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What do we learn about the early Kharijites and Ibadiyya from their coins?

Keith Lewinstein observes that the study of Islamic sectarianism is uncomfortably wedded to medieval heresiography. (1) This uneasiness stems, in part, from the nature of the most often consulted heresiographical texts, whose problems--late dates, rigorous classification schemes, polemics, and Ash'arite-Mu'tazilite inclinations--are well known. Nevertheless, the general lack of primary sources from early Islamic sectarian groups leaves scholars with few sources other than heresiography. Lewinstein therefore proposes two source-critical strategies for dealing with this issue: to bypass the standard texts by using material from outside the Ash'arite-Mu'tazilite tradition, or to dissect the texts with an eye toward the sources that compose them. This paper follows the first method, but seeks to "outflank" texts altogether by examining coins. As it turns out, the coins of the Kharijites, and secondarily the Ibadiyya, provide a compelling example of how numismatics can be used to augment the study of sectarianism.

The aim of the study is to compare some of what has been assumed (based primarily on heresiographical texts and secondarily on historical materials) about two early and related Islamic sectarian groups--the Kharijites and Ibadiyya--with what can be learned, or inferred, about them from the iconography of their coins. The Kharijites were a collection of rebellious Muslim groups that emerged after the Battle of Siffin in 36/658 and contested Umayyad, and later 'Abbasid, rule. The Ibadiyya are the sole surviving sectarian relative of the Kharijites: they exist today primarily in Oman, Algeria, Libya, Tunis, and along the Swahili Coast. (2) Some coins of the Kharijites seem to tell a slightly different story from that which can be found in the medieval texts, whereas the coins of the Ibadiyya confirm some aspects of their story in Ibadi texts. It is this dissonance, or lack thereof, that is ultimately the focus of this study; I hope to demonstrate that coins can offer the historian of sectarianism--and especially the student of early Islamic sectarianism--a welcome primary source and a new perspective that presents a means to evaluate heresiographical and historical information. As such, the iconography of coins can function as a way to problematize, challenge, or confirm inherited notions about a sectarian movement.

The coins of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya offer a useful source of comparison with the textual tradition for several reasons. First, the Kharijites were one of the only early Islamic sectarian movements to mint coins (to my knowledge, no Shi'ite groups minted coins before the 'Abbasid revolution). There are several known examples of Kharijite coins, plus other coins of disputed Kharijite origin. Two coins of the same type and from the same hoard can reasonably be said to have come from the Ibadiyya.

Secondly, due to the practical information contained on the coins (such as mint, date, issuer, and denomination), scholars can locate them with some reliability in their historical context. This ability to positively identify Kharijite coins makes them unique: they are the only source that can be said with certainty to have come from the early Kharijites themselves. (3) The coins of the Ibadiyya, though lacking standard identifying information, nevertheless contain inscriptions that allow them to be recognized as Ibadi coins. In addition, their discovery as part of the Sinaw horde in Oman makes likely their attribution to the Ibadiyya. As products of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya respectively, the coins offer something that heresiographical texts do not: an unedited source on the Kharijites and Ibadiyya from the Kharijites and Ibadiyya.

Finally, due to the importance of the Kharijites in the early Islamic period, there is a relative wealth of historical and heresiographical information about them. Luke Treadwell argues that "coins can only yield their full benefit to the historian if they are interpreted, not as disembodied and decontextualized objects, but in the light of the narrative provided by contemporary historians." (4) Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike have long known the basic history, doctrines, and practices of the various Kharijite sub-sects. Likewise, the Ibadiyya preserved a large corpus of text, much of which has now been published and is in the process of being analyzed by specialists. This accumulation of text and secondary scholarship makes a critical comparison between texts on the Kharijites and Ibadiyya and their coins possible.

Although numismatists have written about the coins of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya, they have not concerned themselves with the specific iconography of their coins. John Walker's catalogues of Arab-Sasanian and Arab-Byzantine coins remain the standard works on the pre-reform period, and include examples of the early Kharijite coins. (5) Carl Wurtzel's study of late Umayyad revolutionary coinage addresses the post-reform Kharijite coins from Kufa and environs. (6) Malek Iradj Mochiri published a study of Islamic civil war coinage in which he not only included many known Kharijite coins, but argued for the re-attribution of other coins to the Kharijites. (7) More recently, Nicholas Lowick published his findings on the Sinaw hoard, which included two coins that he traced to the Ibadis. (8) While these studies offer limited analysis of Kharijite and Ibadi coinage, their primary concern is to identify and classify the coins without necessarily exploring what messages the coins might convey. As for scholars of Islamic studies, only Wilferd Madelung notes the existence of Kharijite coins, without offering an investigation of their iconography. (9)

Due to the comparative nature of this investigation, this study will limit its examination to the examples of Kharijite coinage that can reliably be identified with an early Kharijite group about which a moderate amount of textual documentation also exists. Therefore, this study will examine the silver dirhams of the Azariqa and the 'Atawiyya; the post-reform dirham that was minted, in great likelihood, by al-Dahhak b. Qays; and the fals that was minted in his name. Two anonymous silver coins from the Sinaw hoard provide the only probable examples of Ibacli coinage from the early imamate period in Oman. (10)

What, then, can be learned from the coins of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya? To answer this question, this paper will first explicate how a historian of religion might approach the study of coins as a supplement to the study of sectarianism. Although the study of coins offers a unique window into the study of sectarian movements, several important caveats must be borne in mind when evaluating numismatic data. This paper will show that the coins of the Azariqa, 'Atawiyya, and those produced by the Khariji rebel al-Dahhak b. Qays conform to the prevailing iconographic standards of their eras while minimizing markers of sectarian identity. Such practices would not seem to easily correspond with the standard heresiographical and historical portrayals of these Kharijite groups as intractably separatist and hostile to non-members. At the same time, the coins of the Ibadiyya substantiate the picture of the Ibadiyya as more willing to accommodate themselves to the wider Islamic community. In addition, the conservative iconography of early Kharijite coins provides some boundaries around a speculative question that Fred Donner posed about the possible apocalyptic concerns of the early Kharijites. There is much to be learned about the early Islamic sectarian groups such as the Kharijites and Ibadiyya from their coins.


How exactly can the historian of religion learn from the field of numismatics, and more specifically, how can a student of early Islamic sectarianism learn about the Kharijites and Ibadiyya from their coins? Numismatics, as the systematic study of coins, banknotes, and related materials, follows the "life-cycle" of a monetary unit from its production, circulation, and deposition to its recovery, recording, and eventual publication in the public domain. (11) Thus, there are several ways to answer the question.

To begin with, the historian of religion may focus on the coin's production, especially on what was intentionally placed on the coin. As Michael Bates notes: "Almost as soon as coinage was invented, rulers and cities realized the utility of coins not merely as a means of exchange but as bearers of messages." (12) As a message bearer, what I will call the iconography of a coin (broadly conceived as the pictures, busts, inscriptions, dates, mint information, and issuing authority) illuminates, to a certain extent, something about those who produced it. This study will assume--along with Jere Bacharach--that "the highest political authority, even if that person didn't have control over the mint, was ultimately responsible" for the iconography of the coin. (13) In this case, it would have been the Kharijite and Ibadi imams who ultimately decided what to place on their coins.

The iconography of early Kharijite and Ibadi coins offers a rare and unedited glimpse into the articulation of political and religio-sectarian identity and authority in the early Islamic era. Beyond the practical information of date, mint, and issuer, Kharijite and Ibadi coins contain inscriptions, such as la hukm ilia li-lah ("No judgment except God's"), that convey the sectarian identity of the coin issuer. This phrase was the slogan of the Kharijites, and expresses the revolutionary sentiment of their movement. Likewise, the inscriptions on the coins often include titles, such as 'abd Allah ... amir al-mu'minin ("Servant of God ... Commander of the Faithful"), that make implicit claims about the issuer's political and religious authority. These claims simultaneously challenged the authority of the reigning Umayyad caliphs, who laid claim to these honorific titles as symbols of their right to rule. In addition to the inscriptions themselves, the alphabets of these inscriptions--usually Kufic Arabic and Pahlavi--say something about the intended audience of the coin's message.

More subtle still is the way in which the size and location of such inscriptions either emphasize or de-emphasize the coin's message. For example, a coin that contains a minute inscription in its outer margin communicates its message in a more understated fashion, while the coin that contains the same inscription in large script in the center field communicates more directly. Thus, for example, the placement and size of the Kharijite slogan la hukm illa li-lah could indicate the degree to which the Kharijites who issued the coin wished to emphasize their sectarian identity. Alternatively, a Kharijite coin that positions the phrase la hukm ilia li-lah in the place where other coins of the same era and region put similar expressions (such as bismillah, "in the name of God") pays homage to the dominant and recognized styles of coinage, and communicates the desire of the Kharijites for their currency to be accepted as such in the wider Mesopotamian economy.

