Vikings and Islam: The connection with a touch of mystery
If we look at the northernmost part of Europe’s map, we will see three tiny countries. These countries, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, aka Scandinavian countries were once the home of the most spirited and valiant folk called Vikings. So what was the relation between Vikings and Islam?
Vikings were so much smeared in world history that people love to watch TV shows about them. Even famous author Neil Gaiman wrote his famous book named ‘Norse Gods’ to depict Viking mythology. But little do we know that even this unique Viking culture had a deep-rooted connection with our peaceful Islam.
Who are the Vikings?
The Vikings were the fearless pagan tribe of Scandinavia. The origin of the word ‘Viking’ is still unknown. But it has been agreed that the name came from the meaning ‘seafarer’. In some ancient scripts, they were referred to as ‘Northmen’, ‘Norsemen’ or ‘Gael’. Therefore, it is evident that their homeland was modern-day Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
They were skilled craftsmen and wide-ranging traders. They had a specialization in boat building. History depicts, they were primarily known as adventurous explorers.
Vikings and Islam introduction
According to researcher Annika Larsson, the Vikings has an extensive connection with Muslim world. This is because they traveled widely on their adventures and raids. They intermarried with people from various religions, including Islam. Thus they brought home people, ideas, religion and imageries from every corner of the world.
Vikings usually exported Amber, Fur, Cloth and Wool, Walrus ivory, wax and salt. There was a special demand for Scandinavian black fox fur among Muslims.
The Muslims of The Middle East named the Vikings the ‘Rüs’. The Muslims in Europe and Al-Andalus used to call them ‘Mâjus’. This specific word meant fire-worshipers which referred to their Pagan religion. Interestingly, the connection between Vikings and Islam initiated with a clash.
The clash between the Vikings and Islam
After conquering a lot of countries around the Mediterranean sea, the Vikings decided to test their strength against the military might of Muslims. In 230 AH, they advanced to Lisbon, Sedona and finally captured the large city of Ishbiliya (Seville). They seized it for nearly 14 days.
The emirate of Al-Andalus prepared with every reinforcement and initiated the plan to rescue Seville. The Muslim army took its position in a town called Moron. It was at a higher point on the south-east of Seville. Just after the time of Fajr, they attacked and almost decimated 16000 Viking soldiers. The Vikings gave up the town and retreated. The Muslim historian, Ibn Adhari narrates the event of the victory,
‘God gave them to our swords and destroyed them, numerous as they were. Their general was killed. When they had been annihilated, the Government made this event known throughout the provinces to celebrate this event!’
The peace treaty after the battle
After their retreat, the king of the Vikings came to the emirate for a peace treaty. The man who got this task from the Islamic side was Yahya Ibn-Hakam aka Al-ghazal. He was a leading diplomat of Al-Andalus. He went to the north and stayed for about 20 months. One incident shows his wit and perseverance.
One day, the Viking king was bragging about his wealth. Al-ghazal was quiet and smiling. When the king finished bragging, he simply quoted a line from Holy Quran,
‘And do not invoke any other god with Allah. There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except Him. Everything is bound to perish except He Himself. All authority belongs to Him. And to Him, you will all be returned.’ [28:88]
The king was ashamed of his pride and acknowledged his fault. Thus, Vikings and Islam relationship was established.
The artefacts which indicated the Viko-Islamic connection
In a research paper published in the year 2015, historians noticed that an excavation of a woman warrior had a purple stone silver ring. The woman was buried in the ninth century. The grave was discovered in the nineteenth century in Birka. The inscription on the ring was written in an Arabic script known as ‘Kufic’. The word is ‘il-La-La’, which means for or to Allah. The woman was dressed in Scandinavian attire. So it is hard to tell what that ring signifies. Was it a gift or war loot? Or was she converted to Islam?
Moreover, researchers of Uppsala university claimed that they found Islamic symbols are woven into attires found at other ninth-century Viking burial sites in Birka and Gamla Uppsala in Sweden. They also think that Viking burial customs were influenced by Muslims.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the Viko-Islamic connection has a lot of potential to open some unexplored doors for the historians and archaeologists. We may say, it will be great to know a little more about our religion to enrich ourselves.
(Written by freelance journalist Shreya T)