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Nations in red currently use the dinar. Nations in green use a currency with a subdivision named dinar. Dirham.svg
Nations in red currently use the dinar. Nations in green use a currency with a subdivision named dinar.
Silver Dirham of Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz Dirham of Umar II, 718-719.jpg
Silver Dirham of Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz
One of the first silver coins of the Umayyad Caliphate, still following Sassanid motifs, struck in the name of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Arab-Sasanian Dirham in the name of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf.jpg
One of the first silver coins of the Umayyad Caliphate, still following Sassanid motifs, struck in the name of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
Later silver dirham of the Umayyad Caliphate, minted at Balkh in AH 111 (= 729/30 CE) Silver Dirham.png
Later silver dirham of the Umayyad Caliphate, minted at Balkh in AH 111 (= 729/30 CE)

Dirham, dirhem or dirhm (درهم) was and, in some cases, still is a unit of currency in several Arab states. It was formerly the related unit of mass (the Ottoman dram) in the Ottoman Empire and old Persian states. The name derives from the name of the ancient Greek currency, drachma . [1]

The dram is a unit of mass in the avoirdupois system, and both a unit of mass and a unit of volume in the apothecaries' system. It was originally both a coin and a weight in ancient Greece. The unit of volume is more correctly called a fluid dram, fluid drachm, fluidram or fluidrachm.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as the Roman Empire, and known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state and caliphate that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. Although initially the dynasty was of Turkic origin, it was Persianised in terms of language, culture, literature and habits. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.


Unit of mass

The dirham was a unit of weight used across North Africa, the Middle East, and Persia, with varying values.

In the late Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkish درهم), the standard dirham was 3.207 g; [2] 400 dirhem equal one oka. The Ottoman dirham was based on the Sassanian drachm, which was itself based on the Roman dram/drachm.

Ottoman Turkish or the Ottoman language, is the variety of the Turkish language that was used in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows extensively, in all aspects, from Arabic and Persian and it was written in the (Perso-Arabic) Ottoman Turkish alphabet. During the peak of Ottoman power, words of foreign origin heavily outnumbered native Turkish words, with Arabic and Persian vocabulary accounting for up to 88% of the Ottoman vocabulary.

Gram Unit of mass 1/1000th of a kilogram

The gram is a metric system unit of mass.

In Egypt in 1895, it was equivalent to 47.661 troy grains (3.088 g). [3]

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in the northeast corner of Africa, whose territory in the Sinai Peninsula extends beyond the continental boundary with Asia, as traditionally defined. Egypt is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, Libya to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

There is currently a movement within the Islamic world to revive the Dirham as a unit of mass for measuring silver, although the exact value is disputed (either 3 grams or 2.975 grams)[ citation needed ].


Silver hoard from Lublin-Czechow, comprising 214 silver dirhams issued between 711/712 and 882/883 AD, Lublin Museum. Silver hoard from Lublin-Czechow.jpg
Silver hoard from Lublin-Czechów, comprising 214 silver dirhams issued between 711/712 and 882/883 AD, Lublin Museum.

The word "dirham" comes from drachma (δραχμή), the Greek coin. [1] The Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire controlled the Levant and traded with Arabia, circulating the coin there in pre-Islamic times and afterward. It was this currency which was initially adopted as an Arab word; then near the end of the 7th century the coin became an Islamic currency bearing the name of the sovereign and a religious verse. The dirham was struck in many Mediterranean countries, including Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain) and the Byzantine Empire ( miliaresion ), and could be used as currency in Europe between the 10th and 12th centuries, notably in areas with Viking connections, such as Viking York [4] and Dublin.

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe. "Byzantine Empire" is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

Levant Region in the eastern Mediterranean

The Levant is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily in Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the historical region of Syria. In its widest historical sense, the Levant included all of the eastern Mediterranean with its islands; that is, it included all of the countries along the Eastern Mediterranean shores, extending from Greece to Cyrenaica.

History of the Mediterranean region aspect of history

The Mediterranean Sea was the central superhighway of transport, trade and cultural exchange between diverse peoples encompassing three continents: Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. The history of the cultures and people of the Mediterranean Basin is important for understanding the origin and development of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Phoenician, Hebrew, Carthaginian, Greek, Persian, Thracian, Etruscan, Iberian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Arab, Berbers, Ottoman, Christian and Islamic cultures.

