Research scholars from Uppsala University in Sweden claim to have found evidence that the Vikings and other Nordic tribes had contact with Muslims and were influenced by the Islamic faith. The researchers found Norse burial clothes from the ninth and 10th centuries bearing Arabic embroidery and script that included an invocation of the name “Allah.”
The researchers made the discovery while studying embroidery patterns found on Eastern silk recovered from the Valsgarde boat graves, located north of Gamla Uppsala in Sweden.
While examining the Viking burial clothes for patterns of traditional Viking embroidery, the researchers were surprised to find Arabic Kufic script that included an invocation of the name “Allah.” The Arabic text also included a reference to Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.
Researchers have found similar Kufic characters in Central Asian tomb mosaic dating to the same period of history. Kufic, the oldest form of Arabic calligraphic script, dates back to the seventh century.
The researchers concluded that this could be evidence that the Vikings of the ninth and 10th centuries were influenced by Islam. According to the scholars, the presence of Arabic script invoking the name of “Allah” in ninth- and 10th-century Norse burial clothes suggests that Islamic afterlife beliefs had spiritual significance to the Norseman who were buried in the clothes. This, in turn, implies that some of them were Muslims who practiced the Islamic faith or might have held afterlife beliefs that they identified with the beliefs of the Islamic faith.
“The rich material of grave goods should rather be seen as tangible expressions of underlying values.”
“In the Quran, it is written that the inhabitants of Paradise will wear garments of silk, which along with the text band’s inscriptions may explain the widespread occurrence of silk in Viking Age graves,” said Annika Larsson, an expert in textile archaeology at Uppsala University’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.
This is not the first time that Islamic artifacts have been found at Norse archaeological sites. Previous researchers had insisted that the Islamic artifacts found at several Norse archaeological sites could be loot obtained during raids. Others suggested they could have been procured through trade.
Larsson’s conclusion that the artifacts provide evidence that the Vikings came under Islamic cultural influence is a novel approach.
“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,” Larsson said. “The inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that have their counterparts in preserved images of Valkyries.”
“Presumably, Viking Age burial customs were influenced by Islam and the idea of an eternal life in Paradise after death.”
However, Larsson’s conclusion has upset some people, especially anti-immigrant activists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the pan-Nordic far-right group, Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), who espouse a xenophobic pride in the Nordic and Viking cultural heritage.
“The negative reactions have come from xenophobes, without any exceptions. It’s the Muslim connection that they find particularly disturbing.”
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