as-Sikka السكة
The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group 
as-Sikka is a peer reviewed publication
ISSN 1496-4414 

Summer 2001AD / 1422AH        Vol. 3.1

 

Chapter Five Of:
"Al-Dawhat al-Mushtabakat Fi Dawabit Dar al-Sikka"
By Abi al-Hasan ‘Ali b. Yusuf al-Hakim
Translated by Fawzan Barrage

Al-Hakim’s grandfather was a mint master in Fas for 50 years during the reign of Sultan Abi Yusuf al-Ya’qubi b. ‘Abd al-Haqq al-Marini the fifth Marinid Sultan. He held that post from 674 to 724H. al-Hakim was himself a mint master as well during the reign of Sultan Abi ‘Anan Faris al-Mutawakkil b. Abi Hasan ‘Ali al-Marini between 748 and 759H. He was a well respected Faqih and his interpretations were studied by many students of Faqih at the time.

In describing the inner workings of the mint, therefore, he was doing so from experience and following a family tradition. His detailed description of the process as it is told in this fifth chapter of his work is important to our understanding of the coinage and its manufacturing and use in his era.

Chapter Five

About the first who struck Dinars and Dirhams and built the mints and controlled their quality and strike, and what we need to be warned about when paying or receiving them. This Chapter contains most of the book in 12 sections

Section One

About the first to strike Dinars and Dirhams before and after Islam and the first Caliph to write the name of God, the most exalted and blessed, in Islam who also selected the mint cities and maintained strict quality control over its striking.

The Judge Abu al-Hasan b. Bullal said, when explaining the Maqamat of al-Hariri: "People at the beginning of time used to barter wheat and barely and grains and fruits and the like. They complained to their king about the problems that this caused and their fear of the loss of their wealth[1] if they should continue to function in this manner. Their King ordered them to choose something that does not decay or spoil over time. So they chose Gold, which is the most permanent of earth's minerals never spoiling! It can spend long periods under ground and still be good and pure, and when put to the fire it is purified and made better. The King ordered the striking of Dinars and put his seal on them. He forbade the debasement of these Dinars and the copying of their dies. Whoever should do that would have their hand cut-off and be banished.

They also informed him that they are in need a smaller denomination than the Dinar, or its fractions, in order to transact between them, and to buy their needs. He ordered them to choose another mineral, the Dirham, of which one would equal one tenth the Dinar. They chose silver, and Dirhams were struck from silver and stamped with the seal of the King and the worth of twenty Dinars was two hundred Dirhams.

The Romans (Byzantine) continued to use the Dinar and the Persians to use the Dirham, until Islam came. People continued to use these standards until the era of 'Abd al-Malik Bin Marwan. He struck the Dinars and the Dirhams and wrote "Allah Ahad" on the Dinars and before that it was blank with no writing and he wrote on the Dirhams as well.

The Persians had three different weights for the Dirhams: One was One Mithqal, which is equivalent to twenty qirats, another was twelve qirats and yet another was ten qirats.

When Islam came, the need arose to value the Zakat[2], so an average of all three standards was used. The sum of all three standards added up to forty-two qirats so it was agreed that the Dirham would be equal to fourteen qirats of the qirats of the mithqal, which is in turn twenty-four qirats. The qirat was also equal to 3 Habbas and twenty-four times three is seventy-two and that makes a mithqal seventy-two habbas.

And from al-Barqi by Wathima as corroborated by Ibn 'Abbas, the following:
"The first currency on earth was the Dinars and Dirhams of Nimrod Bin Kan'an. Before that people used gold and silver nuggets for their commerce. So when the Dinars and Dirhams were struck, the devil snorted a big snort grabbed the currency and kissed it saying: ' I now have control of mankind (Sons of Adam)! With you both (Dinars and Dirhams) They will cut the wombs, shed each other's blood and oppress one another!'".

It is also said that when 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, saw the discrepancy in the weight of the Dirhams, he looked at the majority of what the people use from the lightest to the heaviest. He divided it into twelve Daniqs and took half of that (six Daniqs) to equal the Dirham. Thus when you add to the Dirham three seventh of it's weight it equals a Mithqal, and when you take away three tenths off of the weight of a Mithqal, it equals a Dirham.

