The Fatimid history of Malta.
A coin recently acquired by the Central Bank of Malta has proved that coins were minted in Malta during the Arab period, contrary to previous belief.
The coin is a golden quarter dinar which was minted in year 472 according to the Muslim calendar – 1080/81, a few years before the Norman invasion – during the reign of al-Mustansir, who reigned as Fatimid caliph between 1036 and 1094.
Malta was originally occupied by the Aghlabid rulers of North Africa in 870 AD, in the midst of decades of fighting with the Byzantine Empire over Sicily. However, at around 909 AD, the Aghlabids were removed from power and replaced by the Fatimids, who claimed descent from Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima.
Very few Arab coin finds in Malta remain – many were found in Mdina in 1698, but most were melted down for gold. None of the ones that remain were known to have been minted locally, leading numismatists to believe that no Arab coinage was minted in Malta.
However, Andre de Clermond, an expert on Islamic coins, discovered a quarter dinar bearing the mint name “Malta”. The coin was offered for sale in the UK in late 2008 and purchased by the Central Bank of Malta.
The coin, which weighs 1.3 grams, has Arabic inscriptions on both faces written in the Kufic calligraphic script.
The obverse has 2 inscriptions of a religious nature. The one in the centre is the shahada, the Islamic creed, which reads “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger,” while another religious inscription decorates the edges. The coin reverse also has 2 inscriptions, one which reads “Imam al-Mustansir Billah, prince of believers, and another which states that the dinar was struck in Malta in 472 AH.