Further, the iconography of a coin can also tell the researcher something about a coin's intended circulation. Rulers occasionally chose to issue simplified and debased "token" coinage that served a single or limited purpose (such as tax collection). (14) Token coins were usually intended for local use, and thereby projected their messages in local or limited contexts only. For a sectarian minority, such as the Ibadiyya, these types of coins allowed for the projection of local sectarian and political authority without overtly challenging the general authority of the 'Abbasid caliphate.

The nexus of numismatic iconography, identity, and authority remains especially important to the study of Islamic sectarianism precisely because early sectarian movements originated in the disputes surrounding legitimate politico-religious succession to Muhammad. Indeed, as Madelung observes, "no event in history has divided Islam more profoundly and durably than the succession to Muhammad." (15) From the death of the Prophet, embryonic schisms involving the nature of legitimate succession existed within the Islamic community, and began to fragment the umma into sects. These different views toward legitimate authority became permanently embedded in the institutions of leadership that developed around nascent Islamic sectarian groups. As carriers of politico-religious messages of identity and authority, the coins of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya allow scholars to analyze one means by which these groups negotiated their political and sectarian/religious identities.

Implicit in what has hereto been proposed is the contextual and comparative nature of the study of coins and Islamic sectarianism. An examination of the coins from the same region and era provides a basis for comparing the specific features of any given coin. For example, the inscriptions on the coins of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya must be evaluated in light of the inscriptions that are to be found on other Islamic coins from the Umayyad and 'Abbasid eras, respectively. Similarly, scholars must also utilize textual sources as a means for comparing the messages conveyed by the coins with the information provided by heresiographers and historians. In this fashion, the coins' political and religious messages may be contrasted with what heresiographers and historians wrote about Kharijite and Ibadi politico-religious beliefs and practices.

Finally, several important caveats regarding the study of coins and sectarianism must be acknowledged. First, Bates cautions against taking the intended messages on coins too seriously. He lays down the maxim that coins are produced primarily because someone with bullion or non-legal coins needed to transform them into usable money. (16) It is, therefore, the economic function of coins that should be the foremost consideration when evaluating the messages on coins.

Bates's reminder of the economic nature of numismatic iconography impacts the study of Kharijite and Ibadi coinage insofar as the iconography of the coins remains a factor in the coins' exchangeability. That is, the extra "worth" of the coins (beyond their metallic content) was tied to the willingness of the Mesopotamian and Omani populations to accept the coins as currency, which was, in turn, connected to the ability of the Kharijites and Ibadites to promote the acceptance of their money. Scholars have called this phenomenon--the retention of basic layout and design so that the coinage is easily recognized and accepted--"reputation." (17) Due to the reputation of coins in their era, the Kharijites tended to place images and inscriptions on their coins in a way that anticipated the expectations of how coins "should look." And because the iconography of early Islamic coins from Iraq and Iran initially mimicked the iconography of the Sasanian coins that preceded them in the region, the first Kharijite coins also adopted the style of the commonly used Arab-Sasanian dirham. As the Umayyad caliphate gradually (re)gained the ability to enforce its authority over a larger swath of Islamdom, it experimented with coins that articulated caliphal power before settling on the non-ligural style of coin that would become the standard for centuries to come. The post-reform Kharijite coins of al-Dahhak b. Qays mimic the post-reform Umayyad-style dirham accordingly. Although the Ibadiyya bypassed the need to market their coins in a recognizable style by issuing "token" coins that were intended for local use, the tendency among the early Kharijites toward a conservative numismatic iconography must be borne in mind when evaluating the messages on their coins. However, it should simultaneously be remembered that the reputation of Arab-Sasanian or post-reform Umayyad coins affected the overall appearance of early Kharijite coins, but did not determine every detail of the coins' iconography.

Second, the revolutionary nature of Kharijite and Ibadi coinage must be kept in its proper perspective. Thomas Martin warns against too quickly assuming the connection between sovereignty and the right to mint coins. (18) Speaking about the classical world, Andrew Meadows shows how coins began to take on overt political significance in the late Hellenistic world, and that this association continued into the Roman period, but warns that this significance changed over time. (19) By the era of the Arab-Islamic conquests, the right to mint coins was firmly the purview of Byzantine and Sasanian emperors. (20) Yet despite this close association of sovereignty and coinage in late antiquity, Muslim caliphs did not immediately begin to mint coins in their name, nor did they instantly arrogate such a right to themselves alone. During the early Islamic era, and into the Umayyad period, caliphs, "anti-caliphs" (such as Ibn al-Zubayr), other rebels (such as the Kharijites), and governors alike issued coins in their name. The Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Malik's coinage reform (ca. 79/698) removed the name of the issuing authority from Islamic coinage, and it was not until the 'Abbasid caliph al-Mu'tasim (r. 218-227/833-842) that the name of the ruling caliph again appeared on Islamic coins. After al-Mu'tasim, the practice again became widespread. Likewise, the caliph's exclusive right to mint gold and silver coins (known as sikka) did not become part and parcel of the formal entitlements associated with Islamic leaders until the 'Abbasid era.

What this long process, ending in the formal assertion of the right of sikka, means for scholars is that they cannot assume that the minting of coins amounted to rebellion; specifically, they cannot assume that the Kharijite's minting of coins automatically constituted an act of rebellion against the Umayyad regime. Because the right of sikka was not formally articulated in the early Umayyad period, signifiers of rebellion against the Umayyads must be located in other aspects of early Kharijite coinage (such as in the honorific titles claimed for Kharijite rulers). However, by the time of the second Ibadi imamate in Oman (177-280/793-893), Muslim scholars had established the right of sikka as the privilege of a legitimate caliph alone, and the 'Abbasids had laid claim to this right as a symbol of their authority. (21) The coins of the Ibadiyya, therefore, tell us something about how the Ibadiyya chose not to defy the 'Abbasids directly by minting competing coinage, yet managed to veil their challenge with local coinage.


The advent of Islam and the spectacular success of the early Islamic conquests bequeathed to the Arab-Muslims much of the former Byzantine empire and nearly all of the Sasanian empire. To meet the need for coinage in the growing empire the earliest Muslims initially continued to circulate and re-issue the coinage of the former Byzantines and Sasanians. In particular, the coins of the Byzantine emperor Constans II (r. 641-668) and the Sasanian emperor Khusraw II (r. 590-628) circulated in the newly conquered territories long after the demise of both emperors. Beginning in the 30s/650s, some Sasanian re-issues began to include simple phrases in Arabic such as bismillah ("in the name of God") or bismillah rabb ("in the name of God, the Lord"). When, beginning in the 40s/660s, Arab-Muslims placed names on Arab-Sasanian coins, they usually did so not in the name of the caliphs, but in the name of local governors. Thus, 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir, governor of Basra under the third Rightly Guided caliph 'Uthman b. 'Affan and later (and briefly) under the Umayyad Mu'awiya (r. 41-60/661-680), issued coins of the Khusraw II type inscribed in Pahlavi "'Abd Allah/'Amir" (apdwla/amyran) between the years 41-45/661-664. (22) Likewise, Ziyad b. Abi Sufyan, Samura b. Jundab, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Zayd, al-Hakam b. Abi 1-'As, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, and al-Harith b. 'Abd Allah all issued coins in their own names as local Umayyad governors (see fig. 1). One example of a caliphal coin, struck in the name of Mu'awiya, does exist from the Darabjird district. (23) However, the overwhelming issues from the early Umayyad era come from local governors who struck coins in their own names.


With the death of Mu'awiya and the ascension of his son Yazid to the caliphate, the Islamic world broke into open revolt against the Umayyads. During this second fitna (60-73/680-692) the rival caliph 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and his governors continued the practice of striking local coinage. Zubayrid coins were issued in the widely recognized Khusraw II style and in the name of Ibn al-Zubayr and his governors (including his brother, Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr). Some bear the caliphal title "Commander of the Faithful" in Pahlavi (amyr-y wrwyshnykan), thus marking on the coins themselves Ibn al-Zubayr's claim to authority (see fig. 2, previous page). (24)


'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was not the only rebel against the Umayyads to issue his own coins. Two Kharijite groups, the Azariqa and the 'Atawiyya, minted coins in the regions of Firs and Kirman during the end of the second fitna. The Azariqa received their name from their first leader. Naif' b. al-Azraq, who rebelled against the Umayyads in 64/683. (25) Although Nafi' initially offered assistance to Ibn al-Zubayr, he and his followers quickly became disillusioned with Ibn al-Zubayr; they returned to Basra where they assassinated the Umayyad governor Mas'ud b. 'Amr al-'Ataki and refused to recognize the Zubayrid governor 'Umar b. 'Ubayd Allah. Alienated by the extremist policies of the Azariqa, the Basran Kharijites split into quietists (a portion of whom eventually became the Ibadiyya) and extremists. The quietists sided with the general population of Basra in assisting the Zubayrid general, Muslim b. 'Ubays, to drive the Azariqa out of Basra. Both Nafi' and Muslim were killed at Dulab in 66/685, but the Azariqa managed to hold out against the Zubayrid army in the region between Basra and the Ahwaz. Defeats by al-Muhallab b. Abi Sufra in 67/686 and an army from Isfahan in 68/687 forced the Azariqa into the region of Fars and then into Kirman, the mountainous region of southwestern Iran. (26) In Kirman, the Azariqa reorganized themselves under the orator and poet Qatari b. al-Fuja'a, who led them from 68/687-8 to his death in 78 or 79/698 or 99. Initially, Qatari retook portions of the Ahwaz and marched again on Basra. Qatari held the bank of the Dujayl river until 75/694, when al-Muhallab resumed his campaigns against the Azariqa, driving them first to Fars and then back again into Kirman. Qatari kept Kirman for several years until a split between the Arabs and mawali (non-Arab converts to Islam who affiliated themselves with an Arab tribe and enjoyed only second-class status during the Umayyad era) led to the secession of the mawali from his army. Weakened and divided, the Azariqa were defeated and Qatari was killed. The remnants of the Azariqa, under the leadership of 'Abida b. Hilal, met their demise shortly thereafter, spelling the effective end of this Kharijite sub-sect.