When Decay took over the Empire of the Persians, their money also fell into decay. In principle, the currency was of pure silver and gold, but the decline of the dynasty meant that more impurities where being added, until people started testing the currency with every transaction, and differentiating the pure, from the debased.

There is also some disagreement on who first struck the Islamic coins. It is said that the first to strike it was 'Abd al-Malik Bin Marwan. At the time, the Dinars were struck by the Romans, and the Dirhams were struck by the Sasanians and Humayrits, and all were in short supply. So 'Abd al-Malik Bin Marwan ordered al-Hajjaj to strike both, in the year Seventy-four or Seventy-five Hijri. He wrote "Allahu Ahad, Allahu as-Samad" on them. Then Ibn Hubayra took over in the days of Yazid and he refined them to be better than before. Then Khalid Bin 'Abd Allah al-Bajali and then ['Abd Allah] al-Qasri where in control of the minting and they both took good care to maintain the quality of the coins. Then Yusuf Bin Amr took over and he was lax. So the Hubayrid, Khalidid and Yusufid (sic)[3] coinage were the best of the Umayyad Dirhams and al-Mansur wouldn't accept any others.

It is also said that the first to strike Islamic coins was Mus'ab bin al-Zubayr by order from 'Abd Allah bin al-Zubayr in the year Seventy and these were similar to the Sasanian coins. These coins had [ ][4] on one side, and "Allah" on the other side then al-Hajjaj changed them and wrote "Bism Allah" on them.

And it is said about the Prophet (PBUH) that he forbade the breaking of Muslim Dirhams in use.

The Sikka is the metal plate on which the Dinars and Dirhams are carved and the process of minting Dinars and Dirhams was named for it.

From the early books we also learn that 'Abd al-Malik Bin Marwan ordered al-Hajjaj to create a mint, So al-Hajjaj inquired about what the Persians used to do, to strike the Dinars and Dirhams. He was the first to create a mint and gather in it the engravers. There, the money of the Sultan used to be struck from what he could gather of nuggets, and pure metals that were extracted from forgeries, debased as well as worn-out coins. Then he allowed merchants and others to have Awraq minted on their behalves, from the remains of what was left with the engravers and minters and he tattooed the hands of the minters.

When 'Umar Bin Hubayr became the governor of Iraq for Yazid Bin 'Abd al-Malik, he refined the silver more than his predecessors, and he perfected the Dirhams and was strict with the measures.

Then Khalid Bin 'Abd Allah al-Bajli and after him al-Qasri governed Iraq for Hisham Bin 'Abd al-Malik and they both were stricter even than al-Hubayr and had more controls.

Then Yusuf Bin 'Amr took over. He neglected the controls over the minters and the measurers, and he refrained from punishing those who would steal by cutting their hands and having them flogged. Thus the Hubayrid, Khalidid and Yusufid (sic)[5] were the best coins of the Umayyads.

According to Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi in some of his works ... "The Imam should order the people to transact between them with pure refined gold, and pure refined silver only. The Imam is to recall all struck coins, smelt them, and refine them. Then he is to strike new coins from the pure metal, and return these it to their owners.

Section Two

About the first to strike the square Dirhams, and the first to build a mint[6] in Fas, may God The most exalted build her.

The first to strike the square (cornered) Dirhams was Abu 'Abd Allah al-Mahdi, the ruler of the Muwahhids. Before the arrival of the Muwahhid state, all the Dirhams were round. al-Mahdi ordered that the Dirhams be struck as square coins, and so it was, and 20 of these Dirhams equaled one Awqiya, and 3 Dirhams equaled a Dinar.[7]

The Qarawids were in Fas, and there were two mints in both areas of the city, the Qarawiyin and al-Andalusiyin[8]. So the Caliph Abu 'Abd Allah al-Nasir Ibn al-Mansur al-Muwahhidi moved both of these mints to a place he built meticulously in the year six hundred, and made into a house for coins and dies (a mint). Most of what was struck there was gold. As to Dirhams, they used to come from all areas with different strikes, and different weights, and people accepted all of these, until the Ya'qubid Dirham became the standard weight according to what has been said God willing.

