Vikings and Islam and the relationship between the two

Vikings and Islam and the relationship between the two

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Back to March 2015 ; news about the discovery of a ring found on a Viking woman in an ancient grave with the inscription ; ‘For/For Allah’ erupted in the mainstream media. The mystery surrounding how these very different cultures came to be intertwined has intrigued and continues to intrigue many. Some call it the “mystery ring”, some actively discuss ; and debated questions and made theories about how or why the ring arrived in Sweden. It should be noted, however, that this is not the only documented contact between the Vikings and Islam or rather the Vikings’ connection to Islamic civilization.. This article aims to explain the transmission between the Vikings and Muslim civilizations regarding this ring and beyond. It also aims to address misunderstandings surrounding the discussions of the Islamic World during the Middle Ages along with relations; between the Vikings Islam Civilization that shows how far historical amnesia stretches.

Viking Relations with the Abbasid Islamic State

Viking Relations with the Abbasid Islamic State


From the eighth through the eleventh centuries, the Vikings were renowned for roaming the world and traveling great distances; previously; considered by some historians is an achievement that has never been done before.

Their expeditions are said to have extended from Western Europe to Central Asia [1] , it is from here that sources indicate the extent to which the Vikings had contact with the Muslim World during Antiquity. Although the Vikings had looted several cities in Western and Eastern Europe, historians describe that in Muslim-ruled lands , such as those ruled by the Abbasids , the Vikings found “emporiums beyond their wildest dreams”[2].

Abbasid territory , especially when it was under the rule of Harun al-Rashid; are accustomed to interacting with people of different ethnicities and beliefs. This is well evidenced by the scholars who come from diverse backgrounds and also in the sources they obtain and translate at institutions such as the Bayt al-Hikmah (House of Wisdom) [3] .

Relationship between King Charlemagne and Harun al-Rashid

Evidence of an exchange between King Charlemagne and Harun al-Rashid reveals that they had good relations. Some sources believe that the relationship between Harun al-Rashid and King Charlemagne was progressive in such a way that Harun al-Rashid presented him with many gifts including several types of perfume along with his personal water clock [4]. This seems to be in contrast to King Charlemagne’s relationship with the Vikings who are believed to have insulted them to such an extent that he “wept bitterly” at the thought of “what evil they would do to [his] descendants and his people”[5] . But the Abbasids may have seized this opportunity; to build strong ties with the Vikings, developing a mutual bond between merchants and merchants as a result.

Barter system for trading goods

Moreover, like merchants and merchants from the Muslim world, Viking traders also seemed to exhibit a system of barter to trade goods [6] , especially with commodities such as fur, honey, leather, ivory, fish and other commodities [7] . It replaced silver which was precious and expensive at that time.

“Viking merchants brought large quantities of Abbasid silver coins to Scandinavia; thousands have been found in Russia and the Baltics,” as reported by Timothy FH Allen, Joseph A. Tainter and Thomas W. Hoekstra in their book, “Supply-Side Sustainability” [8] .

Indeed, the excavations of many sites in Scandinavian countries today can be attributed to the translations of these accounts made by travelers; and scholars from Muslim countries into European languages. Professor Thomas S. Noonan also highlighted that it was a cache of dirhams (Arabic coins) “which helped fuel the Viking Age”[9] . What’s more, the dirham is said to be considered of such power that in Viking York and Dublin between the 10th and 12th centuries it was used as a common currency [10] .

Noonan goes on to state that in the search for this silver dirham, Scandinavia was forced to explore the East in the first instance[11]. Similarly, in al-Mas’udi’s notes,; merchants and merchants from the Muslim World were eager to “have hats and coats made of black fox, one of the most precious furs.” [12]

The Story of Two Civilizations: Vikings and Muslim Civilizations

Vikings or Rus


Similar to the Vikings, sailors and scholars from various Muslim dynasties were also familiar with traveling on behalf of their rulers. During their visits to established trading centers such as Kiev and Novgorod, part of the “Volga Trade route” [13] , [14] , where they are believed to have first begun to record their observations of the Vikings, or Rus as they are called in Arabic .

In “Into the Light”, the fourth installment of Andrew Marr’s BBC documentary series entitled “History of the World”, ;Marr mentions how the Vikings came to be known in Russia as Oleg; a Viking prince and Rus leader were at the head of the expedition. Vikings to the land known as Russia today. [15]

Vikings are Merchant Soldiers


Historians from the Muslim world based in Baghdad, among the Khazars, and other lands have given the Vikings a reputation primarily as “merchant warriors whose main focus was on trade” [16], [17]. However, historians in Al-Andalus have different opinions because of the frequent attacks carried out by the Vikings.