Qatari b. al-Fuja'a minted the first known Kharijite coins, the earliest of which Walker has shown to date from the year 69/688-9. (27) It was minted in the Arab-Sasanian style of Khusraw II at Bishapur (i.e., in Fars). It contains the prefix bismillah in the obverse margin, followed by the Kharijite slogan la hukm ilia li-lah. (28) The obverse field contains a Pahlavi name-legend that reads "Servant of God, Qatari, Commander of the Faithful" (apdwla ktrii amyr y-wrwyshnykan). This formula--Servant of God, Name, Commander of the Faithful ('apd Allah, fulan, amir al-mu'minin)--was common caliphal titulature in the early Islamic period, and is attested in a number of sources, as well as on early coins, weights and measure stamps, and inscriptions. Qatari's coins thus precisely mimic contemporary usage of such titulature. (29)

Several other examples of Qatari's coins exist, coming from the region of Kirman and Fars, most of which date from the year 75/694-5. (30) These coins clearly bear the Kharijite slogan la hukm illa li-lah in the obverse margin, as well as the name-legend attributing the coin to Qatari using the formula "Servant of God, Qatari, Commander of the Faithful" (see fig. 3). (31) An anonymous dirham, minted in 75/694-5 at Ardashir Khurra, contains the same phrase in the obverse margin, but replaces the attribution to Qatari with the phrase, written in Pahlavi, "there is no judge except God" (lwytw d'twbl bra yzdtw). (32) Despite the lack of attribution, this coin also likely hails from the Azariqa of Kirman and Fars.


A number of observations can be made about the coinage of the Azariqa under Qatari b. al-Fuja'a. Above all, the style of coinage acknowledges the reputation of the dominant Arab-Sasanian dirham of the region. One may well conjecture that the Azariqa needed coin with which to pay their soldiers or purchase supplies, and their decision to mimic Arab-Sasanian styles indicates that the Azariqa wanted this coinage to be accepted by non-Kharijites and Kharijites alike. These non-Kharijites would have included a large number of non-Muslims (Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and others), of whom the Kharijites were famously tolerant, as well as Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslim clients (mawali). (33) Given this "audience," it is the Kharijite and non-Kharijite Muslims, and only literate ones at that, for whom Qatari's revolutionary messages would carry significance. Thus, it is within the recognized styles of Arab-Sasanian coinage that the messages on the Azraqite coins must be evaluated.

What is most striking about the Azraqite's coins is that while the content of their messages would undoubtedly be considered subversive to a non-Kharijite Muslim audience, the placement of such messages on their coins causes the slogan itself to be less than immediately obvious. For example, the Azariqa did not change the location of the Kharijite slogan la hukm illa li-lah from the lower obverse margin. While the slogan would have been instantly recognizable as the hallmark of the Kharijites, the Azraqite's decision to situate this slogan where such slogans were traditionally placed lessens its conspicuousness. Likewise, the fact that the earliest Azraqite issues included the familiar bismillah in addition to la hukm illa li-lah made them more deferential to the reputation of Arab-Sasanian coins and, subsequently, less immediately noticeable as a product of the Kharijites.

Similarly, Qatari's claim to the honorific title "Servant of God, Qatari, Commander of the Faithful" is written in miniscule Pahlavi script. How familiar with Pahlavi the Arabs would have been in the late first/seventh century remains an open question. Given the general Arab chauvinism of the time, I suspect that most Arabs would not know how to read Pahlavi, making Qatari's bid for politico-religious authority not instantly apparent, and forcing them to depend on a functionary (for example, a literate mawla) to interpret the coin's inscription for them if they cared to do so in the first place.

In any case, to be clear about the inferences that can be drawn from the iconography of the Azraqite's coins: I do not want to imply that the Arab recipients of the coins might have completely missed the subversive significance of Qatari's claim to be the "Commander of the Faithful," or that they were unaware of the presence of the Kharijite slogan la hukm illa li-lah. Rather, the point is that the Azariqa made a conscious decision through the placement of these phrases to minimize their messages, and it is highly probable that they did so in order to make their coins more widely acceptable as money.

None of these conclusions will be particularly startling to numismatists. However, for the student of the Kharijites, they potentially challenge the portraits of the Azariqa that are found in texts. Lewinstein rightly cautions against treating heresiographical texts as anything but a composite of distinct representations, each of which possessed an "internal coherence" and a "unified polemical agenda" before they appeared in fragmented form in heresiographical literature. (34) It is necessary, therefore, to address which portrait (and to whatever extent possible, whose portrait) of the Azariqa, exactly, do the coins of the Azariqa challenge. This need has been facilitated by Lewinstein himself, who attempted to isolate the sources of al-Ash'ari's section on the Azariqa in his Maqalat al-islamiyyin (itself an early, influential, and currently available heresiography). According to Lewinstein, a portion of al-Ash'ari's presentation likely owes its particular form to al-Ash'ari's predecessor al-Balkhi, and reflects developing Sunni polemics against the Azariqa. (35) These sections of al-Ash'ari tend to emphasize the themes of secession from/rebellion against non-Azraqites (called khuruj) and the condemnation of non-Azraqites as unbelievers (kuffar). For example, al-Ash'ari (via al-Balkhi) states that the Azariqa consider every grave sin an act of unbelief (kufr), designate the territory of their opponents as the Abode of Unbelief (dar kufr), and tolerate even the killing of their opponent's children. (36) Similarly, the Azariqa are said to hold that "whoever remains in the Abode of Unbelief is an unbeliever, and [they] do not include him [among their number] unless he secedes." (37) Based on these sections of the Maqalat, the Azariqa appear implacably separatist, and hostile to all non-Kharijites to the point of allowing their children to be legally killed.

Other sections of al-Ash'ari's chapter on the Azariqa, likely coming via earlier Ibadi polemics, corroborate from an Ibadi perspective the charge of radical separatism from and antagonism toward non-Azraqites. One such passage speaks of the Azariqa's dissociation (bara'a) from their fellow quietist Kharijites (al-qa'ada), their examination (mihna) of prospective members, and their ascription of unbelief to those who do not emigrate (lam yuhqjir) to their camp. (38) Though these accusations reflect the concerns of quietist Kharijites, the underlying charges of separatism and antagonism remain essentially those of al-Balkhi's passage.

Similarly, other heresiographical traditions lying outside of the Ash'arite-Mu'tazilite heresiographical canon portray the Azariqa as violent separatists, but do so using a legalistic line of polemic. Preserved in Ibadi heresiographies such as the second/eighth-century Sira of Salim b. Dhakwan, and in later heresiographies such as al-Mubarrad's al-Kamil and Abu Hatim al-Razi's Kitab al-Zina, this material provides "specific implications of the group's cutting off all social intercourse with ordinary Muslims." (39) Thus, for example, we read of the Azraqite's refusal to marry, inherit from, or eat the meat slaughtered by non-Azraqites. Similarly, the Azariqa are said to have granted their opponents the same status as that of the pagan Arabs, which meant in practice that the Azariqa afforded them the choice of conversion or the sword. (40) Thus, like al-Balkhi and the Ibadi-inspired treatments of the Azariqa, these legally grounded heresiographical traditions present a portrait of the Azraqite's far-reaching separatism and aggression toward Muslim non-members.

