Why does some Muslim money feature crosses?

Like the following ones: enter image description here

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Was the cross an early Muslim symbol?

  • 3
    What makes you think that's "muslim money"? Do you know where and when it's from, specifically?
    – Spencer
    Oct 20, 2018 at 16:50
  • @Spencer. The inscriptions are in Arabic.
    – fdb
    Oct 20, 2018 at 16:53
  • 8
    @fdb Then, the inscriptions and their translations should be edited into the question.
    – Spencer
    Oct 20, 2018 at 17:00
  • 7
    Not that Arabic inscriptions prove religion: a famous gold coin from Offa of Mercia has an attempt at an Arabic inscription in addition to Latin. An East African banknote from 1938 and signed by my grandfather has English, Arabic and Gujarati
    – Henry
    Oct 21, 2018 at 0:25
  • amazed to see Gujarati on African note @Henry thanks! Jan 21, 2019 at 11:10

3 Answers 3


The top picture is quite obviously a coin with a crude depiction of a seventh century "byzantine" emperor holding a globe with a cross on top. The early Muslim coins issued in former Roman territories were obviously based on Roman coins which the subject people were more familiar with, or else made with reused and modified Roman coin dies.

In 636 the Arabs defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of the Yarmuk. Jerusalem surrendered to the Caliph Umar the next year. As the circulating coinage in Arab-ruled Syria and Palestine wore out, there was an urgent need for fresh supplies of money.

Local authorities began striking copies of the Byzantine copper follis. The prosperous Jordan valley town of Scythopolis (Beit She’an, Israel) issued a heavy follis copying the coins of long-dead Justin II (reigned 565-574). Most other towns issued light coppers of four to six grams, closely following the types of the current emperor in Constantinople (Heraclius until 641, then Constans II until 668). As the weight standard of Byzantine coppers declined, Arab imitations kept pace, but the workmanship and quality of the imitations is often better.


In fact, I dimly remember an account of some dispute about coins between Emperor Justinian II (first reign 685-695) and the Caliph that was used to explain why the Caliph started issuing coins with a new, more Muslim design, but I don't know if that story is true.

  • 4
    +1, if only for the "quite obviously" in the first line. To my ignorant eye, this looked more like a playmobil character than a byzantine emperor.
    – Evargalo
    Oct 24, 2018 at 8:37

It is because the Umayyads either copied Byzantine coins, or reused Byzantine dies, changing the text.

  • 6
    Your answer could really use some sources to back it up. Also, if they were able to both remove existing text and stamp on new text, why would they not also remove the cross?
    – Giter
    Oct 20, 2018 at 21:35
  • @Giter. There are actually early Umayyad coins where the two arms of the cross have been scratched out, leaving only an upright. But not everyone was so scrupulous.
    – fdb
    Oct 21, 2018 at 8:59

It is because it the early khalifs did not consider themselves different from other Christians. The early believers (the term "Muslims" used for themselves) were not considered by others (Christians and Jews) as markedly different from themselves.

It was only Abd al-Malik, in about 691, who really began to single out "Islam" as a different religion. Abd al-Malik wanted the Arabs to have a religion of their own - with a book, a prophet and a revelation - since he saw that the Byzantines and the Sasanians had that prior to him. Abd al-Malik saw the nation-building qualities of a religion. So he started the process to make the believers-movement into what later became know as Islam.

In 691 Abd al-Malik introduces the term "Muslim", "Islam", Muhammed (as a prophet and no longer in reference to Jesus - the anointed one) and Mecca. Part in this process was to mint new coins with a new message, starting in 693. Abd al-Malik left his Christianity, first by mocking the Byzantines by using coins with crosses without horizontal line (the believers movement was theologically close to the Arian heresy - with their misunderstanding of the description of the one god as a trinity). Abd al-Malik then proceeded to invent the idea of not having portrait (idols) on coins and removed the cross.

At about the same time Abd al-Malik built the dome of the rock in Jerusalem. The inscriptions in the dome are polemic against the idea of the trinity and refers to Jesus as (only) a messenger (that is not god).

Good reads are:
Stephen Shoemaker - Creating the Quran (2022)
Robert G. Hoyland - everything he has written.

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