Section Three

Concerning the indispensable, and imperative traits in the mint master[9]

As gold and silver are the most noble of materials, so the supervision of their processing is a noble profession. As it is required of the Imam to be well versed in what is essential to prayer, both in reading, and through Fikh; and as it is known that he who wants to take on the burden of being a witness should understand the consequences of the burden, so it is with the mint master who should be learned in the matter of coinage, and his opinion should be well received. He should be of good moral standing, and feel that forgiveness is for him who knows and judges well, and punishment is for him who oppresses and aggresses. If he is known as an honest man, and is knowledgeable in the workings of the mint, such as being able to differentiate currencies and the type of metals and what makes these good or debased, along with the methods of debasement and how to counter act that; If he also is knowledgeable in calligraphy and proper dictation and is clean and religious, people will have faith in their currency and surplus will grow and so will the profit of the mint. But if a person who does not have these properties enters into this domain, especially if he ignores the details and is lax with the research loss will take place and the value of the coinage will go down and reward to the mint will be reduced.

Section Four

About The witnesses[10] and the contracts at the mint

It is imperative that there be two witnesses employed at the mint due to possible accusations that may arise between the client and the workers. These witnesses are hired by the master of the mint and are paid for their duties in equal parts to the master because of the seriousness of their position. They must also be knowledgeable about what they are witnessing otherwise they become factors in the loss of money and the deterioration of the state of affairs at the mint. They are also each to have the key to the safe where the dies are kept so that they may test these dies and limit their numbers. That safe also houses the master dies as well as the tools that measure the weight and purity of the gold. It is also preferred if these witnesses are rotated with others on a monthly basis.

These witnesses are to also warn the minters to strike the Dinars and Dirhams only in their presence. They are then to do an accounting of what was given to each minter and what he struck in a month. If the accounting is correct he has done his job honestly and well, but if there is a discrepancy he is asked to produce the difference. If the minter makes an error and strikes the die off-center on a flan, it is to be reviewed by the master to detect the side that was miss-struck. This is considered a grave mistake and is called a "Karuba". It is also the duty of the two witnesses to account for what is received, struck and paid-out on a daily basis and to reconcile it all at the end of each month.

Section Five

The Engraver's[11] Tasks and what norms these entail

There is a basis for everything and the base of the mint is the Die engraver. He is a pillar of this institution and if he is of sound character, then the mint will run properly. It is imperative that the die engraver be a master calligrapher. That is a protection to the value of the Dinar and Dirham. Arab wisdom says: "Calligraphy is the essence of the soul even though it is a physical manifestation." While Rum wisdom says: "Calligraphy is spiritual architecture despite it's physical manifestation”.

The dies of the Dinar and the Dirham are the seals of the kingdom. Striking them is like using the King's seal.

If the die engraver is not a master calligrapher, what are his useful qualities then? And what respect is there for the dies? The weak calligraphy needs to be struck several times, similar to the case of the weak witness who needs to be questioned several times before his account is accepted.

The strike is in essence the calligraphy that is being struck. That is the base of minting, even though it is the last thing that is done.

It is imperative that the engraver doesn’t change the wording on the Dinar or Dirham; that he doesn't add to its lines or reduce a thing, except with the permission of the King, for he is the authority. If the name of the King is on the Dinar and the Dirham then that is a step closer to it's perfection because it prevents the strike from being spoiled.

The instruments and the pens that are used for preparing the die, should be well preserved in the safe until they are needed and can be brought to the engraver. One of the witnesses should be with him during the die engraving process if he is not trustworthy. He can then withdraw to do his work away from the crowd until he is done, at which time the instruments are returned to the safe.

Furthermore, he should not be allowed to keep company with chemists and those accused of counterfeiting Dinars and Dirhams.

The blacksmith who provides the die pairs should also be responsible for them. He should never provide these under any circumstances except in the mint.

The prefect must search for the money changers and examine the lines of the Dinars and the Dirhams that they have in their possession to make sure that they are not forgeries. He should also do the same with the jewelers for they are the source of forged strikes. No less so since they do not trust a Dinar nor do they accept a ruler by day or night. What then stops them from forging Dinars and Dirhams?

The governor of a city - if he is a supporter of the kingdom - must monitor the affairs of those from other faiths and others. If he hears metal striking at their homes or finds there enough fuel for smelting, let him strike them on their hands. Moreover let no metal worker, who works for a jeweler, do work from his home or away from the watchful eyes of the people, because the work of the mint, and that of the jeweler are the same, brought together by the anvil and the fire

Section Six

About the coin minters[12] and what they are entrusted with and what they are warned about.