The coins of the Azariqa offer some perspective on the accusations of radical separatism and implacable hostility toward non-Azraqites--possibly including non-Azraqite Muslims--that are to be found in heresiographical writings. The first point to be made is that the Azariqa did not have to mint coins in the dominant Arab-Sasanian style; they chose to do so for specific reasons. To my mind, the decision of the Azariqa to mint coins in the dominant style bespeaks a willingness--possibly a need--to interact economically with non-Kharijites. By honoring the reputation of Sasanian coins, it is clear that Qatari needed to interact with non-Muslims, perhaps to purchase supplies and collect taxes. Indeed, al-Tabari reports that Qatari "appropriated the revenues" of Kirman in 68/687-8 (possibly using the silver to mint his first coin in Fars). Elsewhere al-Tabari notes that when al-Muhallab's forces occupied Fars in 77/696-7, the Kharijites found that they had "no supplies coming to them." (41) Both of these references suggest that Qatari relied on the local economy for revenue and supplies. Furthermore, al-Baladhuri reports that the Azariqa under Qatari alienated the people of Tabaristan with their demands for the jizya, suggesting that he might have elsewhere minted coins for such purposes. (42) In any case, such economic interactions involved non-Muslims, of whom most Azariqa were tolerant. As such, they do not challenge the portrait of the Azariqa found in heresiographical and historical literature.

However, the simultaneous decision to de-emphasize the sectarian content of Azraqite coins by placing the la hukm slogan in the expected position and by keeping the honorific title "Servant of God ... Commander of the Faithful" in a diminutive Pahlavi script might suggest that the Azariqa also wanted their money to be accepted by non-Azraqi Kharijites, and possibly even by non-Kharijite Muslims. Without evidence of how such coins circulated, this contention must necessarily remain speculative. Nevertheless, the iconography of Azraqite coinage raises the possibility that by the time the Azariqa minted their coins in 69/688-9, they might have chosen, or have been forced through circumstances beyond their control, to interact with non-Azraqite Muslims. Certainly the iconography of their coinage does not rule out such a possibility, and given that heresiographical texts tend to essentialize the Azariqa, downplaying any notion of a development of their ideas over time, this possibility remains, in the end, important.

In addition, the iconography of the Azraqite coins provides a terminus for Donner's hypothesis on the apocalyptic eschatology of the early Kharijites. (43) If, as Donner speculates, the early Kharijites felt themselves to be caught up in the events of the end of time, then the minting of coins by 69/688-9 (at least among the Azariqa) would seem to mark the end of that belief. It is unlikely that people who think that the world is in the process of ending would bother to design and mint new coins; they might mint coins using already available dyes but would probably just use the coins that are available to them.

The second example of Kharijite coinage comes from roughly the same era and region, but hails from a different Kharijite sub-sect: the 'Atawiyya, who take their name from 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad, a follower of Najda b. 'Amir al-Hanafi. (44) Najda's followers, the Najdat (sometimes Najdiyya), initially belonged to the contingent of extremist Kharijites who assisted Ibn al-Zubayr against the Umayyads. According to several accounts, when most of these Kharijites returned to Basra (later to become the Azariqa), a contingent split from Nafi' b. al-Azraq and returned to the Eastern Hijaz. (45) This group, which contained 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad, convinced Najda b. 'Amir to be their leader, but later splintered from him to form their own sub-sects. 'Atiyya traveled to Kirman where he established himself as head of the group (and began to mint coins). 'Atiyya and the 'Atawiyya were defeated by al-Muhallab b. Abi Sufra during the same series of campaigns that rid Fars and Kirman of the Azariqa. Nevertheless, several sub-sects of the 'Atawiyya survived in this region after 'Atiyya's demise.

Coins struck in 'Atiyya's name span the years 71-77/690-697 and all come from several mints in the Kirman province. They employ the dominant Khusraw II Arab-Sasanian style with 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad's name in the usual position using a diminutive Pahlavi script. However, 'Atiyya's coins bear the Arabic phrase bismillah wall l-amr ("in the name of God, Master of the Affair") in the obverse margin (see fig. 4). (46) To my knowledge, this phrase carries no Kharijite-sectarian significance.


Heresiographical texts are aware of 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad, as well as of several 'Atawiyya sub-sects: al-Ash'ari mentions some fifteen sub-sects of a group that split from 'Abd al-Karim b. 'Ajrad, himself a schismatic from the 'Atawiyya. (47) Like al-Ash'ari's treatment of the Azariqa, his section on the Najdat is also a composite of several sources: al-Ash'ari mentions al-Karabisi by name, and al-Ash'ari's treatment of the fifteen sects of the 'Ajarida appears to collect separate sources that originally referred to (possibly unaffiliated) groups known as the Khazimiyya and Tha'aliba. Al-Ash'ari s treatment of the 'Ajarida, Tha'aliba, and Khazimiyya sub-groups makes it clear that many of them were near contemporaries of another group known as the Bayhasiyya, whose founder, Abu Bayhas, al-Hajjaj attempted to capture during the reign of al-Walid (r. 86-96/705-715). (48) Thus, Abu Bayhas was likely a contemporary of 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad, implying that many of the sub-sects of the 'Atawiyya were contemporaneous as well.

Such a proliferation of sub-sects, with the attendant confusion surrounding their relation to one another, makes a precise attribution of 'Atiyya's coins difficult: on the one hand, they could simply be the product of 'Atiyya and his followers; on the other hand, they could be the product of the sub-sects that sprang from the main body of the 'Atawiyya. In the latter case, the coins could be the product of any number of possible sub-sects of the 'Atawiyya ('Ajarida, Tha'aliba, or Khazimiyya) that might have ultimately looked toward 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad as their founder, and honored him as such on their coins. Without precise dates it is unclear when most of the 'Atawiyya sub-sects separated from the 'Atawiyya (if, in fact, they did actually break from 'Atiyya himself, or from other sub-sect founders such as 'Abd al-Karim b. 'Ajrad).

Islamic heresiographers provide scant information on the doctrinal positions of the 'Atawiyya and its sub-sects. Al-Shahrastani informs us that the 'Ajarida "upheld the innovations of the Najdat" and, indeed, it is probable that both the main branch and the sub-sects of the 'Atawiyya held, in some general sense, to the basic doctrines and practices of the Najdat--that is, they allowed the killing of non-'Atawi Muslim males, but not of women and children, permitting rather their enslavement on the grounds that they were not Muslims. (49) Elsewhere, in a passage reminiscent of Ibadi polemic, al-Shahrastani claims that the Najdat accepted the practice of taqiyya and tolerated the quietist Kharijites among them, though Najda considered them hypocrites (munafiqun). (50) However, the status of the children of those considered unbelievers was an issue that engendered various stances pro and con amongst the various sub-groups. These postulations on the doctrinal stances of the 'Atawiyya and its related sub-sects reveal them to be less separatist than the Azariqa, and willing to accommodate those who practiced quietism. However, they simultaneously appear hostile to non-Kharijite Muslims (the question of their children notwithstanding). In fact, the Sira of Salim b. Dhakwan presents the 'Atawiyya as virtually identical to the Azariqa in their treatment of non-Kharijite Muslims: once they have made their secession (khuruj), they permit "enslaving people of the qibla [i.e., non-Kharijite Muslims], killing their offspring, bedding their women, treating their property as booty, slaughtering them indiscriminately, and severing relations of inheritance with them." (51)

What remains a suggestion with Azraqite coins--namely, that they imply relations with non-Kharijite Muslims--can be more forcefully asserted about the coinage of the 'Atawiyya: they mimic the dominant Arab-Sasanian dirhams of the era so as to be acceptable to non-Kharijite Muslims as well as non-Muslims. 'Atawi coinage does not bear any distinctive Kharijite slogans and makes no claims to caliphal authority. In fact, the sole reason for their classification as Kharijite coins is the name of 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad, which is preserved in tiny Pahlavi script. It is doubtful (though not impossible) that the average user of the coin would have known of its attribution to the Kharijites. This near total lack of sectarian identifiers on the coins of the 'Atawiyya indicates a desire for economic interaction with non-Kharijite Muslims, and problematizes the heresiographical portrait of the 'Atawiyya cum Najdat as separatist and combative against non-Kharijite Muslims. Similarly, the economic transactions implied by the coins cannot take place in an atmosphere of implacable hostility. For these reasons, the portrait of the 'Atawiyya that comes through from numerous strands of heresiographical traditions must be carefully reconsidered, for it is entirely possible, given the appearance of 'Atiyya's coins, that at some point the 'Atawiyya softened their stance toward non-Kharijite Muslims, if only to spend the money that they had minted.

The third example of Kharijite coinage comes from the mint of Kufa: it is dated to the year 128/745-6 and contains no signature. (52) Its iconography mimics the "post-re form" coinage style that the Umayyad 'Abd al-Malik instituted toward the end of the second fitna (ca. 79/698). (53) The unsigned Kufan Kharijite coin of 128/745-6 resembles the standard post-reform Umayyad dirham in all respects (see fig. 5), except that it includes the phrase la hukm illa li-lah in small Arabic script in the upper obverse margin (see fig. 6). The style, date, and mint of the coin make it likely the product of the Kharijite uprising of al-Dahhak b. Qays and his followers.



