / 718-719 CE.

An inscription by 士膧峁m b. 士Umar b. 岣f峁 (b. 士膧峁m b. 士Umar b. al-Kha峁弓膩b).

An Inscription From Hisma Plateau – III, 100 AH / 718-719 CE.

An Arabic Inscription From Khirbat Nitil, 100 AH / 718-719 CE.

This inscription was discovered in 1886 at the archaeological site of Khirbat Nitil. The eight lines are located in an inner vaulted room in the western wall. The inscription shows a dot below for 睾. The inscription mentions haw岣 Mu岣mmad, i.e., the pool of Prophet Mu岣mmad in the Paradise, from which the believers will drink. This pool is mentioned in many 岣d墨ths.


4. Undated Inscriptions From First Century Of Hijra

Arabic Inscription On A Dam Built By Caliph Mu士膩wiya (Madinah, Saudi Arabia), 40鈥60 AH / 661鈥80 CE.

Written in the kufic script. This inscription shows the use of consonantal point for 鬲.

Milestone Of Aqua Bella-士Ayn Hemed From The Time Of 士Abd al-Malik, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE.

This milestone was found in the woods next to Aqua Bella-士Ayn Hemed on the road between Jerusalem and coast. From Jerusalem to this milestone are 5 miles.

Milestone Of Ab奴 Gh艒sh From The Time Of 士Abd al-Malik, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE.

This milestone was found near the church of Ab奴 Gh艒sh. It is made up of limestone and shows five line, with probably three or four lines missing at the top and the upper right corner. From Jerusalem to this milestone are 7 miles.

Milestone Of B膩b Al-W膩d From The Time Of聽Abd al-Malik, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE.

This milestone was found in a ruin north of the watchtower at B膩b al-W膩d on the road from Jerusalem to al-Ramla. It has diacritical strokes for 孬貙 賳 and 賷, as seen in the last line. From Jerusalem to this milestone are 8 miles.

Milestone Of Deir Al-Qalt From The Time Of 士Abd al-Malik, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE.

Marble milestone found at the cloister of Khozaiba near Deir al-Qalt on the Jerusalem-Damascus road. It has six remaining lines, as the top and the right hand side have broken off. From Jerusalem to this milestone are 107 miles.

Milestone Of Kh膩n Al-Hathr奴ra From The Time Of 士Abd al-Malik, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE.

This milestone is from Kh膩n al-Hathr奴ra, Palestine, on the road between Jerusalem and Damascus. The marble slab contains seven lines engraved in bas-relief. The first two lines are broken off. From Damascus to this milestone are 109 miles.

A Lead Seal In The Name Of Caliph 士Abd Al-Malik Ibn Marw膩n, 65-86 AH / 685-705 CE.

This is remarkable and unique lead piece in the name of the Caliph 士Abd al-Malik from Palestine bears several interesting decorative elements, including addorsed lions and confronting birds.

Two Inscriptions Containing The聽Shahadah聽And Blessings Upon Prophet Mu岣mmad聽, Late 1st Century AH.

Two inscriptions written by Yaz墨d bin 士Umayr al-An峁D乺i that contanings shahadah and ta峁iyyah.

An Inscription Mentioning Mu士膩wiya Ibn Ab墨 Sufy膩n, Late 1st / Early 2nd Century AH.

This is a unique inscription attesting the name of Mu士膩wiya ibn Ab墨 Sufy膩n. There is no mention of his customary title am墨r al-mu示min墨n as seen in all the earliest inscriptions that contain his name. Palaegraphic considerations among others suggest a late 1st / early 2nd century AH date.

Three Arabic Inscriptions From Nahal 士Amram (士Aqabah), First Century Hijra.

Written on brown sandstone boulders in a good angular early Umayyad script, incised by an expert hand. No points and no vowels.

An Islamic Inscription From The Byzantine Fortress Of Rujm 峁膩r, First Century Of Hijra.

This inscription was found on the Byzantine fortress of Rujm 峁膩r. It expresses the Muslim belief in the unity of God and that He has not partners.

Two Arabic Inscriptions From Eilat, First Century Hijra.

Two inscriptions containing declaration of faith in God.

An Islamic Inscription From Sadd al-士Ar岣峚 From First Century Of Hijra.

This graffito was found in Sadd al-士Ar岣峚, about 10 kms south-east of 峁琣’if, during the Philby-Ryckmans-Lippens expedition.

Inscription From 峁琣’if Containing Qur’anic Verse 33:56.

