4. Quarter Dirham, 13th-Century CE

An informal note from a teacher to a parent reports that the boy Fāḍil brought a small quantity of money to school and that it had to be confiscated for safekeeping. Alternatively, the sender may have taken the money as a tuition fee. Some medieval Geniza documents refer to a standard tuition fee of ½ dirham per pupil per week. Dirham (pl. darāhim) was the standard term for silver coins throughout the classical Geniza period (conventionally defined as ca. 1000–1250 CE). The percentage of silver in the coins and the dirham’s exchange rate with the gold dinar fluctuated over the years. As a rule, the word dirham by itself referred to coins with low silver content and consequently low value. When high-value silver coins were meant, the descriptor nuqra or fiḍḍa was added. Note that the text of this document does not necessarily mean that Fāḍil had 1 dirham coin and 1 quarter-dirham coin with him. He might have had copper small change (fulūs) that added up to the same amount.

"Informal note," ENA NS 19.2v, c. 13th-century CE, Judaeo-Arabic.

Images provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary Library (JTSL)

Partial Translation/Transcription (lines 1-3):

1 O Shaykh Ibrāhīm: I found with your son | יא [שיך] אבראהי[ם] וגדת מע אבנך

2 Fāḍil, may God gladden him, 1¼ dirhams | פאצל אסעדה אללה דרהם ורבע וקד

3 and I took them from him... | ...אכדתה מ[נה]

(ed. Alan Elbaum)

Quarter Dirham from the Princeton Numismatic Collection (Coin: 16470)

Denomination: 1/4 dirham

Metal: Silver

State: Siqiliya

Date: 996 to 1021

Size: 13 mm

Die Axis: 4

Weight: 0.42 grams

Shape: round

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