According to several reports in al-Tabari, the murder of the Umayyad caliph Walid II inspired a series of "Sufri" Kharijite uprisings in the Jazira beginning as early as 127/late 744. The Kharijite al-Dahhak b. Qays assumed leadership of a massive Kharijite army after the leader of the Jaziran Sufriyya, Sa'id b. Bahdal, died of the plague on route to Kufa. Al-Dahhak's army took Kufa in 127/745, where he remained until recalled to Mosul to eject the Umayyad governor from the city. Interestingly, the report of 'Abd al-Wahhab in al-Tabari mentions that al-Dahhak's army supposedly grew to the size of 120,000 soldiers because al-Dahhak offered them higher wages. (54) Given al-Dahhak's need for coin, it is reasonable to assume that he might have ordered the mint at Kufa to strike coins with the distinctive Kharijite slogan. Equally plausible is that al-Dahhak's successor, Abu Dulaf Shayban b. 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Yashkuri, ordered the coins to be struck after al-Dahhak's death at the battle of Kafr Tuta toward the end of 128/745. (55)

In addition to the possible dirhams of al-Dahhak b. Qays, certain copper fulus were struck in his name at Mosul between the years 128-30/745-7. If the reports in al-Tabari are to be taken as more or less accurate, these fulus were struck in al-Dahhak's name after his death. Fulus were considered a local affair, outside of the centralized control of the state. (56) Nevertheless, the existence of fulus struck in the name of al-Dahhak b. Qays lends credence to the notion that he or his followers also ordered the striking of a distinctive Kharijite dirham.

Although al-Dahhak is described in the historical sources as a Sufri-Kharijite, Lewinstein has cast doubt on the veracity of this appellation. Lewinstein convincingly argues that the term "Sufri" and the sects known as the "Sufriyya" were catch-all categories invented (or adopted) by later heresiographers as a means to classify Kharijite groups of unknown affiliation. (57) He simultaneously notes that heresiographical discussions of Sufrite doctrines are unsystematic and confusing at best. Therefore, it will not be helpful to examine the doctrines of al-Dahhak and his followers using the heresiographical discussions of the "Sufriyya." Rather, it is prudent to focus on those doctrines that can, with some level of certainty, be traced to al-Dahhak b. Qays himself through the sect known to heresiographers as the "Dahhakiyya." Unfortunately these accounts are few and cover only select issues. Nevertheless, it is reported that the Dahhakiyya held it permissible to marry non-Kharijite "unbelievers" (kuffar) if the Dahhakiyya were operating in a state of dissimulation (taqiyya), but not while in a state of openness ('alaniyya, i.e., after they had openly rebelled). (58) In addition, al-Tabari preserves the story of the Syrian commander Mansur b. Jumhur, who once appealed to al-Dahhak's Kharijites for protection by casting himself as a sinner who wished to hear the word of God and convert. (59) Al-Tabari's report can be taken to imply that the followers of al-Dahhak considered non-Kharijites to be non-believers who therefore did not qualify for protection. From these two isolated accounts, a picture of the Dahhakiyya emerges that, at least as far as the issue of intermarriage is concerned, portrays them as adhering to a moderated separatism, a separatism that depended on whether or not their community was in a state of rebellion. In addition, they regarded some non-Kharijite Muslims as unbelievers, though it is likely that the circumstances of the community influenced their treatment of non-Kharijite Muslims just as it influenced their stance on intermarriage with non-Kharijites.

The iconography of al-Dahhak b. Qays's coins shows the limits of the alleged moderated separatism of the Dahhakiyya, and problematizes their reported antagonism toward non-Kharijites. The coins honor the reputation of post-reform Umayyad dirhams by mimicking their style and by relegating the Kharijite slogan to a miniscule script in the outer obverse margin. Much like the coins of the Azariqa and especially the 'Atawiyya, this iconography suggests that the Dahhakiyya hoped to capitalize on the reputation of dominant Islamic coinage styles and minimize the potentially seditious impact of the la hukm phrase so that their coins would be accepted by non-Kharijites, possibly including non-Kharijite Muslims. If the historical accounts of al-Tabari are to be accepted, the followers of al-Dahhak b. Qays minted their coins in a state of "openness" after rebelling against the Umayyads, and, according to the heresiographers, it is during this condition of 'alaniyya that the Dahhakiyya reportedly abandoned their tolerant position on intermarriage for a fully separatist one. It is, of course, entirely possible to have economic relations with a group and simultaneously denounce intermarriage with them. Thus, the iconography of the Dahhakiyya's coins and the potential economic interactions implied by them suggest that, at the very least, the broader separatism implied by the Dahhakiyya's stance on intermarriage might not have extended to the realm of economic interactions. Given that the Dahhakiyya minted their coins in Kufa--a city with many non-Kharijite Muslims--and that there are no reports of indiscriminate killings (isti'rad) of non-Kharijite Muslims at the time, it is plausible to read the iconography of the Dahhakiyya's coins as implying economic relations wJ 185ith some non-Kharijite Muslims. If this was the case, then al-Tabari's report on Dahhaki intolerance of non-Kharijite Muslims might be taken as an isolated incident, as exaggeration on the part of the Dahhakiyya's enemies, or as an indication that such attitudes were not uniformly held by all Dahhakiyya Kharijites. In any case, the iconography of the Dahhakiyya's coin prob-lematizes the Dahhakiyya's purported hostility toward non-Kharijite Muslims.


The final example of Kharijite coinage comes, in all likelihood, from the Kharijite sub-sect known as the Ibadiyya. The Ibadiyya arose from the quietists of Basra who rejected the extremist policies of Nafi' b. al-Azraq's Azariqa and Najda b. 'Amir's Najdat. Coalescing around the leadership of quietist Kharijite leaders such as Jabir b. Zayd, the Ibadiyya achieved organizational independence in the early 100s/720s. (60) Around this time, the leader of the nascent Ibadiyya, Abu 'Ubayda Muslim b. Abi Karima, organized missionary activities that spread Ibadism to the furthest corners of the Umayyad empire, including North Africa, Eastern Iran, and the Arabian Peninsula. Near the end of the Umayyad era, several unsuccessful Ibadi and other quietist ("Sufri") Kharijite rebellions broke out in North Africa. Additionally, an Ibadi uprising in the Arabian Peninsula, known as the "first" Arabian Ibadi imamate, lasted from 128-131/745-8. After the 'Abbasid revolution, successful Ibadi rebellions in both North Africa and Oman resulted in the eventual establishment of two Ibadi imamates at Tahert in present-day Algeria and Nizwa in Oman (this second Omani imamate, which will concern us here, existed from 177-280/793-893). Ibadi imamates survived in both locations for several decades; the imamate later disappeared in North Africa, but continued to appear sporadically in Oman with the last imam ruling the interior of Oman to 1958. Today, sizable Ibadi communities exist in both North Africa and Oman.

Enough Ibadi sources exist so that a scholar may compare the standard heresiographical accounts of them. Thus, scholars are on much firmer ground when evaluating the textual portrait of the Ibadiyya with what can be surmised about them from their coins. From the epistle of Ibn Dhakwan, himself an early Ibadi heresiographer, it is clear that the Ibadiyya rejected the separatism of other Kharijite groups: "we hold that we are not forbidden to have relations of marriage and inheritance with our qawm [i.e., non-Ibadi Muslims] as long as they share our qibla"; (61) "we see it as our duty to respect the right of parents, relatives, orphans, poor people, travelers, companions, neighbors, and slaves, whether they are pious or impious"; (62) "God has given leave to those who reside among people of error to practice taqiyya." (63) Moreover, Ibn Dhakwan's portrait of the Ibadiyya as moderate in relation to non-Ibadites is mirrored by the accounts of the heresiographers, and fits with their classification of the sect among the "quietist" Kharijites. (64)

In addition, Ibn Dhakwan's account presents the Ibadiyya as unwilling to engage in unprovoked hostility against non-Ibadis: "we do not hold with exposing our qawm to indiscriminate slaughter"; (65) "we do not approve, thanks be to God, of extremism in our religion, of wrongful violence in our stance, or of aggression against anyone who separates from us"; (66) "we do not hold with assassinating our qawm or killing them in secret, however wrong they may be"; (67) "we do not hold with killing minors from among the people of our qibla, who are without sin and understand nothing of the disagreements between users of the qiblaf." (68)Ibn Dhakwan's portrait of the Ibadiyya shows them to be willing to tolerate non-Ibadi Muslims so long as they do not engage in open warfare against the Ibadiyya; during the time of warfare such persons are to be given the choice of accepting Ibadism before they are fought. Even during a state of war the Ibadiyya do not consider their enemies idolaters, do not enslave them, nor do they treat their property as spoils. (69) Rather, Ibn Dhakwan classes non-Ibadis as hypocrites (munafiqun), (70) or, if they have committed deeds that make them worthy of capital punishment (such as Uthman), as "mischief-makers" (muhdithun). (71) This representation of the Ibadiyya portrays them as firm in their conviction of the Tightness of their sect, but simultaneously willing to pragmatically accept, even accommodate, those who did not share their beliefs.

