GOVERNORS OF ‘UMAN, TEMP. ‘UMAR B. MUHAMMAD (fl. 357-358h). Donative dinar, ‘Uman 357h. Obverse: In outer border: traces of ‘good luck’ word visible at 12 o’clock. Reverse: In field: Surah al-Ikhlas in five lines; In outer border: traces of ‘good luck’ words visible at 12 o’clock and 9 o’clock. Weight: 3.89g. References: Oman -; cf NGSA auction 8, 24 November 2014, lot 280 for a similar coin naming ‘Umar b. Muhammad and the Qarmatid ‘Council of Six’; also SARC auction 25, 19 May 2016, lot 460 for an anonymous dirham dated 358h with similar legends. Mount removed from edge, and has also been made round with outer borders partially lacking, otherwise better than very fine with a few minor marks and of the highest rarity, apparently unpublished. This remarkable and unpublished coin sheds new light on the complex history of Oman during the late 350s, when the Buwayhids, the Qarmatids and at least two local rulers were competing for power in the region. Describing the events of the year 354h, the historian Miskawayh records that the local ruler in ‘Uman, a freed slave named Nafi‘ who had received his liberty from the Wajihid ruler Yusuf b. Wajih…‘agreed to enter the allegiance of Mu‘izz al-dawla, let his name be mentioned in the khutbah, and let it be inscribed on dirhams and dinars. Nafi‘ agreed to all of this…but when the local people learned what he had done, they rose against him and drove him out. They led in the followers of the Qarmatids, to whom they surrendered their city.’ (Miskawayh 212). In 355h, Miskawayh further reports that a Qarmatid official named ‘Ali b. Ahmad contrived to make himself local ruler in ‘Uman. Coins were struck in ‘Uman during this year which name ‘Ali b. Ahmad alongside the Qarmatid ‘Council of Six.’ Later that year, however, Nafi‘ appealed to the Buwayhid ruler Mu‘izz al-dawla, who sent a naval force to ‘Uman under the command of Abu’l-Faraj Muhammad b. ‘Abbas. Abu’l-Faraj appears to have put down the popular uprising, defeated and expelled the Qarmatids, and re-established Buwayhid control there. Thus when Abu’l-Faraj left ‘Uman in 356h following the death of Mu‘izz al-dawla, he was able to leave the province in the hands of a local Omani named Ibn Nabhan. No coins of Ibn Nabhan are known, and without Abu’l-Faraj’s army to support him it seems that his control of ‘Uman lasted only a matter of months. Coin evidence shows that another governor named ‘Umar b. Muhammad had come to power there by 357h. For the years 357h and 358h, it seems that four different issues of gold and silver coins were produced in ‘Uman, apparently struck in the following order: (1) Coins citing ‘Umar b. Muhammad, dated 357h and naming ‘Umar alongside the Qarmatid ‘Council of Six’ (known from a unique gold donative dinar with similar ‘good luck’ words to the present coin); (2) Anonymous coins, with purely religious legends and extra ‘good luck’ words in the outer margin (struck in 357h and 358h). These include the unique gold dinar offered here and a similar silver dirham dated 358h. Both have the kalima in the obverse field and the surah al-Ikhlas on the reverse, but name neither the caliph nor the Qarmatid Council, nor yet any local governor at all; (3) Coins citing ‘Umar b. Muhammad, dated 358h (known only in silver), acknowledging the Buwayhids Rukn al-dawla and ‘Adud al-dawla alongside the Abbasid caliph al-Muti‘; (4) Coins citing the local ruler Hallaj b. Hatim (358-362h), known in silver dated 358h, 359h, 360h and 361h. Like ‘Umar b. Muhammad’s coins of 358h, these also acknowledge the Buwayhids Rukn al-dawla and ‘Adud al-dawla alongside the Abbasid caliph al-Muti‘. ‘Umar b. Muhammad is not mentioned in Miskawayh’s account, but his rapid volte-face in switching allegiance from the Qarmatids to the Buwayhids may suggest that he was an independent local ruler, rather than being an appointee of either. His earliest coins (above, 1) were struck in 357h and acknowledged the Qarmatids, a move which may have been intended to win popular support against the Buwayhid governor Ibn Nabhan. His public support for the Qarmatids can have lasted a few months at most, however, because he also issued entirely anonymous coins including the present unique gold dinar (above, 2) later in 357h and also in 358h. Perhaps by this stage ‘Umar had appreciated that the Buwayhid withdrawal would only be temporary, and that issuing anonymous coins might avoid upsetting local pro-Qarmatid feeling without antagonizing the Buwayhids. During the first part of 358h he seems to have realised that he had little choice but to acknowledge Buwayhid authority if he was to stay in power in ‘Uman, and so issued dirhams citing Rukn al-dawla, ‘Adud al-dawla, and the Abbasid caliph (above, 3). Later that year, however, he was evidently replaced by Hallaj b. Hatim (above, 4); it is not known whether he was deposed by the Buwayhids or, perhaps, forced out in the face of local opposition after his swift abandoning of the Qarmatid cause. At first sight it seems strange that ‘Umar should have issued a handsome donative gold dinar such as this, with its broad margins and extra ‘good luck’ words, entirely anonymously. Donative coins were, of course, intended to be presentation pieces bestowed as a sign of favour to their recipients, and it is remarkable that such a coin should not name the ruler who presented them. But events in ‘Uman two years before ‘Umar’s brief grab for power offer a hint as to possible reasons for this. In 355h ‘Ali b. Ahmad came to power through the time-honoured method of offering the army a larger gratuity than his rival, ‘Abd al-Wahab, in exchange for their support. Miskawayh reports that ‘Ali b. Ahmad told one division of the army: ‘If you go to ‘Abd al-Wahab he will decline to admit you, and will certainly not give you more than four months’ pay. But what say you to entering my service, in which case I shall give you the eight months’ pay, and the governorship shall be mine?’ They consented, and he handed them the eight months’ pay’. If ‘Umar b. Muhammad had come to power by similar means, we can imagine that he might have struck special coins to pay his troops for their loyalty. Once it became clear that associating himself on the coinage with the Qarmatids would be inadvisable, it would have been eminently prudent for ‘Umar to strike the rest of the coins which made up their bonus entirely anonymously. This would have allowed him to establish his authority with the army by presenting them with suitably impressive and attractive coins, while also avoiding offending either the Buwayhids or the Qarmatids during the early stages of his rule. It would also account for the great rarity of these coins today, because those involved in ‘Umar’s rise to power will hardly have wished to be publicly associated with him after his fall.
Estimate: GBP 50000 - 80000