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Travel Guide to

Muslim Europe

W i t h t ra ve l w ri t e r a n d E u ro p e a n M u s l i m h e ri t a g e s p e c i a l i s t Tharik Hussain

The Vikings and the Muslims


ast month saw several were Islamic. A year the fascinating later, near Stockholm’s claim by Annika Arlanda airport, 470 coins Larsson of minted between the 7-9th Uppsala University in Sweden century, from places as far that patterns thought to be afield as Baghdad, Viking on funeral clothing Damascus, Persia and N. could be Kufic inscriptions Africa were found in a 9th reading ‘Allah’ and ‘Ali’. The century Iron Age burial. In fragments made of silver and fine silk total, more than 100,000 Islamic coins thread had to come from the east, have been unearthed in the region. according to the researcher whose These coins are said to have been part discovery made headlines across the of ‘booty’ acquired by Vikings when globe. raiding Muslim lands or the result of Larsson came across the words when trade. According to 10th-century she was reconstructing fragments Muslim historian and geographer, Al historically excavated at Birka and Mas’udi, whilst the Vikings developed a Gamla Uppsala for a Viking Couture fondness for the silver coins and fine exhibition. The patterns she was silk cloth - as seen with the Uppsala examining had previously been University discovery - the Muslims had dismissed as typical Viking ones. a fondness for their hats and coats The discovery is part of a long line of made from the ‘fur of black foxes’. In al finds that suggest Vikings and Muslims Mas’udi’s hometown of Baghdad - one had a history of cultural exchange. The Estonian Museum of History is The Estonian Museum ofhistory in a quaint, typically Nordic yellow building with a pointed roof. It was once the Tallinn’s Great Guild Hall, and now houses fascinating artefacts concerning the history of the Baltic and Nordic people. One of the most interesting collections is a set of coins displayed on blue felt. These are silver coins minted by the Abbasid, Samanid and Karakhanid Muslim empires, with the earliest dating back to the 8th century. Islamic coins are more common in Northern Europe than one might think. In the 2007 ‘Vale of York Horde’, amongst 617 coins found,


November 2017

Viking funeral clothing

of the most culturally advanced cities at the time - the Vikings were seen as ‘Merchant Warriors’ and known as the ‘Rus’ people, (which some link to Roslagen, near east Uppsala). ‘Rus’ or ‘Rusiyya’ is also the name used by the 10th-century traveller, and fellow Baghdadi, Ahmed Ibn Fadlan, when describing the Vikings he saw trading in the Volga region. Ibn Fadlan was largely unimpressed by the Norseman, especially with their personal hygiene, yet he marvels at their appearance, describing them as ‘perfect physical specimens’ who were as tall as ‘date palms’. The Viking contact with European Muslims was less convivial. The Moors referred to them as ‘Al-Majus’ or fire worshippers and often had to fend off their famous raids. However, after one such raid, a fascinating incident shows how sometimes Islamic artefacts ended up in Scandinavia because they were sent as gifts. In 844 CE, the governor of Lisbon, Wahballah Ibn Hazm describes a

Islam Today issue 53 November 2017  

A monthly magazine on faith, belief, community, interfaith, health and more...