One note in Omar Mubaidin’s article entitled “Global Tentative Timeline of Contacts between the Islamic World and Western Europe: 7-20 Cents”[18] elaborates:

“The Viking fleet looted Lisbon, Seville, Cadiz and Algeciras in the Emirate of Cordova and Asilah in Morocco. In retaliation, the Emir’s forces trapped a Viking fleet on the Guadalquivir River destroying 30 ships and killing 1,000 Vikings. Most of the 400 Vikings captured were executed. The Vikings would carry out many attacks against the Muslim and Christian countries of the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, the settled Viking community, who converted to Islam in southeastern Seville, would be famous for supplying cheese to Cordoba and Seville.”

On news of the sacking of Nekor[19], Balaearic Islands[20], Pamplona and Lisbon, a Muslim observer stated, “al-Majus – May God curse them! – they invaded the small Moroccan state of Nakur and plundered it. They captured all the inhabitants except those who saved their lives by fighting”[21].

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Vikings invade Islamic lands in Lisbon

In addition to the above statement, John M. Riddle wrote:

“… Alfonso I (r. 739–757) organized a strong and decisive defense against the Vikings, and the Austrians expelled the Vikings; just as they had stopped the Muslims. In response, the Vikings invaded the Muslim territories of Lisbon; and then sailed around the peninsula and up the Guadalquivir River to lay siege to Seville. After reeling from the first attack, the Muslims under Abd ar-Rahman II (r. 822–852) learned to deal with them by fighting them to a halt. As the Vikings marched back to their ships with loot and prisoners to sell as slaves, the chances of an ambush increased.

Viking invasion of Islam

Muslim ships trapped Viking ships in river ports and studied the use of at least a Greek variant of fire to burn ships. In thwarted in Muslim Spain, the Vikings invaded the north African coast, where they amassed large numbers of what they called; “blue men” and “black men,” and sold them into slavery in Ireland and elsewhere. In pursuit of slaves and wealth, some Vikings (such as Halfdan) made it to Italy because they were unsuccessful in finding Rome, the Eternal City”[22].

Although they may not be held in high esteem in the opinion of the people of Al-Andalus; Their attacks show their military might and effective strategy. Archaeologist Bjørn Myhre is said to have argued that, “They [the Vikings] were not stupid barbarians. They know exactly what kind of military and ideological pressure they face”[23].

Combined with the collapse of the Samanid state, “silver mines exhausted”[24] with the decline in the value of silver as a result, and its defeat in AD 971 by the Prince of Aragón, Gonzalo Sanchez, the Age of Viking Seafarers had ended in the Mediterranean.

Viking Mercenaries

It should be noted that the Vikings were also mercenaries who fought for different countries. For example there are two secret inscriptions on the Hagia Sophia[25] in Istanbul (Constantinople) dating from the ninth century, which are believed to belong to a Viking named Halvdan[26], [27]. Although some have suggested that he could have been a visitor of some sort, it is mostly believed that he was a warrior of fortune “long before the Varangian Guard – the elite Viking unit of the Byzantine Army”[28].

If the Vikings had indeed traveled far to the east, they might as well have been hired by Muslim armies, especially by Andalusians or Muslims from the Caucasus region. In 1041 AD, a Viking expedition was led; by Ingvar the Widefarer to the Caucasus against Muslim countries resulted in a strong defeat. This has led historians such as Jonathan Clements to note: “The Vikings left the Muslim world alone, preferring to serve as mercenaries in its armies, or trade with them valuable commodities such as slaves – they may have been raiders on the edge of Europe. trade routes, but at the end of the Middle East they are merchants”[29]. Again, showing the relationship and evolution between Vikings and Muslims over time.

In addition to Andalusia and the Abbasids , historian Jonsson Hraundal emphasizes that the Vikings also encountered “the Turks, and especially the Khazars and the Bulgars, [who were] the dominant powers in the region when the Rus arrived. The texts mainly show how powerful the Turks were. Rus couldn’t just swing their swords and take over.