The minters are of three different levels: The master minters, the workers and the apprentices. Here we are concerned with the master minters. At present they do not let a foreigner into their practice and if such a person does enter the trade they claim an imbalance and that money is being lost.

It is important that Gold and Silver not be paid in the mint except to those who have achieved a level of trust and religious virtue. [It is also desirable for these minters] to agreed among them in order to control the operation due to the sensitive nature of what goes on in the mint.

If a minter is paid money, let it be in the presence of the two witnesses of the mint and with the agreement of the payer. Let them all write their names[13] and whoever doesn't know how to write, let his name and description be written. The witnesses then examine what the minter has been paid. It is important that [this contract] specify what the wages are and what is being made from the large and the small and the quirats and the length of time the work will take. The work on the gold is to be done in the presence of the mint master and the minter is not to hide anything from him at all.

As to silver, they must take it to the mint. It is prudent for the mint master then to examine the blacksmith. If the mint master weighs the gold and silver, he should be careful with the scale. He should place the spur of the dome on the spur of the tongue and not short-change neither the payer nor the payee. He should remember that God in his glory knows what he does and he should know that precision in weighing is something he is commanded to observe.

Allah said: "TRANSGRESS NOT IN THE BALANCE, AND WEIGH WITH JUSTICE, AND SKIMP NOT IN THE BALANCE"[14].

When a minter receives an order he is first to weigh it with his weights and then to accept payment. That is the better way. He should examine the Dinars and Dirhams carefully and weigh them with the weights of the mint, which are the most precise.

When he strikes, he must match the dies precisely in place. He should be careful to neither strike off the flan nor stray beyond what is acceptable. He must stay within the margin and not stray a grain of barely's worth out of the circle of the Dinar or the four corners of the Dirham. Because if he were to stray beyond the circle of the Dinar or the corners of the Dirham, the full worth of the Dinar will be in question and so will the full worth of the Dirham. The minter will then have made this coin impossible to use for exchange since the limits of the flan are seen as the edges of the die[15]. The edges of the Dinar and the Dirham are the area around the strike from all sides. It is the existance of this area that makes the Dinar and Dirham respected in exchange. The client should therefore demand a clear full strike since the value of the coin is related to that.

If the minter receives money from someone, he should put it on the side and not combine it with the money of others nor pay back someone with someone else's money nor move it from his work area to someone else's work area.

Section Seven

About the chemistry of the Gold master ingot[16] and it's gold content

It was common practice, and later became a tradition, when making the master ingots, that five gold coins are chosen from the best currencies such as the Ya'qubiya (Dinar of the Merinid ruler Abu Yusuf Ya'qub 656-685H), the Hafsi, the Sabti (Dinars of Ceuta)[17] and the Mardinshi (Dinar of Muhammad b. Sa'd 542-567H). These are examined carefully to insured their genuine nature. They are then smelted in the presence of the two mint witnesses and cast in to an ingot the length of a fist. It is then struck after curing with the seal of the mint and is placed in the die safe. It is taken out from there when a working copy is needed, but only in the presence of the two mint witnesses.

Everyone must be vigilant against those who would make a debased copy of the master ingot and find an accomplice to exchange it with the original. This actually happened a few years ago in the mint of Sijilmassa. When there was a sudden need to make a working copy, they agreed on the gold coins as was the tradition and smelted and cast them in the presence of the mint master and the two witnesses. When they needed to use this copy, it was measured against the master ingot in the die safe and a large discrepancy in its gold content was discovered that frightened the mint master and the two witnesses. This issue was then forwarded to the appropriate authorities who summoned the workers who smelted and cast the model. They were interrogated and one of them confessed that in the smelting process he took a piece of coal that was to be used in the smelt and threaded a piece of silver in its center. He then removed from the gold an equal amount to the silver and left it in the furnace. This was verified and a new model was made. This is one example of the treachery that must be guarded against. Let this profession be restricted only to those who know how to cast and are trustworthy.