Moreover, the Ibadi accommodation of non-sectarians extended beyond the basic readiness to interact. As is clear from a close reading of the early imamate period in Oman, the Ibadi frequently hid their sectarian inclinations from the 'Abbasids. Thus, for example, two secret Ibadi sympathizers from the Banu Hina functioned as the first 'Abbasid governors in Oman. (72) This practical attitude undoubtedly contributed to the survival of the Ibadiyya.

The Sinaw hoard, a hoard of over nine hundred coins discovered in 1979 in an earthenware pot at Sinaw (near al-Mudaybi, some seventy-five miles southeast of Nizwa) in the interior of Oman, included two previously unknown silver coins bearing the slogan la huk[m] illa li-l[ah] b-kh on the obverse and Muhammad rasul Allah on the reverse. (73) Unfortunately, the coins lack attribution, date, and mint. Nevertheless, Lowick's analysis of the Sinaw hoard dates its burial to 226/840-1 or shortly thereafter, and thus the coins were in all likelihood struck before this date. (74) Lowick himself favored an Omani attribution to the coins, arguing convincingly that the coins enjoyed local circulation only. (75) Given that the second Omani Ibadi imamate was well established in the Ibadi capital at Nizwa by the beginning of the third/ninth century and benefited from complete autonomy from the Abbasids, it is possible that the Ibadi imams ordered the minting of token coins for limited local usage. Moreover, the Ibadi imams of this period allowed Oman to flourish: Ghassan b. Abd Allah (r. 192-207/807-822) rid the Omani coast of pirates; (76) Abd al-Malik b. Harold's reign (207-226/822-841) is described as one of prosperity; (77) and al-Muhanna b. Jayfar (r. 226-237/841-851) enjoyed stability during the beginning of his rule. (78) Such conditions might have encouraged an economic renaissance of the kind that would encourage or even require a local coinage (for purposes of taxation, for example).

The iconography and probable circulation of the Ibadi coins from Sinaw confirm the picture that Ibn Dhakwan gives of the Ibadiyya as convinced of the truth of Ibadism, yet willing to accommodate--even live among--their doctrinal opponents while rejecting the indiscriminate violence that the heresiographers associated with the Azariqa and Najdat. First, the iconography of the coins does not mimic in any way the 'Abbasid coinage of the era. 'Abbasid coins of the time followed the standard post-reform Islamic coinage style: they included the date and mint information and, after 219/834, bore the signature of the caliph or his designated heir. By contrast, the Ibadi coins center the la hukm slogan in the obverse field using a large Arabic script. The obverse of the coin contains virtually nothing else. The prominent place of the la hukm slogan on the Ibadi coins indicates that, unlike the coins of the Azariqa, 'Atawiyya, and Dahhakiyya, the lbadiyya made no attempt to disguise the sectarian message on the coin, but chose in fact to highlight it.

Secondly, from Ibadi legal texts it is clear that by the sixth/twelfth century the Ibadiyya had incorporated the slogan la hukm illa li-lah into the imam's investiture ceremony ('aqd al-imama). (79) This association of the la hukm slogan with the legitimacy of the imam likely occurred in an earlier period, possibly during the second imamate period when the Ibadiyya coins were minted. Given that the right of sikka was well established during this era, the minting of an unabashedly sectarian coin with a phrase that strongly connoted the authority of the Ibadi imams suggests that the message of the coins was, in part, intended as a statement of the imam's legitimacy. These two features of the iconography of the Ibadi coins--their overt sectarian message and its political connotations--corroborate the textual portrayals of the Ibadiyya as convinced of the virtue and legitimacy (as reflected by their imams) of the Ibadi cause.

Despite the seemingly subversive nature of the iconography of the Ibadi coins, their intended circulation as local, token coinage mitigated whatever challenge their messages might have posed to the authority of the 'Abbasids. If Lowick's characterization of the coins as token coinage is accurate, then the two Ibadi coins circulated primarily if not exclusively among the Ibadis of Oman. Given this circulation, it is probable that the 'Abbasids did not know of the coins' existence. Moreover, the contention that the Ibadis kept their coins in local circulation is borne out by the other coins of the Sinaw horde, the largest number of which are 'Abbasid issues, followed by Umayyad issues. (80) The Ibadiyya of Oman obviously possessed enough standard 'Abbasid (and secondarily Umayyad) coins with which they could--and undoubtedly did--transact business with non-Ibadis, allowing them to keep their coinage local. Thus, the nature of the Ibadi coins as tokens, and their subsequent circulation in limited, local contexts, allowed the Ibadiyya to celebrate in coin the legitimacy of their sect and its imams without simultaneously threatening the authority of the 'Abbasids. This willingness to avoid provoking the 'Abbasids by "hiding" their coins locally mirrors the textual image of the Ibadiyya as practicing caution and secrecy in their relations with the 'Abbasids.


The study of Islamic sectarianism cannot rid itself of medieval heresiographies and histories, however problematic such sources might be. However, scholars should--following Lewinstein--use any and all means to critically assess the data contained therein. An appraisal of the iconography of sectarian coinage offers one method by which heresiographical and historical texts may be comparatively evaluated.

When applied to the Azariqa, 'Atawiyya, Dahhakiyya, and Ibadiyya, an examination of the iconography of their coins both challenges and confirms some aspects of their portraits in the standard heresiographical and historical texts. Specifically, the coins of the Azariqa, 'Atawiyya, and Dahhakiyya communicate a desire for economic interchange that problematizes heresiographical and historical accounts of these groups as primarily separatist and as maintaining a hostile position vis-a-vis their opponents. I do not want to argue that the iconography of the coins discounts what can be found in heresiographical and historical textual sources; rather I want to point out how the iconography of the coins, juxtaposed with these heresiographical and historical sources, seems to suggest a more complex picture of the Kharijites than can be found in heresiographical and historical texts alone. Several possible explanations exist for such implied discrepancies: heresiographers and historians might have taken isolated incidents of violence against non-Kharijite Muslims as indicative of a broader doctrine; they might have ignored development from an initially recalcitrant separatism and hostility toward a more inclusive and pragmatic position; or they simply distorted their information in the service of polemic. Of course, the opposite is also possible: that the Azariqa, 'Atawiyya, and Dahhakiyya intended their coins to circulate among the non-Muslim population while maintaining an attitude of hostility toward non-Kharijite Muslims. However, the absence of overtly Kharijite identifiers on the coins of the 'Atawiyya makes this scenario unlikely, at least for the 'Atawiyya. Whatever the case, the iconography of the Azariqa, 'Atawiyya, and Dahhakiyya's coins, as the only existing primary source from these early Kharijite groups themselves, must be taken into consideration when evaluating the veracity of heresiographical and historical accounts.

The coins of the Ibadiyya, on the other hand, would seem to bear out the heresiographical and historical image of the sect as generally tolerant of non-Ibadis and simultaneously willing to accommodate themselves to the 'Abbasids in the interests of survival. In this case, the need for an analysis of Ibadi coins is less pressing, given the amount of Ibadi primary sources already available to the scholar. Nevertheless, the coins of the Ibadiyya offer a means to test such depictions outside of texts altogether, and as such remain valuable.

Beyond the coin-text comparisons afforded by the coinage of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya, the full benefit of the study of numismatics to early Islamic sectarianism has yet to be realized. For example, the monetary practice of the Kharijites and Ibadiyya shows an awareness of and responsiveness to the emerging strategies of articulating political authority through coins in the Umayyad and 'Abbasid eras. The use of coins to express political authority corresponds with the simultaneous persistence of the caliphal title among the Kharijites. (81) Patricia Crone has recently argued that the Kharijites saw themselves as "systematizing the principles behind the early caliphate in Medina." (82) Based on the numismatic evidence, I believe it is safe to state that the Kharijites moved beyond the principles of the early caliphate in Medina to incorporate certain conventions of caliphal authority that were simultaneously being adopted by the Umayyads and 'Abbasids--that is, as Umayyad and 'Abbasid governors and rulers gradually arrogated to themselves the right to mint coins, so did the Kharijites (and Ibadiyya). To test this hypothesis, further research is needed into the development of the right of sikka as the exclusive privilege of the caliph, and into the articulation of the right of sikka as a reflection of caliphal legitimacy.

In addition, a comparative heresiographical-historical and numismatic study may be applied to groups other than the early Kharijites and Ibadiyya. As noted above, Ibn al-Zubayr and his brother minted coins in the Arab-Sasanian style during the Zubayrid caliphate in the Hijaz. These coins, which contained caliphal titles, could be compared with the textual evidence surrounding Ibn al-Zubayr's claims to the caliphate. Similarly, several early supporters of the 'Abbasid revolution--especially the partisans of 'Abd Allah b. Mu'awiya and Abu Muslim--struck coins in their name. (83) Such examples might be compared to the heresiographical portraits of the Hashimiyya and Janahiyya contained in heresiographical and historical literature.