The discovery of an Islamic symbol ring from a viking woman


Some of you may be wondering how Viking women relate to Arab rings in this discussion. As described above, with the amalgamation of European and non-European sources, archaeologists and historians have invested considerable time in retrieving information relating to the Viking Age on the Swedish islands. Viking women are known to have worn various jewels, Ibn Fadlan (b. 877) is said to have recorded Rus women wearing gold and silver neck rings:

Each woman has tied to her breasts a brooch of iron, silver, copper or gold, the weight and value of which is according to the wealth of her husband. (…). A man, if he has ten thousand dirhams; had a neck ring made for his wife. If he had twenty thousand in his possession, then he had two neck rings made for him. So his wife received another neck ring with an additional ten thousand dirhams each…

Recently, in a research paper published on 23 February 2015/; Archaeologists noticed that the excavation of a woman who appeared to have been buried in the ninth century had a silver ring with purple stone accompaniment. It should be noted that the ring itself was discovered in the late nineteenth century/; however recently a Kufic Arabic inscription was identified.

Islamic ring with “Allah”

The inscription on the ring is written in an Arabic script known as/ “Kufic”, an early angular form of the Arabic alphabet found mainly in decorative inscriptions/; famous in the eighth to tenth centuries. The word is read as “il-La-La” which means “to” or “to Allah (God)”. Although the clothing of the woman in the grave appears to be traditionally Scandinavian, her decomposing body has made it difficult for researchers and archaeologists to determine her beliefs and ethnicity. So that makes people ask – is it the spoils of war? Present? Part of her traditional dress? Or, is he a convert? We can’t be sure yet.

Regarding the ring material, a report by Wiley Periodicals Inc. in; “Analysis and Interpretation of Unique Arabic Finger Rings from the Viking Age City of Birka,; Sweden” found that: “this work uses non-destructive SEM imaging; and EDS analysis to characterize the material composition of the Arab finger ring, which was found at 9thc. female tomb in Viking Age trading center (793–1066 AD) Birka, Sweden. […] The stone was previously thought to be amethyst, but current results show that it is colored glass.

The ring has been cast in a high-grade silver alloy (94.5/5.5 Ag/Cu); and retains the post-casting mark of filing; which is done to remove flash lines and prints. Thus, the ring is rarely used,; and most likely passed down from the silversmith to the woman buried in Birka with several owners in between. Therefore, the ring may be material evidence for a direct interaction between Viking Age Scandinavia and the Islamic World …”

The link between rings, dirhams and the Astronomical Clock in the Cathedral

The rings, combined with the excavations of dirhams (Arabic coins) and Muslim astronomical figures found on the Astronomical Clocks in Lund Cathedral[32] in several parts of Europe suggest that more research and research should be done to uncover similar artifacts that signify Europe and Europe. Interconnectivity of Muslim Civilizations.

Lund Cathedral Clock “While in the cathedral,; I walk to the medieval astronomical clock to wait for the figures to move and the music to accompany the clock’s beating. As I waited, I saw four carved figures that had been placed in each corner of the top of the clock. The figures were dressed in exotic clothes and one of them even wore a turban, instantly reminiscent of the image of an Arab astronomer.

This challenges my earlier assumption that Muslims were generally portrayed negatively in medieval Scandinavia. Indeed, it does seem to indicate that there is a sense of pride to have these figures here occupy a prominent place within the walls of one of the most important ecclesiastical buildings of medieval Scandinavia. This meeting is related to the research I did on the influence and spread of Arabic scientific work in Scandinavia, especially in Iceland…”

Mutual benefit between Muslim and non-Muslim civilizations

Examples such as the above demonstrate the mutually beneficial relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim civilizations that have existed for centuries. Furthermore, these findings demonstrate the vast multicultural richness that lies in neglected places as well as in neglected languages.

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Additional examples of Muslim and European interconnectivity include Arabic inscriptions and eastern patterns found on altar cloths, church robes and even Christian burial shrouds. This could have been caused by the quality of the loom of Islamic civilizationat that time. This might come as a surprise today, but on several occasions “these cloths are decorated with a decorative Arabic text from the Qur’an […] which says ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet’ in Arabic” [35]. This even extends to several Italian Renaissance paintings depicting the Virgin [Mary]. In the book “Bazaar to Piazza” by Rosamond E. Mack, these claims are examined in depth and include a variety of image sources; one example is “Pseudo-Arabic [which] appears on the armbands of the angel Duccio and the Child of Christ Giotto”

It is important to note that this discovery was brought to our attention through investment; and promote all historyand their connectivity with modern times. Not only Europe but all over the World, and even places that are not expected. For example, “Arabic minted coins found […] on an island in northern Australia”[37] and how “Few Australians are aware that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had regular contact with foreign Muslims long before the arrival of the colonists. Christian”[38]. This is also true in contrast, the Muslim world seems to have adopted many non-Muslim icons, for example it is said that the Crescent[39],[40] and the dome architecture of the mosque[41] are of Byzantine influence. Therefore, it is not surprising that Latin letters can be found in old mosques and Arabic calligraphy can be found in old churches. Due to our lack of knowledge, the world is indeed full of surprises.