Coupled with the master ingot is the touchstone. It should be a flat stone if at all possible, large and deep black without blemishes. According to experienced practitioners the touchstone should be glued with the fat of a goat’s head since this material enhances the results when the touchstone is used and it should be rubbed from time to time with spoiled almond oil. If it has a hook and a cover all the better. It should be kept away from cold places since the cold reduces the touchstone’s effectiveness. When it needs to be cleaned from deposits, it must be rubbed with iron dross, which will remove all deposits on it. If it is needed on a cold day, it should be warmed by being held, or placed in the armpit or in the back of the knee for a while. The mint master is never to relinquish the touchstone to avoid having any harm done to it and creating doubt in the master’s mind.

Section Eight

About the shape of the scale and its preservation with its weights and how to test it.

The scale is the judge between the payer and the payee. It should be controlled by making sure that the arms are straight with no curvature in them and making sure that the hole for the nail that holds up these arms below the indicator and not on the arms. This hole should have a long narrow shape and at a fair distance from the indicator. A hole is made, through which the nail is threaded. The arms are then placed on this nail and tested to make sure that they are properly centered. If the scale is properly constructed as shown, the measurement of weight will be quickly achieved in a proper manner.

The scale should have a strong hook by which it is hung on a somewhat long pole when it is used.

The plates of this scale should consist of unflattened half orbs and should be held up by strong silk threads if possible. The scale should be tested before being used to make sure that the plates are of equal weight.

The weights should be made of cast brass (Nuhas). They should be well cast and smooth and the brass should be pure with no alloys mixed into it. Care should be taken that the weight is proper, by adding brass or lead to it. The latter, however, makes the weights questionable.

Two sets of weight should be available in the mint. Both of which should be well measured and tested and agreed upon. One set should be a master set, which is placed in the safe and never taken out except when needed. And the other is for everyday use. These weights as well as those used by the minters should be tested every month or every week against the master weights. The master weights should have a stamp on them that distinguish them from the others and the mint master should never relinquish possession of these master weights nor of his personal weights, which he uses on a daily basis. If these weights do get out of the mint master’s sight, it is important to test them against the master set that is housed inside the safe to make sure no one has tampered with them.

One of the incidents of treachery was that a noble man once accused a merchant of treachery when he was about to weigh an item using grains of hay that he had prepared in his hand. When these were tested, it was found that they contained a thin iron rod that was threaded through the grain after it was moistened and then dried again. The iron thus became imbedded in the grain. The merchant would use these grains when he bought items from others, and would use regular grains when he sold to others. This could also be done with all sorts of grains as well.

We will come to the measures of the Ratil and the Awqiya and the Dinar and the Dirham and others later, God willing.

As to the locks of the mint and the safe, they must be well made and not easy to duplicate. The keys must be well done as well, and specifically for these locks. The mint master is never to relinquish these keys nor should the two witnesses either. They should not even be left in plain view to avoid having anyone duplicate them by sight.

It is imperative that a night-guard man the mint from its roof and monitor all its sides. He should have no reason to walk the grounds though. A guard should also be placed at the door to the mint in the daytime to make sure that the idle and the greedy do not enter. In God is Success.

Section Nine

About the furnace fire, since it is a necessity in this endeavor

Allah said:
“WHO HAS MADE FOR YOU OUT OF THE GREEN TREE FIRE AND LO, FROM IT YOU KINDLE”[18]
and He said in his glory:
“HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE FIRE THAT YOU KINDLE? DID YOU MAKE ITS TIMBER TO GROW OR DID WE MAKE IT? WE OURSELVES MADE IT FOR A REMINDER, AND A BOON FOR DESERT-DWELLERS”[19]

Al-Jahiz in his book of Animals[20] said: “Fire is the best helper and the greatest companion. If only God didn’t give it the power when it is rebellious, but that is what adds to its value and to its mention.

There is no other element on earth better or purer than fire. Fire is from the upper sky because water is over the earth and air is over the water and fire is over the air.

Moreover it is through fire that the inhabitants of earth live. Through fire the sun counteracts the coldness of the water and the earth. It is the refuge of all animals when they are in need for warmth and the glow they wake-up to and the light through which they distinguish in the day. All vapor that rises from the seas, waters and the base of mountains, and all clouds that hover above or dew that rises and then fall as a blessing over all plants and animals; all that, is activated and driven by the fires from below and the sun from above.