An interesting inscription containing the Qur’anic verse 33:56.


5. Inscriptions From Second Century Of Hijra

An Umayyad Grafitto From Southern Jordan, 109 AH / 727-728 CE.

An interesting inscription that mentions supplication for the acceptance of prayer and fasting during the month of Rama岣峚n.


6. Inscriptions Containing The Qur’an

The primary source upon which the early Arabic inscriptions draw is, without doubt, the Qur’an. Occasionally an inscription may be composed of nothing more than a Qur’anic citation. Sometimes a Qur’anic verse may be quoted in full within the text of an inscription. More common still, an inscription will be an eclectic blend of words and phrases taken from different verses of the Qur’an, often slightly modified and / or supplemented as required; a technique that is also quite often used in khutbahs and Islamic lectures. Even those inscriptions that do not explicitly cite or paraphrase the Qur’an will mostly be comprised of words and concepts familiar from the Qur’an.

Below are some of the examples of early inscriptions from 1st and 2nd century of hijra that quote from the Qur’an.

The Arabic Islamic Inscriptions On The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, 72 AH / 692 CE.

The Copper Plaque Inscriptions At The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, 72 AH / 692 CE.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 38:26, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Dated 84 AH / 703-704 CE.

It contains a mixture of verses 4:1, 2:21 and 2:189.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 20:130, 84 AH / 703-704 CE.

Inscription In A Mosque In Damascus, Built By Caliph Wal墨d, 86-87 AH / 705-706 CE.

This inscription is no longer extant and it is reported to us in two versions: a shorter one by Mas鈥樑玠墨 and a longer one by Mu岣mmad ibn Sh膩kir al-Kutub墨 (d. 1363 CE). The longer version has the verse from Qur’an 2:256.

Jabal Usays (Syria) Inscription Containing First Line Of The Throne Verse (Qur’an 2:255), 93 AH / 711 CE.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Dated 98 AH / 716-717 CE.

It quotes part of 65:3 as it is and the rest of the verse is slightly modified without changing the meaning.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur鈥檃n 56:28-40, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

The inscription contains complete Qur’an 56:28-40 with an addition of the phrase “What will be the Companions of the Right Hand” between verses 38 and 39 perhaps to give a fitting conclusion to the inscription.

Inscription From 峁琣’if Containing Qur’anic Verse 33:56.


7. Islamic Inscriptions: Content & Context

Forgotten Witness: Evidence For The Early Codification Of The Qur’an,聽Estelle Whelan,聽Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 1998, Volume 118, No. 1, pp. 1-14.

This article discusses the Umayyad inscriptions on Dome of the Rock among others to show that the Qur’an was already codified before the construction of Dome of the Rock.

The Content And Context Of Early Arabic Inscriptions, (R. G. Hoyand, 1997,聽Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, Volume 21, p. 77-102).

This article discusses the content and context of the inscriptions from various parts of Islamic world and reaches a conclusion opposite to that of narrowly focused work of Nevo and others.

Dated Muslim Texts From 1-72 AH / 622-691 CE: Documentary Evidence For Early Islam.

The corpus of dated Muslim texts until 72 AH / 691 CE for the study of early Islam.

Dated Texts Containing The Qur鈥檃n From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE.

The corpus of dated texts containing the Qur’an from 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE proving the early codification of the Qur’an in Arabic.

Dated Texts Mentioning Prophet Mu岣mmad From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE.

The corpus of dated non-scriptural Muslim and non-Muslim texts mentioning Prophet Mu岣mmad from the first Islamic century.

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

Yehuda Nevo in his work on Negev inscriptions has simply used Wansbrough’s “conjectural,” “provisional” and “tentative and emphatically provisional” hypothesis without substantiating them with evidence, as his conclusions to “show” that Islam originated from a Judeo-Christian sectarian environment. In other words, Nevo’s argument is circular.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review聽of聽Crossroads To Islam: The Origin Of Arab Religion And The Arab State聽(Yehuda D. Nevo and Judith Koren, 2003, Prometheus Books: Amherst, NY).

An interesting and devastating critique by Colin Wells of Nevo and Koren’s work that calls for radical revisionism of Islamic history.

On Revising Bigotry聽by Professor Khaled Abou El-Fadl. This article includes a commentary on Daniel Pipes, Ibn Warraq and Ibn Rawandi who rather digently use the works of Crone, Wansbrough, Nevo聽et al.

A witty insight into the methodlogies of the revisionists. Revisionism rests on several peculiar assumptions and these assumptions the author highlights in a very lucid way.