Dirham in Jewish orthodox law

The dirham is frequently mentioned in Jewish orthodox law as a unit of weight used to measure various requirements in religious functions, such as the weight in silver specie pledged in Marriage Contracts ( Ketubbah ), the quantity of flour requiring the separation of the dough-portion, etc. Jewish physician and philosopher, Maimonides, uses the Egyptian dirham to approximate the quantity of flour for dough-portion, writing in Mishnah Eduyot 1:2: "...And I found the rate of the dough-portion in that measurement to be approximately five-hundred and twenty dirhams of wheat flour, while all these dirhams are the Egyptian [dirham]." This view is repeated by Maran's Shulhan Arukh (Hil. Hallah, Yoreh Deah § 324:3) in the name of the Tur. In Maimonides' commentary of the Mishnah (Eduyot 1:2, note 18), Rabbi Yosef Qafih explains that the weight of each Egyptian dirham was approximately 3.333 grams, [5] or what was the equivalent to 16 carob-grains [6] which, when taken together, the minimum weight of flour requiring the separation of the dough-portion comes to approx. 1 kilo and 733 grams. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, in his Sefer Halikhot ʿOlam (vol. 1, pp. 288-291), [7] makes use of a different standard for the Egyptian dirham, saying that it weighed approx. 3.0 grams, meaning the minimum requirement for separating the priest's portion is 1 kilo and 560 grams. Others (e.g. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh) say the Egyptian dirham weighed approx. 3.205 grams, [8] which total weight for the requirement of separating the dough-portion comes to 1 kilo and 666 grams. Rabbi Shelomo Qorah (Chief Rabbi of Bnei Barak) writes that the traditional weight used in Yemen for each dirham weighed 3.36 grams, [9] making the total weight for the required separation of the dough-portion to be 1 kilo and 770.72 grams.

Halakha is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the written and Oral Torah. Halakha is based on biblical commandments (mitzvot), subsequent Talmudic and rabbinic law, and the customs and traditions compiled in the many books such as the Shulchan Aruch. Halakha is often translated as "Jewish Law", although a more literal translation might be "the way to behave" or "the way of walking". The word derives from the root that means "to behave". Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but also numerous aspects of day-to-day life.

Maimonides 12th-century Spanish-born rabbi and philosopher

Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam, was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician. Born in Córdoba, Almoravid empire on Passover Eve, 1135 or 1138, he worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on December 12, 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias.

Mishnah The first major written collection of the Oral Torah.

The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of rabbinic literature. The Mishnah was redacted by Judah the Prince at the beginning of the third century CE in a time when, according to the Talmud, the persecution of the Jews and the passage of time raised the possibility that the details of the oral traditions of the Pharisees from the Second Temple period would be forgotten. Most of the Mishnah is written in Mishnaic Hebrew, while some parts are Aramaic.

The word drachmon (Hebrew : דרכמון), used in some translations of Maimonides' commentary of the Mishnah, has in all places the same connotation as dirham. [10]

Modern-day currency

Currently the valid national currencies with the name dirham are :

Modern currencies with the subdivision dirham or diram are:

Also the unofficial modern gold dinar is divided into dirham.

See also

Related Research Articles

Biblical and Talmudic units of measurement were used primarily by ancient Israelites and appear frequently within the Hebrew Bible as well as in later rabbinic writings, such as the Mishnah and Talmud. These units of measurement continue to be used in functions regulating Jewish contemporary life. The specificity of some of the units used and which are encompassed under these systems of measurement have given rise, in some instances, to disputes, owing to the discontinuation of their Hebrew names and their replacement by other names in modern usage.

Sa'adiah ben Yosef Gaon (Arabic: سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي‎ / Saʻīd bin Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi, Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Dilasi, Saadia ben Yosef aluf, Sa'id ben Yusuf ra's al-Kull; Hebrew: רבי סעדיה בן יוסף אלפיומי גאון'; alternative English Names: Rabbeinu Sa'adiah Gaon, often abbreviated RSG, Saadia b. Joseph, Saadia ben Joseph or Saadia ben Joseph of Faym or Saadia ben Joseph Al-Fayyumi; was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period who was active in the Abbasid Caliphate.

Cubit unit of length

The cubit is an ancient unit of length that had several definitions according to each of the various different cultures that used the unit. These definitions typically ranged between 444 and 529.2 mm, with an ancient Roman cubit being as long as 120 cm (47 in). The shorter unit was based on the forearm length from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.

<i>Mishneh Torah</i> Code of Jewish religious law authored by Maimonides

The Mishneh Torah, subtitled Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka, is a code of Jewish religious law (Halakha) authored by Maimonides. The Mishneh Torah was compiled between 1170 and 1180 CE, while Maimonides was living in Egypt, and is regarded as Maimonides' magnum opus. Accordingly, later sources simply refer to the work as "Maimon", "Maimonides", or "RaMBaM", although Maimonides composed other works.

