Rare coins in Abu Dhabi speak of Islam's tolerance.
An extraordinary gold coin minted during the reign of Abdul Malik B. Marwan and the first to bare the Islamic expression of faith, the Kalimah, is among the most precious collections on display for visitors of a rare exhibition at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre in Abu Dhabi.
The Coins of Islam - History Revealed exhibition, which was inaugurated last week, has brought together more than 300 rare and precious coins dating from the time of Alexander, tracking the emergence of the Islamic empire from just after the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to the emergence of the Caliphates in Syria and its subsequent spread across North Africa into Al Andalus. It shows the connection between all civilisations.
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Swiss expat Dr Alain Baron, founder of Numismatica Genevensis SA who is also the curator and organiser of the exhibition, said it took him almost 10 years to collect the coins from different parts of the world. "The idea was to get the very best coins of every civilisation,"' said Baron.
He explained that coins are a very powerful and great field of art which still needs to be known better by a wider audience. "We realised that creating a narrative between Islam and the rest of the world was a very powerful message and there was no better way to illustrate this than bringing the old and precious coins together for public viewing," he said, adding that it was an intensive work to collect some of the best coins in the world (some of which costing up to a $1 million) as it involved lots of travelling and convincing the collectors that the coins will go in a proper and safe collection.
"My ultimate goal as a collector was purely an educative one. I am a very tolerant person, very much attached to education and its values. The idea of sharing knowledge with others had convinced me to do the coin collection," he said.
According to Baron, the exhibition is very important one because it gives an image of Islamic tolerance and understanding and shows the history of the Islamic religion since its creation.
"This image of tolerance bridges between various civilisations. It shows that since the creation of Islam, the understanding between populations was great," he said.
"There were a lot communities where the Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together without any problems. The fact that the Grand Mosque is hosting an exhibition showcasing a Christian coin is a very strong symbol that there is room in the world for all forms of civilisations and religions."
The three-month exhibition that narrates the history of coinage across different Islamic eras and highlights the cultural interaction and exchange among cultures will run until April 28.