Sultan Yamin-ud-Daula Abul Qasim Mahmud ibn Sebuktigin of Ghazni (r. 998-1030 C.E.) was a zealous Islamic ruler whose entire reign was spent in expanding the authority of his kingdom on the decadent structure of the Abbasid Caliphate taking over territories captured from his ancestors' suzerains, the Samanids in Central Asia, the Shia' Buyid Empire's remnants in Eastern Iran and the kingdoms south of Hindukush into the Indian sub-continent.
Mahmud almost would have taken over the Abbasid Caliphate but was restrained by the nominal suzerainty he owed to the Abbasid Caliph Al-Qadir Billah (991-1031 C.E.), who ruled the declining caliphate contemporary to Mahmud's period. Caliph Al-Qadir appeased Mahmud by recognizing his rising status in the world of realpolitik and upgrading his title from Amir to Sultan in 992 C.E.
Caliph Al-Qadir's ideological war with the Fatimids Shias of Egypt also gave Mahmud a valid reason to attack both the Ismaili kingdom of Multan as well as the Shia Buyid rulers of Eastern Persia.
Mahmud was most probably inspired by the 'Golden Age' of Islam which has just passed by his reign. This is evident from his efforts to fashion his capital city, Ghazni in central-east Afghanistan in the mould of Abbasid Baghdad, enriching the capital city with his newfound riches and treasures plundered from kingdoms as far as the Caspian Sea to the Gangetic plains of North India.
As Mahmud's vast plundering raids increased, they brought him enormous riches especially in the form of bullion and coins of these foreign realms. He was thus obliged as a good Islamic ruler to issue coins in the joint name of the Caliph and him in the newly instituted tradition of Sikka (Coinage). Additionally, he was also obliged by Islamic law to distribute these spoils termed as Ghanima among his victorious soldiers after deducting one-fifth of the same as the traditional tax of Khams to be transmitted to the Caliph's treasury, the Bait-ul-Maal at Baghdad, though it is highly likely that in view of the Caliph's weak status Mahmud would have withheld this tribute to the Leader of the Faithful.
However, like all conquerors before him, the best example being Alexander the Great, Mahmud would have converted the captured treasuries of his opponents into his own coinage thus expanding the volume of Ghaznavid currency exponentially.
Thus, the coin above represents the basic raison d'etre of Ghaznavid currency as well as its propensity to survive the long period that has passed by since Mahmud's era.
If we look at the weight of the coin, it is fashioned on the Greek drachm, thus the name dirham which is not the only Greco-Roman legacy connected to this Islamic currency. The coin's legend begins with the word Adl (Arabic for Justice), which was a term used by Abbasid Caliphs on their coinage as well. The term is philologically similar to the Latin Ideal (Adl also lends to the term, Adil to describe a just ruler as well as recalls the English description 'ideal and just' ruler) which again points to the use of the phrase inspired from Greco-Roman coinage where the rulers were supposed to dispense Justice. As a further pointer, I have shown a commemorative coin of Livia 'Julia Augusta' with the image/legend 'IUSTITIA' issued by her son, Emperor Tiberius.
Another highlight of the dirham illustrated here is that it gives the major title of Mahmud, Yamin-ud-daula (literally ~ right hand of the realm) which again point to the borrowing of the concept of Satraps of Greco-Roman rulers both in ancient and early medieval times. In fact, Mahmud's kingdom comprised of Eastern Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan and North-West India which matched the ancient Satrapal kingdom of Greco-Bactria which rose by breaking away from the Seleucid Empire just like Mahmud grew on the remains of the Abbasid Caliphate.
Thus, this single dirham of Mahmud of Ghazna helps us understand the various theoretical underpinnings of his tumultous reign which though controversial and bloody, contributed immensely to the History of the world, adding a new thrust to Islam's growth in the Indian sub-continent.
I thank Stan Goron, Senior Numismatist and Author of the catalogue, 'COINS OF THE INDIAN SULTANATES' for his help in deciphering this coin especially in view of lack of resources like the Tuebingen Catalogue
A good online catalogue for Ghaznavid coinage can be seen on this link
|Roman Commemorative Coin in honor of Livia 'Julia Augusta' with the legend 'Justicia' issued by her son, Emperor Tiberius|