Given the dearth of primary sources on early sectarianism generally, and of Kharijite and Ibadi sources particularly, scholars must use all available resources to analyze and understand these Islamic sects. Numismatic evidence from the Kharijites and Ibadiyya offers perspective on the textual traditions, and suggests ways that a researcher might investigate the articulation of authority among early sectarian groups. Although scholars must acknowledge the limits of numismatic evidence, what can be learned about the Kharijites and Ibadiyya from their coins turns out to be worth its mithqals in silver.

(1.) K. Lewinstein, "The Azariqa in Islamic Heresiography," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 54 (1991): 251-68.

(2.) Most contemporary Ibadis contest their association with the Kharijites, which too often and too casually connects them to sub-sects such as the Azariqa and Najdat. In fact, the Ibadiyya were among the most vocal critics of these Kharijites. See A. I. Atfish, al-Farq bayn al-lbdiyya wa-l-Khawarij (Muscat: Maktabat al-Istiqama, 1980).

(3.) Of course, coins may be (and have been) counterfeited, but such problems do not seriously vex the study of Islamic sectarian coinage in the early period for the simple reason that few, if any, counterfeiters would bother to forge the coins of sectarian minorities when the coins of the ruling powers would prove potentially more lucrative. Moreover, a counterfeit is by its very nature a copy of an original, and thereby preserves original information in an attempt to pass as authentic.

(4.) L. Treadwell, "Shahanshah and al-Malik al-Mu'ayyad: The Legitimation of Power in Samanid and Buyid Iran," in Culture and Memory in Medieval Islam: Essays in Honour of Wilferd Madelung, ed. Farhad Daftary and Josef W. Meri (London: I. B. Tauris, 2003), 319.

(5.) J. Walker, A Catalogue of the Arab-Sassanian Coins (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1941), 111-13.

(6.) C. Wurtzel, "The Coinage of the Revolutionaries in the Late Umayyad Period," ANS Museum Notes 23 (1978): 161-99.

(7.) M. I. Mochiri, Arab-Sasanian Civil War Coinage: Manichaeans, Yazidiya and Other Khawarij (n.p, 1986).

(8.) N. M. Lowick, "The Sinaw Hoard of Early Islamic Coins," Journal of Oman Studies 6 (1983): 199-230.

(9.) W. Madelung, Religious Trends in Early Islamic Iran (Albany: Bibliotheca Persica, 1988), 57.

(10.) Not to be examined are the various Arab-Sasanian coins that Mochiri proposed as Kharijite coins; no textual evidence exists to back up his speculations, which are not accepted by numismatists and remain among the more bizarre attempts to classify Kharijite coinage. Additionally, the coinage of the Zanj rebels will not be considered; it remains unclear to what extent Kharijism (even Ibadism) or messianic Shi'ism animated the rebellion, and while the dirhams of the Zanj remain strongly suggestive of Kharijite themes, they cannot reliably be considered "Kharijite"' or "Ibadi" coins proper. The coins of Mismar b. Salm, which Bates suggests could be Kharijite, will not be considered, as the coins remain the sole evidence, for the existence of the Banu Mismar, See M. Bates, "The Coinage of Mismar b. Salm, Ruler of al-Qatif in the 3rd/9th Century," in Bahrain Through, the Ages: The History, ed. Abdullah b. Khalid al-Khalifa and Michael Rice (London: Kegan Paul International, 1993), 98-103. For similar reasons, the possible Sufri-Kharijite issues of North Africa (the coins of Khalaf b. al-Muda', 'Amr b. Hammad, 'Iyad b. Wahb, and Ma'zub. Talut) will not be considered as it is unclear whether they represent actual Kharijite issues, Idrisid gubernatorial issues, or even the issues of Idris II's regents.

(11.) J. L. Bacharach, Islamic History through Coins: An Analysis and Catalogue of Tenth-Century Ikhshidid Coinage (Cairo: American Univ. in Cairo Press, 2006), 3.

(12.) M. Bates, "Methodology in Islamic Numismatics," as-Sikka: The Online Journal of the Islamic Coins Group 2.3 (2000). See

(13.) Bacharach, Islamic History through Coins, 5.

(14.) Issuing a debased silver coin that traded locally also had the advantage of retaining silver bullion in a region, and was common in areas where silver was difficult to obtain. Steve Album, personal communication, 2007.

(15.) W. Madelung, The Succession to Muhammad (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997), 1.

(16.) Bates, "Methodology in Islamic Numismatics," 2.

(17.) Bacharach, Islamic History through Coins, 7.

(18.) T. Martin, Sovereignty and Coinage in Classical Greece (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1985), 219.

(19.) A. Meadows, "Money, Freedom and Empire in the Hellenistic World," in Money and Its Uses in the Ancient Greek World, ed. Andrew Meadows and Kirsty Shiplon (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), 62.

(20.) C. E. Bosworth, "Sikka," in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, CD-ROM Edition, version 1.1 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 1.

(21.) al-Mawardi, Ahkam al-sultaniyya wa-l-wilayat al-diniyya (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'llmiyya, n.d.), 197. Copper coins did not fall under the caliphal right of sikka, and remained a local affair (as they had been under the Byzantines and Sasanians).

(22.) S. Album, A Checklist of Islamic Coins, 2nd ed. (Santa Rosa: Steve Album, 1998), 16.

(23.) Later, the caliph 'Abd al-Malik struck coins, in the Arab-Sasanian style, in his own name, and also from the region of Darabjird.

(24.) Album, Checklist, 16.

(25.) J. Wellhausen. The Religio-Political Factions in Early Islam, ed. and tr. R. C. Ostle and S. M. Walzer (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co., 1975), 46.

(26.) R. Rubinacci, "Azarika," in The Encyclopaedia of Islam. CD-ROM Edition, version 1.1 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 1.

(27.) Walker, Catalogue, 112.

(28.) The slogan la hukm illa li-lah was first used at the Battle of Siffin, where it became a catchphrase for resistance to the arbitration and the continuation of hostilities against Mu'awiya. It was subsequently employed by most Kharijite sub-sects. For a discussion of the phrase, see G. R. Hawting, "The Significance of the Slogan La Hukma Illa Lillah and the References to the Hudud in the Traditions about the Fitna and the Murder of 'Uthman," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 41 (1978): 453-63.

(29.) For example, 'Umar is addressed in letters as 'abd Allah 'Umar amir al-mu'minin: sec Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat al-kubra (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1997), 3: 236: al Ya'qubi, Tarikh al-Ya'qubi (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-A'larm li-l-Matbu'at, 1993), 2: 41. Mu'awiya appears as 'abd Allah Mu'awiya amir al-mu'minin on an inscription dated 58/677-8 on a dam near Ta'if: see G. C. Miles, "Early Islamic Inscriptions Near Ta'if in the Hijaz," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 7 (1948): 237. This formula also occurs on the glass weigh is and measure stamps of the caliphs Sulayman, Yazid II, al-Mansur (and possibly al-Mahdi): see G. C. Miles, Early Arabic Glass Weights and Stamps: A Supplement, Numismatic Notes and Monographs, no. 120 (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1951), 4, 8; idem, Contributions to Arabic Metrology, vol. 1, Early Arabic Glass Weights and Measure Stamps Acquired by the American Numismatic Society 1951-1956, Numismatic Notes and Monographs, no. 141 (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1958), 8, 43-49. Coins exist with the inscription 'abd Allah 'Abd al-Malik amir al-mu'minin: see H. Lavoix, Catalogue des monnaies musulmanes de la Bibliotheque nationale (Paris: Bibliotheque nationale, Departement des medailles et antiques, 1896), vol. 1: 17-24; also on early 'Abbasid fals, see G. C. Miles, Excavation Coins from the Persepolis Region, Numismatic Notes and Monographs, no. 143 (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1959), 64-67. I am grateful to Michael Morony for these citations.

(30.) G. C. Miles, "Some Arab-Sasanian and Related Coins." American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 7 (1957): 203. Qatari's coins have also been recorded from mints in Bishapur, Darabjird, Zaranj, and Ardashir Khurra.

(31.) Album, Checklist, 16; Walker, Catalogue, 112-13.

(32.) Album, Checklist, 16: Mochiri, Arab-Sasanian Civil War Coinage, 60.

(33.) See, for example. Ibn Hazm, al-Fasl ft-l-milal wa-l-ahwa wa-l-nihal (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1999), 3: 125; al-Tabari, Tarikh al-rusul wa-l-muluk, ed. M. J. de Goeje (Leiden: Brill, 1879), 2: 1626.

(34.) Lewinstein, "The Azariqa in Islamic Heresiography," 268.

(35.) ibid., 255.

(36.) al-Ash'ari, Maqalat al-islamiyyin wa-ikhtilaf al-musallin, ed. Muhammad Muhyi al-Din 'Abd al-Hamid (Beirut: Maktabat al-'Asriyya, 1999), 1: 170.

(37.) Ibid., 1: 174.

(38.) Ibid., 1: 169.