Viking Muslims


Apart from the discovery of the ring, additional facts need to be mentioned in relation; with the Viking woman is that she seems to have been buried rather than cremated. This suggests that the woman may have been among the Vikings who converted to Islam after their interactions with Muslims. Therefore, this evidence can reveal; that Islam was not only a popular religion during ancient times in the East, but also had deep roots in Europe.

Evidence relating to the entry of the Vikings to Islam ; including a memoir recorded by a sixteenth-century Muslim geographer; Amin Razi (16th-17th centuries, Persia ) is reported to have stated that:

…They [the Vikings] highly valued pork. Even those who have converted to Islam want it and are very fond of pork” [42]
As mentioned in the section entitled “The Merchant Fighters”,; “a settled Viking community, converted to Islam in southeastern Seville, would be famous for supplying cheese to Cordoba and Seville.”

However, the majority of the Vikings continued to practice their traditional beliefs, which Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard mention “judging by the accounts of ibn Rustah (10th century, Persian ), great respect is given to [the] ‘shaman’ [attibah], who have authority over rulers ‘as if they themselves were masters’, and can briefly order human or animal sacrifices. That rulers are essentially puppets is suggested by ibn Fadlan”[43].

Although many offer their theories; about the Scandinavian Viking woman and her ring, the true story of the story that underlies this mystery has yet to be revealed.

Andrew Marr also commented; about how the Vikings in Russia almost converted to Islam with their king who at first couldn’t decide which religion would suit them best:

It is said that he (Oleg, a Viking prince and leader of the Rus) asked representatives of Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Christian; Judaism and Islam to come here and persuade him. “Come on, argue. Convert me.”. The old Viking warrior was quite interested in Islam until he heard that it would involve quitting alcohol;, and at that point he said, “Okay, you’re out”. In the end, he chose Greek Orthodox Christianity and started building the first stone church in Kiev.”

Conclusion on the Relationship between the Vikings and Islam


If trade, political envoys, war and immigration among other factors are exposed, we may not yet know of additional contacts made between the Vikings and the Muslim world;, such as rings with Arabic inscriptions on Viking Women. The sensation and mystery created around this discovery can be said to be born out of a lack of information; which is examined or ellipsis on this matter.

Misconceptions about Viking Barbarity

Like many other civilizations that lived in ancient times, the Vikings were misunderstood. Civilizations from ancient times are not necessarily synonymous with “barbaric” or have “primitive culture”. Ibn Fadlan’s observations of the Vikings may be similar to that of city dwellers visiting other continents and writing down their views. Seeing that Ibn Fadlan was an educated and privileged young emissary who came from a large and prosperous city like Baghdad;, a city heralded as the “center of the Golden Age” of his time, this can be said to be an accurate comparison. Moreover, “Ibn Fadlan may have been disgusted by the concept of cleanliness in the Muslim world, where people will use running water and everyone will have their own bowl”[45]. But this was not the case with Ibn Rustah, another Muslim geographer. According to him, they are “handsome,

They kept their clothes clean and the men adorned themselves with gold armbands. Furthermore They treat their servants well and dress beautifully because they are such observant merchants… They are generous to one another, respecting their guests and treating well those who seek refuge; with them, and all who came to visit them. They do not allow anyone to interfere or harm this. And whenever anyone dared to treat them unfairly, they helped and defended them.”[47]

Perfect physical specimen

Even Ibn Fadlan (b.877), who despite not appreciating their personal hygiene habits, praised them as “perfect physical specimens”; and described them as “tall as a date palm”, which this comparison could say is one of them. the highest praise one could receive from an Arab at that time:

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…I have seen the Rus when they came on their merchant journey and camped at Itil. I have never seen a more perfect physical specimen, as tall as a date palm, blond and ruddy; they don’t wear tunics or caftans, but the men wear clothes that cover one side of the body and leave the hands free. Everyone had an ax, a sword , and a knife, and each held one at all times.

