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CNG Islamic Auction 2

Lot nuber 7

Pre-reform issues, Arab-Sasanian. Bishr b. Marwan. fl. AH 73-75 / AD 692-694. AR Drachm (27mm, 2.66 g, 2h). ‘Orans’ type. Aqola (al-Kufa) mint. Dated AH 73 (AD 692/3). Near VF.

CNG Islamic Auction 2
Lot: 7.
 Estimated: $ 7 500

Arab-Sasanian and other Pre-reform issues, Silver

Sold For $ 16 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Go to Live

Pre-reform issues, Arab-Sasanian. Bishr b. Marwan. fl. AH 73-75 / AD 692-694. AR Drachm (27mm, 2.66 g, 2h). ‘Orans’ type. Aqola (al-Kufa) mint. Dated AH 73 (AD 692/3). Obverse margin: bismillah - la ilaha illa Allah wa - hdahu Muhammad ra - sul Allah / Reverse field: Standing bearded figure facing, wearing long elaborate robe, flanked by two smaller figures wearing plain robes, their heads turned to face the central figure; mint and date in Pahlawi to right and left respectively. Treadwell A4 (same obverse die); Album 27.1; Malek, Arab-Sasanian p. 93. Evenly clipped. Near VF. Very rare, the first year in which these ‘Orans’ drachms were issued.

This is an example of the very first issue of these drachms on which the date is written conventionally in words, while coins dated dated AH 74 and 75 invariably bear dates written in Pahlawi numerals. This use of numerals is exceptional for Arab-Sasanian drachms and is almost entirely confined to the mint of Aqola (the following lot is an excessively rare exception).

The precise identity of the figures on the reverse remains uncertain. It is generally accepted that the central figure is in an attitude of prayer with his hands raised, while those flanking him are listening or otherwise attendant upon him. From this, there is also general consensus that the central figure must either represent an imam or, possibly, a more specific Muslim figure of authority. Bishr b. Marwan, the Caliph’s brother, is the individual whose name appears on the coin, but Walker suggested that this standing figure might be the Caliph himself. However, Walker’s suggestion was partly motivated by his mistaken belief that this reverse type copies a Byzantine gold solidus of Heraclius, where the emperor is depicted as a standing figure flanked by his two sons. In fact, the Orans design comes from a modification of Sasanian and Arab-Sasanian drachms, with the Orans figure replacing the Zoroastrian fire-altar. Thus rather than being a reinterpretation of an Imperial dynastic image, as Walker supposed, these drachms are a relatively simple transformation of a Sasanian religious scene into a Muslim one.

Based on a very detailed study of the iconography of the reverse, Treadwell has plausibly suggested that the figure on the reverse is in fact the khatib, seen here in the act of delivering the Friday prayers. These prayers would have included the shahada, which appears in the obverse margin, and which can now be interpreted alongside the Orans image itself. On this analysis, the scene on the reverse of this coin provides us with a visual depiction of how Friday prayers were conducted only a couple of generations after the passing of the Prophet himself.

The final winners of all CNG Islamic Auction 2 lots will be determined during the live sale that will be held on 27 October 2022.

Winning bids are subject to a 22.5% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 25% for all others.

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