(39.) Lewinstein, "The Azariqa in Islamic Heresiography," 268.

(40.) al-Razi, Kitab al-Zina fi-l-kalimat al-islamiyya al-'arabiyya, in al-Ghuluww wa-l-firaq al-ghaliya fi-l-hadara al-islamiyya, ed. 'Abd Allah al-Samarra'i (Baghdad: Dar al-Hurriyya, 1972), 285.

(41.) al-Tabari, Tarikh, 2: 764, 1003. Al-Mubarrad preserves a report that, after razing the town of Istakhr (in Fars) because its people informed on him to al-Muhallab, Qatari's Azariqa wanted to visit the same fate on the town of Fasa, but that a certain Azad Mardu b. al-Hirbidhi ransomed it for one hundred thousand dirhams. See al-Mubarrad, al-Kamil (Beirut: Maktabat al-'Asriyya, 2002), 3: 266.

(42.) al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-ashraf (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1996), 7: 439; I. P. Petrushevskii, Islam in Iran, SUNY Series in Near East Studies (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985), 44. Ibn Hazm reports that the Batihiyya sect of the Azraqites refused to accept jizya payments from Zoroastrians, implying that this sub-group did not recognize them as ahl al dhimma. See Lewinstein, "The Azariqa in Islamic Heresiography," 263; see also Joseph van Ess's entry on Abu Isma'il al-Bittikhi in idem, Theologie mid Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1992), 2: 619-22.

(43.) F. Donner, "Piety and Eschatology in Early Kharijite Poetry," in Fi mihrab al-ma'rifa: Festschrift for Ihsan 'Abbas, ed. Ibrahim as-Sa'afin (Beirut: Dar Sader Publishers, 1997), 18-19.

(44.) Wellhausen, Religio-Political Factions, 49-50.

(45.) al-Tabari, Tarikh, 2: 515-17.

(46.) Album, Checklist, 16; Walker, Catalogue, 111-12.

(47.) al-Ash'ari, Maqalat, 1: 177. Relying on al-Baladhuri, N. A. Baloch (art. "Kandabil," in [EI.sup.2])) places the death of 'Atiyya b. al-Aswad in 69/988; van Ess, however, implies that, after the death of Najda b. 'Amir (eponym of the Najdat, killed in 70/690), 'Atiyya survived for "quite some years" in Iran and Sind: Theologie und Gesellschaft, 2: 573.

(48.) al-Shahrastani, Kitab al-Milal wa-l-nihal, ed. 'Abd al-'Aziz Muhammad al-Wakil (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.), 125.

(49.) Ibid., 128.

(50.) Ibid., 125.

(51.) Ibn Dhakwan, The Epistle: of Salim Ibn Dhakwan, tr. P. Crone and F. W. Zimmerman (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), 110-13.

(52.) A similar type of Kharijite coin, with the slogan arranged differently in the obverse margin, was minted in 133/750-1. Album posits the mint as Tanbarak (rather than Tanbuk), placing it in Iran as one of several Iranian fortresses later known as Tabarak. See Album, Checklist, 24 n. 34. Another possibility is "Baybart" in Central "Turkey.

(53.) Post-reform Umayyad coins were remarkably regular: they possessed predictable obverse and reverse fields and margins. The obverse field contains the kalima: la ilaha illa Allah wahdahu la sharika lahu ("There is no God but God, alone, no equal has He"); the obverse margin has the bismillah followed by the mint and date. The reverse held contained a curtailed surat al-ikhlas (i.e., sura 112. "Sincerity," but without the two opening words qul huwwa, "Say: He is ..."); the reverse margin has the formula Muhammad rasul Allah arsalahu bi-l huda wa-din al-haqq li-yazhurahu 'ala-l-dini Kullihi wa-law kariha al-mushrikun ("Muhammad is the messenger of God, who sent him with guidance and the religion of truth in order to reveal it to all religions, even if the polytheists abhor it"). This new style of dinar and dirham became standard throughout the empire. There are several theories as to the impetus behind his coinage reform: the Umayyad state may have required a standardized currency with which to pay their armies or to stimulate economic markets. Removal of the overt symbols of Christianity (such as the cross on the coins of Constans II) and Zoroastrianism (such as the fire altar on the coins of Khusraw II) from the coins might also have served the purpose of consolidating Islamic authority. See C. F. Robinson, 'Abd al-Malik (Oxford: Oneworld, 2005), 75. Moreover, the ease with which rebel groups such as the Kharijites and Zubayrids had insinuated themselves into local power structures and economies might have prompted the Umayyads to further consolidate their authority over their territories by first eliminating all potential "rival" coins with new issues, and then eliminating the right of local governors to mint coins in their own name.

(54.) al-Tabari, Tarikh, 2: 1939; Wurtzel, "The Coinage of the Revolutionaries in the Late Umayyad Period," 177-78.

(55.) Wellhausen, Religio-Political Factions, 81-82.

(56.) Album, Checklist, 22.

(57.) K. Lewinstein, "Making and Unmaking a Sect: The Heresiographers and the Sufriyya," Studia Islamica 76 (1992): 95-96.

(58.). Wilferd Madelung and Paul Walker, An Ismaili Heresiography: The 'Bab al-Shaytan' from Abu Tammam's Kitab al-shajara (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 32; al-Ash'ari, Maqalat, 1: 189; van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, 2: 466.

(59.) al-Tabari, Tarikh, 2: 1907.

(60.) For a discussion of the early Ibadiyya in Basra, see J. C. Wilkinson, "The Early Development of the Ibadi Movement in Basra," in Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society, ed. G. H. A. Juynboll (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1982), 125-44.

(61.) Ibn Dhakwan, Epistle, 134-35.

(62.) Ibid., 132-33.

(63.) Ibid., 144-45.

(64.) See al-Ash'ari, Maqalat, 1: 183-90; al-Shahrastani, Kitab al-Milal, 134-36.

(65.) Ibn Dhakwan, Epistle, 136-37.

(66.) Ibid., 144-45.

(67.) Ibid., 134-35.

(68.) Ibid., 138-39.

(69.) Ibid., 132-33.

(70.) Ibid., 134-35.

(71.) Ibid., 72-73.

(72.) al-Salimi, Tuhfat al-a'yan bi-sirat ahl 'Uman (Cairo: n.p., 1961), 1: 88: J. C. Wilkinson, "The Julanda of Oman," Journal of Oman Studies 1 (1975): 102. Additionally, Elizabeth Savage and Adon Gordus conclude in their analysis of early 'Abbasid North African coinage production that cooperation between the 'Abbasid governor, the Muhallabid Yazid b. Hatim, and the Ibadiyya, and Sufriyya, who controlled the hinterlands and overland trade routes and were expanding their hold over the trans-Saharan slave trade, resulted in the boom in North African silver coins during the first decades of 'Abbasid rule. See E. Savage and A. Gordus, "Dirhams for the Empire," in Genese de la ville islamique en al-Andalus et an Maghreb occidental, ed. P. Cressier and M. Garcia Arenal (Madrid: CSIC, 1998), 378-89. Ties between the Muhallabids and the Ibadiyya go back to Umayyad-era Basra, and it is reported that women from the Muhallabid family had convened to Ibadism (while the men remained pro-Marwanid). See M. Cook, Early Muslim Dogma (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), 63: E. Savage, "Survival through Alliance: Establishment of the Ibadiyya," British. Society for Middle Eastern Studies 17 (1990): 5-15.

(73.) The word b-kh is unknown, but it is possible that it is Persian bakh (meaning 'good' or OK', as in the Modern Persian bakh bakh). This word is sometimes found on coins, such as some early Tabaristani issues. Steve Album, personal communication, 2007.

(74.) Lowick, "The Sinaw Hoard," 199-200.

(75.) Ibid., 223.

(76.) al-Izkawi, Kashf al-ghumma al-jami' li-akhbar al umma, ed, Hasan Muhammad 'Abd Allah al-Nabuda (Beirut: Dar al-Barudi, 2006), 2: 859-60; Lowick, "The Sinaw Hoard," 200.

(77.) al-Izkawi, Kashf al-ghumma, 2: 861.

(78.) Ibid., 2: 862.

(79.) al-Kindi, al-Musannaf ([Muscat]: Wizarat al-Turath al-Qawmi wa-l-Thaqafa, 1983), 10: 94.

(80.) Lowick, "The Sinaw Hoard," 201.

(81.) P. Crone, "The Kharijites and the Caliphal Title," in Studies in Islamic and Middle Eastern Texts and Traditions in Memory of Norman Calder, ed. G. R. Hawting et al. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000), 85-91.

(82.) P. Crone, God's Rule: Government and Islam (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2004), 59.

(83.) Album, Checklist, 24.



Author's Note: Many thanks to Steve Album, Tom Martin, Jere Bacharach, and Michael Morony for reviewing drafts of this manuscript, and to Muhammad al-Faruque for his help. I am also grateful to the anonymous JAOS readers for their comments.
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