All that is on earth of springs of fire, tar, mercury, oil, and sulfur; and all kinds of ore such as gold, silver, brass and lead, would not melt, or be smelted and made into jewelry, nor would there be strength in its combination or a means to purify them if not for fire.

Among the descriptions that are used are: “A drink like fire” and “His face was like fire”. If one wants to describe some one as smart he would say: “He is fire itself”. When one describes a redness of a horse or that of gold, one says: “They is fire itself”.

Al-Jahiz[21] said: “Gold is a heap of rays, a complex breeze and a blinding light. It is a solid fire and red brimstone”. Al-‘Atabi said: “Red ceilings and carpets beautify a hall”. Bishar bin Bard said:

“A white Dame with a touch of red on her cheeks
And it’s this red that tames the roving eyes”.

It was also said cities are only built on water and pasture and woods. Woods are the source of fire through their every twig.

The fire that is used in the mint is made with wood and coal. It is not permitted for anyone to meddle with it. Fire is the paramount judge. It separates the pure from the impure.

Section Ten

About the rules that govern how the work of the mint is carried out

What is paid in the mint should either be gold or silver. Gold comes in two forms: raw and refined as in jewelry.

The method of working with the raw gold is to first pulverize it by hammering it. Then to sift it through a special sieve. What remains in the sieve is called nuggets. What goes through the sieve is gathered and mixed well with mercury. Whatever is coated with mercury is gold. The rest is discarded. The coated gold is then heated until the mercury detaches and the gold is separated. This gold is then mixed with the nuggets, weighed and then smelted. (If a small quantity of borax is added to the gold while smelting, it makes the gold more supple and easier to mold). Then the gold is poured out in a mold and weighed again to see how much was lost in the smelting process.

The gold is then formed into flat beds and placed between layers made of a mixture of fine red clay and refined salt[22]. The layers are then closed on all sides with this mixture and then stamped with a special mint stamp. The whole thing is then placed in the mint furnace on a terracotta sheet. The door is closed and a fire made from oak wood is started in the furnace.

The fire is kept steady for a specific time. It is important to make sure that the heat in the furnace is steady because a mistake in this regard can only be found out too late. Once the period of time - known to the mint workers - is done, the whole thing is removed from the furnace and allowed to cool on its own. The gold flat beds are then removed from their mold, washed and made into a ball. This ball is then dried, and weighed one more time to measure how much gold has been lost in the process. It is then melted again and cast into ingots in the presence of the mint master. These ingots are taken from their molds and allowed to dry without any substance added to them such as water or clay. Once they have cooled down in the presence of the mint master, he should examine them. If there is no waviness or bulges in them, and if the color is a rich red without blemishes, let him ring them with an iron rod that should be in his possession. The duller the ring the more pure the gold.

Then these ingots are tested against the touchstone. An ingot is rubbed against the touchstone until the color on the stone is as deep as that of the ingot. The master ingot is then rubbed against the touchstone until its color is duplicated on the stone. These two areas on the touchstone are then compared. The goal is to have these two areas be of similar color and, therefore, purity. If the ingots have a lighter color, they are returned to their owner to purify them further, but if they are of a deeper color they are not returned for fear that the owner will add base substances to them. That is forbidden in the Fiqh and a disgrace to him who does it.

This gold that is of the same purity as the master ingot is made into thin sheets, the thickness of which are that of the final Dinar. These sheets are then heated to a high degree and then taken out of the furnace and allowed to cool on their own. They are then tested to make sure there are no blemishes on them and that they are smooth and firm. If everything looks proper, these sheets are accepted and distributed to the minters, but if there are blemishes or other imperfections, they are returned to the owner to be purified further by him.

When working with refined jewelry gold no matter what its state, whether struck like Dinars and jewelry or unstruck, it is important to remove all stones and non-gold decorative items from it so that these do not mix with the gold when smelted which would make it harder to purify it. The process to work with this gold is similar to the one we have described above.

Silver comes in different forms as well. Either it comes as pieces admixed with copper or other base minerals, or it come as hollow pieces or molded jewelry. What is debased is placed in a container that is made of pulverized bone and plaster. One third is bone and two thirds are plaster[23] This container is placed in a terracotta bowl, which is placed in a furnace fed with coal fire. Some lead is added to the mixture while it is being fired to allow for better handling. A small piece is removed and tested to make sure it is smooth and without blemishes on top and has clear and clean holes on the bottom. This is how all coins are tested.

