Graffiti of the Salaf

Here is a picture of what is considered (to date) the oldest dated Islamic inscription, from 24H, when the Rightly Guided Caliph ‘Umar b. Al-Khattâb – Allâh be pleased with him – was assassinated. It is located at Al-’Ulâ in present day Saudi Arabia. It is one of a number of ‘graffiti’ inscriptions made by travelers and pilgrims from the first few centuries of Islâm.

The Zuhayr Inscription - Earliest known Islamic inscription from 24H

UNESCO included this amazing archaeological find in its Memory of the World Register of Documentary Collections. An update entry states:

Saudi Arabia – Earliest Islamic (Kufic) Inscription. This very well preserved inscription is located on a red sandstone block of rock south of Qa’a al Muatadil, north of Sharma in al-Ula, northwest of Saudi Arabia on the ancient trade and pilgrimage route connecting the early Islamic city of al-Mabiyat with Madain Saleh. It is the oldest Islamic inscription found so far. It mentions the date of the death of the second Caliph of Islam, Omar bin al-Khattab and reads as follows: “In the name of God, I Zuhair wrote the date of the death of Omar the year four and twenty (Hegrah)”. Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab died on the last night of the month of Dul-Hajj of the year 23 Hegrah, and was buried next day on the first day of Muharram of the new year 24 Hegrah (corresponding to 644 AD).

Note: The discoverers and local experts say the script is Hijâzî, not Kufic.

Here’s a trace of the text:

Outline trace of the Zuhayr Inscription

What it says

The inscription can be translated as follows:

In the Name of Allah

I, Zuhayr, wrote [this] at the time ‘Umar died, in the year four

and twenty [24H]

Next to this inscription, it reads:

I am Zuhayr, Mawlâ of the Bani Salamah [tribe]