Every woman wears on her breasts a box of iron, silver, copper, or gold; the value of the box indicates the husband’s wealth. Each box has a ring from which hangs a knife. The women wear neck rings of gold and silver. Their most prized ornament is green glass beads. They tie it as a necklace for their woman…”

Vikings a cultured nation

It is also important to note that contrary to the opinion that the Vikings had poor hygiene practices, some historians note that the most common artifacts found from the Viking Age relate to combs[49]. In addition, this comb comes with other personal care items such as razors, tweezers, and even earplugs.

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Moreover, they were noted to have used a very strong alkali-based soap paste[51] and as can be observed in Figure 20, they had bathing facilities. Therefore, against the opinion that their personal hygiene practices are not enough.

Apart from their interactions with Muslims, it should be noted that the Vikings had interacted with many other civilizations and had learned fresh ideas and methodologies from these interactions. Withhold the knowledge that they have their own language, alphabet, religion and myths.

Other important contributions they made include sólarsteinn (Sunstone Compass)[52], which describes their technological advances during this time. The beautiful carvings found on their ships; or on their armor such as helmets or shields depicting their interest in the arts – art is often seen as evidence of a highly cultured community.

Do the arts and get to know technology

Similar to the Vikings, the people of the Islamic Civilization also invested in art, lifestyle and technology – even the compasses used by sailors during this period. Furthermore, some notes about the Vikings; and Muslim civilization may be tainted from single narrative narratives due to lack of knowledge or disseminated alternative historical records. For example, while some might think of the Vikings; they may not think that they live in so many different countries around the world. Similarly, Muslims are also perceived by some as originating or residing in one geographic location; when in reality Muslims have diversity in their beliefs and cultures.

Contrary to stereotypes, people will travel from near and far to study in institutions in the Muslim world and the Dirham and Dinar are among the most powerful currencies – not unlike how the Euro or Dollar is considered today. This is highlighted by the discovery of the British Museum’s King Offa coin engraved with; ‘There is no other God but one God. He is incomparable,’ and on the outside of the coin “Mahommad is Allah’s Apostle, who sent him with true doctrine and faith to triumph over every religion”[53].

Viking and Islamic Stereotypes

Viking and Muslim stereotypes lead some to think of them as “barbarian” or “backward”; so when new discoveries such as the Arab ring are revealed, it may surprise them. Further studies will inspire others to look for more evidence relating to past civilizations. Moreover, it will show that these remarkable discoveries did not come from thin air;, rather, it was the misconceptions and lack of knowledge of our time that prevented us from unearthing other interesting artifacts that might otherwise be obvious.

The President of the FSTC, Professor Salim TS Al-Hassani often relates news like this; with amnesia in the minds of people regarding thousands of years of contributions made by scholars from Muslim, Chinese, Indian, and other non-European civilizations in the form of education, book history and mainstream media:

Unfortunately, there is a period of 1000 years missing from the Western education system. Almost in every subject taught in schools, there is a leap from the Greek era to the Renaissance, which is commonly called the “Dark Ages”. What most people have in mind about the Arabs at that time was the story of 1001 nights; with Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin and the magic lamp and flying carpet,..etc.

This amnesia affects the minds of present and future generations and distorts their attitudes and perceptions about the role of other cultures, especially Muslims, in building today’s civilization.

The relationship between the Vikings and Islamic civilization

This article, written for the general reader, attempts to provide some links and evidence of the relationship between the Vikings; and the Islamic World to elaborate that the discovery of this ring should not come as much of a surprise, but rather common knowledge promoted by mainstream education and media initiatives. Although news of such discoveries was well received, the shock and awe these stories generated raised some questions as to why they were received as such. In support of this case, we would like to end our article with an important note made by Dr Anne-Maria Brennan

The ring was discovered in the 19th century, and it was only recently that Arabic script was discovered. It makes you wonder, how many other artifacts are out there yet to be found? There are thousands if not millions of manuscripts waiting to be translated and studied; – what gems, what valuable information, what historical insights are hidden within?

Europe is flooded with links to Islamic culture , but many still see the two as separate worlds. Take a closer look and we see castles, fountains, books, ceramics, artifacts, tools and many other things across Europe – all wonderful reminders of the Islamic Golden Age . The presence of this ring shows how fertile Islamic culture is;– at one time commerce and education were the goals people from all over went to the Muslim Civilization. The Dirham is the strongest currency The discovery of this ring is a wonderful souvenir from a time in which people of all backgrounds and beliefs lived; and work together in harmony…”


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