Dirham, dirhem or dirhm (درهم) is a unit of currency in several Arab states and formerly, the related unit of mass (the Ottoman dram) in the Ottoman Empire and Persian states. The name derives from the ancient Greek currency the drachma.
Present-day dirhams include:
- The Armenian dram
- The Moroccan dirham
- The United Arab Emirates dirham
- 1⁄100 of the Iraqi dinar
- 1⁄1,000 of the Libyan dinar
- 1⁄100 of the Qatari riyal
- 1⁄10 of the Jordanian dinar
- The diram is 1⁄100 of the Tajikistani somoni
Unit of mass
The dirham was a unit of weight used across North Africa, the Middle East, and Persia, with varying values.
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).
The word "dirham" comes from drachma (δραχμή), the Greek coin. 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 and Dublin.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 1st edition, s.v. 'dirhem'
- 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)
- 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).