Islam has been the dominant religion of Afghanistan since Mahmud of Ghazni expelled the Shahis in 998. Devout followers of the Prophet Mohammed, the Afghans know that to create a graven image is to incur the wrath of Allah. As the Sahih Bukhari, the Muslim holy book makes clear: The people who will receive the severest punishment from Allah will be the picture makers….the most grievously tormented people on the Day of Resurrection will be the painters of pictures.
For this reason, Islamic money tends to feature calligraphy and design, not representations of living creatures—and never people. Only once did the government of Afghanistan dare to violate this strict prohibition: in 1961, when the last Afghan king, Muhammed Zahir Shah, ordered his visage to be struck on the obverse of this five-Afghani coin.
The king’s brazen act of blasphemy was not well received. Coins entered circulation only to be destroyed in vast quantities by an angry people. Few survive. This, then, is a rare example of Afghanistan’s forbidden coin.
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