The possible contact between the Vikings and the Islamic World

History has it that during the Islamic Golden Age (which is from 8th century to 13th century), one of the largest empires was established- Abbasid Caliphate. It is also said that the empire had contact with different cultures around the world and this included Indians and Chinese in the east, and the Byzantines in the west, which led to the establishment of trade networks between Asia, Africa and Europe. Also, history has it that there is an existing relationship (found in Arabic written sources) which brings our attention that there might be some contact between the Islamic world and Vikings.

Al-Gazal (the Moorish poet and diplomate) is one of the few Arabs that gave an insight on what must be nowadays Scandinavia. Abd Al Rahman (the fourth Emir of Cordoba) also sent al-Gazal to the king of the ‘Majus’. ‘Majus’ is another word for fire-worshipers and in this instance the Vikings. The reason why he was sent wasn’t clear but Al-Gazal made a report about an island or peninsula, which might be the court of King Horik I, the King of the Danes.

Aside Al-Gazal, Al-Tartushi has also reported in one of the accounts he made while travelling. In the account he describes “Schleswig”, i.e. Hedeby, an important Viking Age trading settlement.  He also mentioned the town as well as its people “Schleswig is a very large town situated at the Ocean. Within there are sources of fresh water. The people there adore Sirius, except for few, who are Christian. They have a church there.”

Ibn Khoradadbeh and Ibn Fadlan were also mentioned as Arabs that mentioned the Vikings in their works. As a matter of fact, Ibn Khoradadbeh (In 844) referred to the Vikings as ‘Rus’. He also described them as merchants of slaves, fur and swords.

Oriental arti-facts are also said to be found in Scandinavia and they include; Bronze vessels, Cufic coins, costumes and costume accessories, as well as glass vessels, beads, balances and weights found mostly in Sweden and are proof of contact with the Arab world.  However, the most important physical evidence of contact between the two is a ring made up of silver alloy and coloured glass with an inscription in Cufic Arabic,found in a grave of a women near Birka. The inscription translates “for/to Allah”.

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We’re not sure if the relationship between the two was for trade or if some of them converted to Islam, but we do know that there was an interaction between the two.

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