The omer is an ancient Israelite unit of dry measure used in the era of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is used in the Bible as an ancient unit of volume for grains and dry commodities, and the Torah mentions as being equal to one tenth of an ephah. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), an ephah was defined as being 72 logs, and the Log was equal to the Sumerian mina, which was itself defined as one sixtieth of a maris; the omer was thus equal to about ​12100 of a maris. The maris was defined as being the quantity of water equal in weight to a light royal talent, and was thus equal to about 30.3 litres, making the omer equal to about 3.64 litres. The Jewish Study Bible (2014), however, places the omer at about 2.3 liters.

Joseph ibn Migash or Joseph ben Meir HaLevi ibn Migash or Yosef Ibn Meir Ha-Levi Ibn Megas or José ben Meir ibn Megas was a Rabbi, Posek, and Rosh Yeshiva in Lucena. He is also known as Ri Migash, the Hebrew acronym for "Rabbi Joseph Migash".

Challah (tractate) Ninth tractate of Seder Zeraim

Hallah, although in the biblical sense that which refers to the "dough-offering," is the ninth tractate of Seder Zeraim. Like most of the tractates in this order, it appears only in the Mishnah, and it is not written on it in the Babylonian Talmud but rather in the Talmud Yerushalmi and Tosefta only. In this tractate there are four chapters treating on one of the twenty-four sacerdotal gifts mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. During the period of the Jewish Temple, this "Hallah" was separated from dough made from either one of the five species of grain and given unto a priest of Aaron's lineage (Kohen). Today, since the priests are no longer ritually clean, the "dough-portion" is separated and burnt. Before the Hallah is separated a blessing is said: "asher ḳiddeshanū bamitzvotau we'tzivanū le'hafrish challah." The amount separated is only from bread products made from at least 1.2 kilos of flour or more or 1.666 kilos or more or 2.25 kilos or more and is the size of a large olive. If less than the requisite amount is used, some separate without a blessing while others do not separate at all. If no separation is done while cooking, it can be done afterwards without a blessing.

Yosef Qafiḥ, widely known as Rabbi Yosef Kapach, was a Yemenite-Israeli authority on Jewish religious law (halakha), a dayan of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Israel, and one of the foremost leaders of the Yemenite Jewish community in Israel, where he was sought after by non-Yemenites as well. He is widely known for his editions and translations of the works of Maimonides, Saadia Gaon, and other early rabbinic authorities (Rishonim), particularly his restoration of the Mishneh Torah from old Yemenite manuscripts and his accompanying commentary culled from close to 300 additional commentators and with original insights. He was the grandson of Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ, a prominent Yemenite leader and founder of the Dor Deah movement in Yemen. Qafih was the recipient of many awards, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from Bar-Ilan University.

Yiḥyah Qafiḥ prominent Yemenite rabbi

Yiḥyah Qafiḥ (1850–1931), known also by his term of endearment "Ha-Yashish", served as the Chief Rabbi of Sana'a, Yemen in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was one of the foremost rabbinical scholars in Sana'a during that period, and one who advocated many reforms in Jewish education. Besides being learned in astronomy and in the metaphysical science of rabbinic astrology, as well as in Jewish classical literature which he taught to his young students. 

Tithes in Judaism Wikimedia disambiguation page

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Ephah was one of Midian's five sons as listed in the Hebrew Bible. Midian, a son of Abraham, was the father of Ephah, Epher, Enoch, Abida, and Eldaah. These five were the progenitors of the Midianites.

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Dough offering The biblical injunction to separate a tithe from bread

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Demai is a Halakhic term meaning "dubious," referring to agricultural produce, the owner of which was not trusted with regard to the correct separation of tithes, although the terumah was believed to have been separated from such fruits. In such "dubious" cases, all that was necessary was to separate the one-tenth portion due to the priests from the First Tithe given to the Levites, being the 1/100th part of the whole. The Second Tithe is also removed (redeemed) from the fruit in such cases of doubt.

Yihye Bashiri, also spelt Yahya al-Bashiri, known by his pen-name Avner bar Ner ha-Sharoni, and by the acronym Maharib, was a Yemenite Rabbi, professional scrivener and sofer of the Masoretic Text whose works of Hebrew manuscripts now account for many now stored in public libraries across the globe, including the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Cambridge University Library, the Russian State Library and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, et al. Rabbi Yiḥyah Salaḥ coined him the epithet, “the great scribe of the Law.” A man of uncommon piety, he is also known for an act of intervention on behalf of his community in Yemen, which brought miraculous deliverance to the Jews of Sana'a when they stood in danger of annihilation by the king, on account of libel and slander brought against them.