The color of silver hollow pieces and jewelry is examined. If it is white not blue and malleable and does not break, that is a good sign. A small area is sanded down and the piece is heated and allowed to cool down on its own. The sanded area is examined and if that is also white not blue and clear, it can be considered as pure.

Over purification is left to those who create gold and silver threads.

It shows good control if the mint master were to stamp every piece that the minter receives and then these pieces can be handed to the workers who will make these pieces into the final sheets from which coins are struck. These workers are obliged keep track of all that they have been given. The mint master is to monitor them and if anyone is found to be cheating he is to be punished and not forgiven. He is to be made an example to others.

Section Eleven

The first thing that the minter does to a gold or silver sheet is to smooth its edges. He then heats it and flattens it with a mallet. He then heats it up again and again until it is very supple. He then cuts it into pieces according to his knowledge of what is needed for a Dinar. These are then tested and weighed against a master flan and only then are these accepted as flans to be struck as coins. If it is to be Dinars, he should make these flans round and to the given size as well. After that he should flatten these flans one at a time with a mallet. Never two or three at a time. This should be done properly. These flans are then stacked forty or fifty in a stack and they are held between the minter’s fingers and the edges are struck lightly with the mallet three times then rotated are re-struck repeatedly until the shape is well rounded. The flans are then heated again and placed in stacks one at a time. He then washes these flans and hands them to the mint master to be weighed.

The mint master goes through these flans and examines them carefully. If he finds any of them lighter than usual, or not round, or if it is discolored, cracked, or broken, or not properly formed – one area thin and the other thick, he should mark one of the sides of this flan and return it to be redone. This process can sometimes yield several dinars from a single error flan.

When it comes to striking the accepted flans the dies should be carefully placed to assure that the strike is full and centered because the edge of the Dinar is its guard. If the strike is off-flan then the minter would have struck an inferior coin which may not be used for loans[24], because the law does not address except what is cropped from the margin and this margin is defined as an area surrounding the strike.

The minter should rotate the dies because that prolongs the lives of these dies and prevents them from cracking or breaking quickly. If he doesn’t rotate them they will usually crack too soon and that causes hardship to the die engraver. If striking is continued without rotation the pin of the base may get enmeshed which would make further striking impossible.[25]

When working with dirhams, the minter is to make the flans square and straight edged. They should also be flat and it is better that he finalizes his preparation before they are tested. He should stack them and square them with his mallet and then put the final touches on those flans before sending them over to the mint master for testing. The mint master is to examine these flans one at a time or to test a sample of them. He should make sure that none of these flans is cracked, or bent, or grainy, or wavy, or thick on one side and thin on the other. He should count these flans until they amount to what was ordered. He is then to return these to be struck as dirhams. After they are struck they should be heated again and cleaned to remove any residue from the strike. They should then be buffed and dried. This should also be done to the Dinars after striking.

The mint master should also examine the dinars and the dirhams after they are struck to make sure that the dies were well aligned with no borkadge, and that they were not too hardly struck so that the flan is week, or the obverse shadows on the reverse. All these are errors that detract from the coinage.

One of the essential tasks of the mint master is to examine the different additives that are normally mixed with the gold and silver before they are made into flans[26]. The amount that is being added to the 100 awqiya should be as specified. He should be vigilant and assure that the minters do not add more and pocket the difference in pure gold or silver. If doubt is raised, then the flans are to be tested again. If the minter is aware that there is someone who will examine his work and hold him accountable, he would avoid making any mistakes that may cost him his job.

Section Twelve

Building the mint’s profit

In the past the residual of the mint was used to purchase gold and silver dust or jewelry or refined gold and silver from the Sultan to be struck as dinars and dirhams. These were used to pay the laborers at the mint and the mint master used the remainder for mint and personal business. This was done away with and the mint masters implemented a fee structure, which was known as Zakat or contribution to the mint or simply a fee. This is presently set at one and six eighth of a dinar to every one hundred dinars or two dirhams[27] to each awqiya of silver. Many have taken advantage of this structure to start private commerce in gold and silver at lower prices, which has reduced the profit of the mint.

