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Ancient Nomos Art is a museum of galleries exhibiting ancient coins and ancient mint maps. The coin gallery displays the diverse art and history of hand-crafted ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian and Medieval coinage. The ancient mints mapping gallery features Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Asia Minor and Medieval mint city regions and territories. Visitor's are welcome to explore, study and enjoy Ancient Nomos Art.

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Medieval, Zangids – 1176 AD

al-Salih Isma'il

From Ancient Galleries

Medieval, Zangids – 1176 AD

Obverse: First part of Kalima and name and titles of Abbasid caliph in five lines.
Reverse: Kalima, Salawat, citing the caliph al-Mustadi and name of al-Salih Isma'il in five lines.

Obv: Start of the Kalima inscription. Allah named at the top followed by the title of Abbasid caliph (regional overlord); all in five lines of early Thuluth calligraphy. Rev: Continuation of the Kalima and Salawat. Again, Allah named at the top followed by citing the name of King (local area ruler) al-Salih Isma’il al-Malik; all in five line of early Thuluth calligraphy.


The historical information for the above Medieval Zangids Dynasty silver dirham issue by al-Salih Isma’il exhibits are currently in review. Please come back to visit this item again in the next few weeks.

Thank you for your patience and for visiting ANAM.



This interesting coin is a rare example the Zangids Dynasty silver dirham coinage, thought to be minted exclusively at the Halab mint, commencing in AH 571 (1176 AD), however, no mint location has been indicated on the coin. The Zangids coinage were known for their fine early Thuluth calligraphy, exquisitely engraved metalwork and very carefully struck dirhams from the finest silver. This medieval Zangids dirham coin was created by a true master Engraver and exemplifies early Thuluth Arabic script at its finest. Measuring only 17 mm in diameter, the most striking aspect of this coin’s Thuluth writing is the gem-like engraving, careful execution and amazing eye for precise calligraphic detail.

The image below details the Thuluth calligraphy as engraved on the dirham.


Thuluth script style is considered by many to be the most difficult and challenging of all Arabic scripts, under normal writing conditions. However, under the tiny micro-size conditions of die engraving metalwork, Thuluth calligraphy becomes even more challenging. Developed in the 9th century AD, Arabic Thuluth script and calligraphy is commonly known today as the “mother of scripts” and is considered the most difficult to perfect and the hardest Arabic script to learn. This well preserved dirham specimen depicts a distinctive early Thuluth style of cursive lettering, flowing line work that may often touch or interlace.

One of the unusual stylistic features of the above Zangids dirham is the “fork-like” (Y shaped) ascenders that terminate nearly all of the vertical lines, rather than the usual “barbed” head ascenders. Given the size limitations of this coin’s diameter, the metalwork by the engraver/die-cutter very successfully managed to maintain smooth, free flowing letters only 3mm in height and 2mm in width. This master engraver/die-cutters success is a testament to his/her knowledge of Thuluth 1/3 proportions, 1/3 slope requirements and cursive interlacing, a likely result of the calligraphers pen shapes and sizes.

Dirham Calligraphy Script Notes:

1. The obverse and reverse sides show Allah named at the top, but the second line in Kalima is read first.
2. The third line on the reverse is missing the standard Kalima finish “wa sallam” stating, “and greeted (him).”
3. The fifth line on the reverse is written without the vowel letter y after the glottal aleph in the name “Isma’l” thus his name reads as “Ism’l.”
4. As-Salih Ismaʿil al-Malik (1163–1181) was an emir of Damascus from 1163 through 1174 AD and emir of Aleppo from 1174 through 1184 AD. He was the son of Nur ad-Din Maḥmūd Zengī.

According to Stephan Album, there has yet to be a proper numismatic study of the silver and gold Zangids coinage and the Zangids Thuluth calligraphic coin die styles.


لا اله الا
وحده لا شرك له
المستضئ بأمر الله
امير المؤمنين


محمد رسول
صلى الله عليه
الملك الصالح
اسمعيل بن

The ANAM Special Features gallery examines the extremely fine Zangids Dynasty coinage early Thuluth calligraphy, the exquisitely engraved Arabic script metalwork and the very artful and well preserved silver dirham attributes. To view the early Thuluth calligraphy study in the Special Features gallery, please use the following link: Early Thuluth Calligraphy Special Features Exhibit

Value: Half dirham. Metal: AR Silver. Weight: 1.44 grams. Mint: Aleppo (Halab) mint, but no mint or date in legends. Date: Struck commencing in AH 571 (1176 AD).
Attribution: Stephan Album, Islamic Coinage Checklist, 3rd edition, 1853; Islamic Coinage and Values, 1268.

Legend, Documentation and Attribution