, 21 tweets, 11 min read
I decided to rewrite the thread on the Seal of Muḥammad to focus on the seal itself, and not the seal as part of the black shahāda flag, on which I have a proper thread. First of all, let's start with the actual design of the #seal on the #prophet's signet ring.
The most common and popular reading of the engraving today is "Allāh Rasūl Muḥammad", an #Arabic linguistic construction which places the subject after the object similar to the famous verse in the Qur'anic Fāṭir: 28: "Innamā yakhshā Allāha min ʿibādihi al-ʿulamāʾu."
Supporters of this theory argue that one should always position #God's divine name(s) in a superior position when writing a text, as did the prophet do when writing his letters. They state that only the top position befits the Divine Being, therefore starting with Allāh.
However, the oldest sources do indicate that the opposite is correct. In a ḥadīth reported by #Muslim, the prophet Muḥammad says: “I have acquired a ring of silver and engraved on it Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh, and no one should have an engraving like this.”
In another ḥadīth reported by al-Tirmidhī, the prophet's Companion Anas ibn Mālik says: "The engraved signet ring of the Prophet is three lines: Muḥammad on one line, Rasūl on one line and Allāh on one line." Both of these narrations are considered authentic.
Old #Umayyad and #Abbasid coins do indeed feature these words in that particular order, struck from at least the 8th century AD well into the 11th century, which is reason enough to assume that this was the preferred word order at the time.
It might be interesting to explore as to when the order of words changed from "Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh" to "Allāh Rasūl Muḥammad". First of all, the coins I mentioned above could be traced back to the 11th century at most.
It is important to notice that some #Abbasid coins feature the Seal on their reverse but only after mentioning the word "Allāh", following the earlier mentioned Islamic tradition to start everything with God's name mentioned first. The Seal itself however, remains untouched.
The word order of the Seal has been commented on by Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (1372-1449 AD). Below is a comment by the 15th century Ibn Ḥajar mentioned in "Fatḥ al-Munʿim" (2002) by Dr. Mūsā Shāhīn Lāshīn. Later sources are much scarcer.
"With regard to those that say that the writing of the Seal starts with the lowest line and ends with the highest, i.e the Expression of Majesty as the highest of the 3 lines, and Muḥammad as the lowest, I didn't see any statement about this in anything related to the aḥādīth."
Another scholarly source commenting on the word order of the Seal is Taqī ad-Dīn ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328 AD). In his Majmūʿa al-Fatāwā Vol. 6, he confirms the Seal as reading "Muḥammad Rasūl Allāh." It's safe to conclude that this was still preferred by the 15th c.
However, Ibn Ḥajar already stated that some in his time already preferred starting with the word Allāh, as to elevate His name above all (remember the Abbasid coins I mentioned earlier). This opinion might have played a role in the 19th c. "rediscovery" of the prophet's letters.
.@PhDniX argued in another one of his interesting threads on the forgery of the #prophet Muḥammad's letters to several contemporary heads of state. It's sufficient that the maker of the forged letters preferred this order to convince the public of its religious authenticity.
This is a letter discovered in 1858 by Etienne Barthelemy in a monastery in Egypt and is now carefully preserved in #Istanbul. Several drawings of the letter have since been published. The first one was published in the well-known #Egyptian newspaper Al-Hilāl in November 1904.
The letter was sent to al-Muqawqis of Egypt, and is stamped with the Seal of the prophet. The War Museum in Ṣanʿāʾ, features a facsimile of another written text, the #Prophet Muḥammad's letter to the governor of #Bahrain, Al-Mundhir bin Sāwī.
This "tangible" and visual evidence of his Seal then spread among the #Muslim public during the 20th century through newspapers like the above-mentioned Al-Hilāl and books like Mohammed and the Rise of Islam (1905) by #British orientalist David Samuel Margoliouth.
We could conclude that the visual change of the word order happened somewhere between the 15th and 19th century, although such opinion existed before. If one would assume that the found letters were forged it's sufficient that the maker of the forged letters preferred this order.
The signet seal of the prophet should in no way be classified as an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) symbol. As demonstrated here, it has historical roots in #Islam and has been commented on since the 7th century.

It is mentioned by al-Bukhārī in an authentic narration reported from Anas ibn Mālik that the ring was inherited by the next caliphs up until ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, who dropped it by accident in the Well of Arīs in Medīna, then dubbed the Well of the Ring (Biʾr al-Khātim).
In 1534, the #Ottomans captured Baghdad from their #Safavid rivals. There they purportedly found a replica seal 'Uthmān had made after his unfortunate loss. They brought it to #Istanbul, where it's kept in the Topkapi. It's authenticity, however, is debatable to say the least.
It's a small rectangular piece of red agate with two lines. "Allāh" on the first, "Muḥammad Rasūl" on the second. It doesn't resemble any of the earliest descriptions of the prophet's silver signet ring, and doesn't share the circular form of later depictions.
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