Nathan ben Abraham, known also by the epithet President of the Academy in the Land of Israel, was an 11th-century rabbi and exegete of the Mishnah who lived in Ramla, in the Jund Filastin district of the Fatimid Caliphate. He was the author of the first known commentary covering the entire Mishnah.

Relative hour, sometimes called halachic hour, seasonal hour and variable hour, is a term used in rabbinic Jewish law that assigns 12 hours to each day and 12 hours to each night, all throughout the year. A relative hour has no fixed radical, but changes with the length of each day - depending on summer, and on winter. Even so, in all seasons a day is always divided into 12 hours, and a night is always divided into 12 hours, which inevitably makes for a longer hour or a shorter hour. All of the hours mentioned by the Sages in either the Mishnah or Talmud, or in other rabbinic writings, refer strictly to relative hours.

Biblical mile is a unit of distance on land, or linear measure, principally used by Jews during the Herodian dynasty to ascertain short distances between cities and to mark the Sabbath limit, equivalent to about ⅔ of an English statute mile, or what was about four furlongs (stadia). The basic Jewish traditional unit of distance was the cubit, each cubit being roughly between 46–60 centimetres (18–24 in) The standard measurement of the biblical mile, or what is sometimes called tǝḥūm šabbat, was 2,000 cubits.

Corpse uncleanness is a state of ritual uncleanness described in Jewish halachic law. It is the highest grade of uncleanness known to man of any of the several grades of uncleanness, or defilement, and is contracted by having either touched, carried or shifted a dead human body, whether directly or indirectly, or after having entered a roofed house or chamber where the corpse of an Israelite is lying.

Isaac ben Melchizedek 12th century commentator on the Mishnah

Isaac ben Melchizedek, also known by the acronym Ribmaṣ, was a rabbinic scholar from Siponto in Italy, and one of the first medieval scholars to have composed a commentary on the Mishnah, although today only Seder Zera'im survives. Elements of the Mishnaic order of Taharot are also cited in his name by the Tosafists, but the complete work is no longer extant.


  1. 1 2 Oxford English Dictionary , 1st edition, s.v. 'dirhem'
  2. based on an oka of 1.2828 kg; Diran Kélékian gives 3.21 g (Dictionnaire Turc-Français, Constantinople: Imprimerie Mihran, 1911) ; Γ. Μπαμπινιώτης gives 3.203 g (Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας, Athens, 1998)
  3. OED
  4. In addition to Islamic dirhams in ninth and tenth century English hoards, a counterfeit dirham was found at Coppergate, York, struck as if for Isma'il ibn Achmad (ruling at Samarkand, 903-07/8), of copper covered by a once-silvery wash of tin (illustrated in Richard Hall, Viking Age Archaeology, [series Shire Archaeology] 2010:17, fig. 7).
  5. Mishnah - with a Commentary of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, ed. Yosef Qafih, vol. 2 - Seder Neziqim, pub. Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1965, p. 189 (Hebrew title: משנה עם פירוש הרמב"ם)
  6. Mishnah - with a Commentary of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (ed. Yosef Qafih), vol. 3, Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1967, s.v. Introduction to Tractate Menahoth, p. 68 (note 35) (Hebrew)
  7. Ovadiah Yosef, Sefer Halikhot ʿOlam, vol. 1, Jerusalem 2002 (Hebrew title: ספר הליכות עולם)
  8. Ovadiah Yosef, Sefer Halikhot ʿOlam, vol. 1, Jerusalem 2002, p. 288, sec. 11; Abraham Chaim Naeh, Sefer Kuntres ha-Shi'urim, Jerusalem 1943, p. 4 (Hebrew)
  9. Shelomo Qorah, ʿArikhat Shūlḥan - Yilqūṭ Ḥayyīm, vol. 13 (Principles of Instruction and Tradition), Benei Barak 2012, p. 206 (Hebrew title: עריכת שולחן - ילקוט חיים)
  10. Mishnah - with a Commentary of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, ed. Yosef Qafih, vol. 3 - Seder Kodashim, pub. Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1967, s.v. Introduction to Tractate Menahoth, p. 68 (note 35) (Hebrew title: משנה עם פירוש הרמב"ם)