Islamic Dinar

I often hear these terms Islamic dinar and Islamic Dirham which I, until now, cannot comprehend its practicality. I first heard of the dirham in the late Tan Sri P.Ramlee movies, especially in Ali Baba Bujang Lapok.

First and foremost, the proponents of the so-called Islamic Dinar would quote this very saying by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

Abu Bakr ibn Abi Maryam reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say: “A time is certainly coming over mankind in which there will be nothing [left] which will be of use save a dinar and a dirham.”
(The Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal)

All I can understand from the above saying is, there will come a time when in the end, only money will be of use to man. Nothing more than that. In the Quran, the only two mentions of the Dirham are as follows:

And amongst the People of the Book there are those who, if you were to entrust them with a treasure (qintar), he would return it to you. And amongst them is he who, if you were to entrust him with a dinar would not return it to you, unless you kept standing over him. Qur’an (3:75)


They sold him [Joseph] for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out [darahima ma‘dudatin]; in such low estimation did they hold him! Qur’an (12:20)

There was no Islamic Dinar prior to Omar al-Khattab’s time. It was during his reign as a Caliph that he said:

“7 dinars must be equivalent to 10 dirhams.”

Therefore, in 75 Hijriyyah (695 AD), they minted the first Islamic Dinar and Dirhams. That was 63 years after the passing of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Which means, there was no Islamic Dinar or Dirham during the lifetime of Muhammad (pbuh).

First and foremost, for the uninitiated, the Islamic Dinar has a specific weight of 22 karat gold (917.) equivalent to 4.25 grams. For the Islamic Dinar, it is a specific weight of pure silver equivalent to 3.0 grams.

At 2.36pm on the 14th January 2009 (at the time of writing this posting), the price of gold is at RM95.12 per gram. The price of silver is around RM11.92 per gram.

So, if we were to follow Omar’s formula that 7 Dinars equals to 10 Dirhams, therefore:

7 Dinars = 7 x 4.25 grams x RM95.12 = RM2,829.82

10 Dirhams = 10 x 3 grams x RM11.92 = RM357.60

Something’s terribly wrong here. How can 7 Dinars equal 10 Dirhams? One Dinar = RM404.26 while 1 Dirham = RM35.76

If I were to use the Dirham and Dinar, just to buy me a packet of Mentos, I wonder how the cashier is going to bite a chip off the silver or gold to give me my change? I cannot imagine Wifey sitting in front of the TV watching the silver and gold market tickers instead of Friends or CSI just to wait for the right prices before going out to shop. It is just not practical.

So how is it that the Dinar and Dirham became part of Syariah? I quote:

“The Revelation undertook to mention them and attached many judgements to them, for example zakat, marriage, and hudud, etc., therefore within the Revelation they have to have a reality and specific measure for assessment [of zakat, etc.] upon which its judgements may be based rather than on the non-shari’i [other coins].

Know that there is consensus [ijma] since the beginning of Islam and the age of the Companions and the Followers that the dirham of the shari’ah is that of which ten weigh seven mithqals [weight of the dinar] of gold. . . The weight of a mithqal of gold is seventy-two grains of barley, so that the dirham which is seven-tenths of it is fifty and two-fifths grains. All these measurements are firmly established by consensus.” Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddimah

Hang on, who is this Ibnu Khaldun guy? This is he:

Ibnu Khaldun's statue in Tunisia from Wikipedia
Statue of Ibnu Khaldun in Tunisia

72 grains of barley.

Ibnu Khaldun never mentioned anything about the size of each grain. And in the context of today, whether the grain is genetically-modified grain, or just wild or peasant-grown barley, whether it is malting barley or feed barley. If it is malt barley, it is about RM636.17 per tonne while feed barley is around RM537.10 per tonne. Now, I leave it to you to calculate the price of 27 72 grains of barley. A no-brainer quick calculation will tell you that it will not even get you a gram of silver for the dirham, let alone the dinar.

And as usual, nobody quotes anything from the Quran anymore. It is Ibnu Khaldun’s writings that they use to help determine the syariah law. Ibnu Khaldun’s words, not Allah’s. And with that, Ibnu Khaldun’s words get cast in stone, while the Quran is degraded into some reading material over some Thursday night, if not only during the month of Ramadhan.

And what is so Islamic about the Dinar and Dirham?

As shown in the verse on Joseph (Prophet Yusof pbuh), the Dirham has been around, even before Islam came into existence. The Dirham derived its name from the Persian Drahm which in turn got its name from the Greek Drachma. While the Dinar comes from the Latin Denarius (plural: denarii). Both the Denarius and Drachma got to the Middle East through colonisation by the Greeks and the Romans.

I don’t know why people are so bent to make life difficult than it has to be. The Quran has never said it is the source of difficulties. As Allah said in the Quran:

“We sent not this Quran upon you that you may be put to trouble.” Quran 20:2

But of course, people no longer look to the Quran for reference, but instead declare it a sin to go against the sayings of mere mortals like the Imams and so on like they are Gods.

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