Were Vikings Muslims? - Saudi Gazette

Were Vikings Muslims?

Swedish researchers find ‘Allah’ sewn into burial clothes

1280 views
Excavated fragments of a woven band discovered at the Swedish sites. — Courtesy photo

A RESEARCH team in Sweden discovered that Vikings had the world “Allah” embroidered into their funeral clothes.

The findings raising questions about the ties between the Islamic World and the Viking-era Scandinavians, which could suggest that some Vikings were Muslim.

Arabic letters spelling the words “Allah” and “Ali” in silk were found on the burial costumes from Viking boat graves that had been kept in storage for over a century.

Textile archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University who revisited garments that were dug up in Birka and Gamla Uppsala in Sweden in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries made the discovery.

It is well-known among researchers that the Vikings, those Scandinavian warriors who roamed the seas between the 9th and 11th centuries, made contact with the Islamic World. But new evidence suggests these interactions were greater than previously thought.

Previous DNA testing has shown that some people buried in Viking graves originated in Persia, where Islam was dominant.

Larsson has determined that the material on the garments she is studying comes from Central Asia, Persia, and China, and her team is now working with DNA researchers to determine who, exactly, was wearing them. Still, Larsson says “it is more likely these findings show that Viking age burial customs were influenced by Islamic ideas such as eternal life in paradise after death.”

In the past decade, researchers have also unearthed Arab coins buried by Vikings and a ring inscribed with “for Allah” in a Viking grave. Yet Larsson’s burial garments mark the first time that artifacts with the Arabic characters for “Ali” have been found in Scandinavia.

Again, it’s not clear what the significance of this is. Larsson notes that “Ali” and “Allah” always appear together in the burial garments.

“That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade doesn’t hold up as an explanatory model, because the inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing,” Larsson told The Independent. “It is a staggering thought” that these burial garments could’ve been “made west of the Muslim heartland.”

In an interview with the the Swedish news site The Local, Larsson added that her findings demonstrate the importance of “challenging historical research.” The scholars who originally studied these garments in the mid-20th century failed to notice their non-Western influences, and it was only through Larsson’s review of them that she was able to uncover their meaning.

Correcting the record is important not just for its own sake, but also because it can prevent people from weaponizing false narratives for their own gain. Larsson points out that her research could help disassociate the Vikings from the many white supremacist groups who have adopted their iconography. Unlike these hate groups, it doesn’t appear that the Vikings opposed Islam; in fact, they may have embraced parts of the religion as their own. — Al Arabiya English


1280 views