Mawlana the martyred Caliph the deceased prince of the Muslims Abu al-Hasan, may God have mercy on him, wanted to place one thousand struck dinars and one thousand awqiya of struck dirhams at the safe in the mint of Fas. These were to be used as capital to purchase gold and silver in all forms, which would then be refined and struck and used in turn to pay the expenses of the mint. Everything was to be accounted for properly by the mint master and the two witnesses. The residual of this operation was to be paid back at the end of each month with a final accounting at the end of the year. I hope this will be implemented by his successors, may God render them victorious and eternalize their kingdom. May this build their treasury since it will benefit all Muslims.

All that we have explained should be the work of only those who know all types of coinage and their exchange and market values. It is better that the profit of this business be to the mint rather than to those who dabble in gold and silver for their private accounts. These have reduced the profit of the mint and they have even been found with forgeries, but they paid their way out of trouble. If this were known to the people, they would begin to hoard their coins. God is all knowing and he knows what is right in his mercy.


[1] Decay

[2] Muslim religious tax

[3] Should have been Qasrid and not Yusufid

[4] Word missing from the manuscript.

[5] He makes the mistake again here which leads me to think that maybe I am reading this wrong. can someone double check me? Shouldn't he have included Qasri and excluded Yusuf?

[6] Dar al-Darb.

[7] In my understanding the reference here is not to value but rather to weight

[8] These were two separate walled parts of the city of Fas.

[9] Nazir al-Sikka

[10] Shahiday al-Sikka

[11] al-Fattah

[12] al-Sakkakyn

[13] The process being described here is a purchase contract.

[14] Al-Rahman 9 (As interpreted by A.J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, Simon & Schuster New York 1996, p.251

[15] The limits of the coin are seen as the edge of the die. Since an off strike makes the edge larger on one side and off the flan on the other, one could conceivably clip the coin to the edge of the die on the generious side and still stay within the coin parameters on that portion. It is, therefore, a coin that is suspect and cannot be used in exchange

[16] Imam al-Zahab

[17] these were struck by the independent rulers of that city, theŽAzafis.

[18] Ya Sin 80 (As interpreted by A.J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, Simon & Schuster New York 1996, p.148

[19] The Terror 70-74 (As interpreted by A.J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, Simon & Schuster New York 1996, p.256

[20] al-Jahiz, His most famous book 'Kitab al-Hayawan' (Book of Animals) is an encyclopedia of seven large volumes. He was rewarded with 5,000 gold dinars from the court official to whom he dedicated the Book of Animals. Kitab al-Hayawan contains an amazing array of scientific information that was not to be fully developed until the first half of the twentieth century. Al-Jahiz discusses his observation in detail on the social organization of ants, animal communication and psychology, and the effects of diet and climate. He described how ants store and preserve grain in their nests during the rainy season. He suggested an ingenious way of expelling mosquitoes and flies from a room based on his observation that some insects are responsive to light. Al-Jahiz expounded on the degree of intelligence of animal species and insects. He also observed that certain parasites adapt to the color of their host, and expounded on the effects of diet and climate not only on men but also on animals and plants. Eighty-seven folios of the Book of Animals (about one-tenth of the original text by al-Jahiz) are preserved in Ambrosiana Library in Milan. This collection (a copy of the original) dates from the 14th century and bears the name of the last owner 'Abd al-Rahman al-Maghribi and the year 1615. These folios of the Book of Animals contain more than 30 illustrations in miniature.

[21] Ibid

[22] These ingridents are specifically chosen to react with the impurities that are suspected in the gold and extract them from it.

[23] These containers were made of different ingredients depending on the metal being purified. The ingredients are chosen to interact with the expected impure metals and extract them from the silver or gold thus leaving the precious metal in a purer form.

[24] It was forbidden to crop a coin beyond a specified margin around the strike. However, when a flan is struck off-center, the margin on the generous side is excessive and anyone cropping that end would not be charged with a crime as long as the margin of the strike is respected. This renders such a coin suspect and would preclude it from being used in any legally controlled transactions such as loans.

[25] I am unsure how to interpret this section other than that the pin that holds the die to the base may wear through the die and destroy it.

[26] Mention was made earlier to lead being added to silver to make it more flexible.

[27] These are the much lighter Merinid dirham.

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