ABBASID, AL-MUQTADIR (295-320h). Donative dinar with broad margins, Makka 320h. Obverse: In field: la ilaha illa | Allah wahdahu | la sharik lahu | amir al-mu’minin. Reverse: In field: lillah | Muhammad | rasul | Allah | al-Muqtadir billah. Weight: 4.82g (including loop mount). With contemporary gold loop-mount at 12 o’clock on reverse, good very fine and of the highest rarity, apparently unpublished. This beautifully struck donative dinar is the only recorded example of such a coin issued at the Holy City of Makka. The broad margins not only make them visually distinctive but also allow the coin to be mounted, as here, without damaging the legends. Many surviving examples are found pierced or loop-mounted for wear as jewellery, because special coins such as this would have been distributed by an important personage as a mark of favour. They conferred prestige which the recipient would wish to display publicly. Presentation coins with broad margins were introduced during the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil, with the earliest known examples dating from the 230s. Almost all Abbasid caliphs thereafter issued them for the next hundred years, and the tradition continued afterwards under the Buwayhids. Most were struck by the caliph himself, almost invariably at Surra man ra’a or Baghdad, but regional rulers occasionally struck donative coins also and Saffarid, Dulafid, Sajid and Samanid issues are also known. The caliph al-Muqtadir was renowned for his extravagance and also notorious for being more concerned with the palace, court and harem than with matters of state. Unsurprisingly, he struck a greater number and variety of donative coins than any other Abbasid caliph, virtually all of which were issued at Baghdad. This coin was struck in the final year of his reign, when the Abbasids had lost North Africa and barely held sway over Egypt, while in Baghdad there was not even enough money in the treasury to pay the city guards. But in the East and Arabia the caliph was still formally recognised, even by dynasties which were virtually autonomous. One such dynasty was the Ya‘furids of the Yemen, who continued to strike gold coins citing al-Muqtadir and his successors long after the Abbasid caliph had any direct influence in the region. Their coins differed both in weight and design from standard Abbasid gold dinars, being much lighter (about 1.95g) and with shorter inscriptions in the fields, but the Abbasid caliph was the only person named explicitly on them. In 317h, three years before this coin was struck, both Makka and Madina had been attacked by the Qarmatids of Bahrayn under their ruler Abu Tahir, who massacred pilgrims and inhabitants alike, polluted the Well of Zamzam with corpses, and carried off the Black Stone. These attacks outraged the Muslim world, as well as being a humiliating blow to the prestige of the Abbasids, who were meant to protect the Holy Places. It is thought that the Qarmatids believed that by destroying Makka they would hasten the coming of the Mahdi, who would usher in the seventh and final age of the world. However, Abu Tahir mistakenly believed that he had recognised a certain young Persian as the Mahdi, and in 319h entrusted this individual with the government of Bahrain. This proved disastrous; the young man in question began to restore ancient Iranian religious practices including the worship of fire, publicly cursing all prophets, and began to execute leading Qarmatids. Abu Tahir had him condemned as an imposter and executed after less than three months, but the damage was done. Dissent and infighting broke out between the various Qarmatid factions, and Qarmatid power in the region was considerably weakened. This handsome presentation dinar was struck just one year after these events, after which the Qarmatids ceased to pose a threat to the Abbasids for several years. Unlike the coins of the Ya‘furids, it is struck to the standard Abbasid weight standard of 4.25g, and names the caliphal heir Abu’l-‘Abbas on the obverse, marking it out as a caliphal issue rather than one struck by a local amir. Al-Muqtadir himself did not visit Makka in this year, nor does it seem that the Abbasids themselves inflicted a defeat on the Qarmatids at this time. Nevertheless, it seems that pilgrims were once again able to travel to Makka in this year, under Abbasid protection and without being molested by the Qarmatids, and perhaps this was enough for al-Muqtadir to strike a special presentation coin to commemorate the restoration of Abbasid authority in Makka.
Estimate: GBP 70000 - 100000