6. Hejez Location and History
The Hejez region is mainly an arid desert, part of which presently occupies the territory now knownas Jordan. On the Persian side lay the ancient principality of Hira. Both of these lands were at onetime inhabited by a mixed Christian Arab community, but political allegiances were markedly split. In527AD the Byzantine Emperor Justinian funded a war between these states. To facilitate a
harmonious relationship he gave the Ghassan chief adequate resources, including a substantial
amount of gold. He was later declared Patrician of the Roman Empire. From Arabia the Roman
influences expanded east to include Ethiopia in North Africa. The ruler’s army was later equipped
with military capabilities and an army was mobilised to attack the Yemen. They continued their
campaign and also attacked Mekkah, which was then a Yemenite trading post and staging post of
the caravan route. They were beaten off and replaced by Persian forces. During the early years of 22 the Prophet’s life Yemen was under Persian control. This status represented a major inconvenience for the Byzantine merchants as it blocked off their eastern trade route.
The early Islamic chronicles tell of a group of people known in Arabic as Hanif who, while
abandoning paganism were not prepared to accept any of the other religions or religious doctrines
then on offer. They became the earliest converts to the religion of Islam. Christian records are scant
when it comes to the former years of Islam. By that time Christianity had been accepted by the
Romans and had spread across the Empire and beyond.
The age old Silk Road and other major trading routes to the East passed through the northerly
section of region and did not touch the central parts of the Arabian peninsula . As a consequence
there was minimal trading contact between the seafaring Mediterranean traders in the West and
the land based Arab tribe’s folk in the South and East. Many of these communities were small in
number and nomadic in disposition.
In general, permanent physical records were rarely made by these nomadic people, their myths and
stories passing on from generation to generation verbally until much later they where put down in
ink. Songs, verses and lengthy orations of traditions, history and customs were regularly recounted
by the elders provided entertainment and continuity for the youngsters in their tribes. As and when
records were made they were prized and accessed by the few, the literate. Literacy in the region is
still an issue with the nomadic children who are not rooted long enough to specific places of
education and learning.
All this changed with the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. His revelations coupled with the gifting
by God of the Holy Qur’an singularly elevated the region from being a sleepy, regional backwater tobecoming the driving force for a major new religion, Islam. The word Qur’an is an Arabic word whichcombines the meanings of reading and recitation. Muhammad was born in 571 AD. To a QurayshArabic tribe in the Hejaz. In 622AD 13 years after his first Revelation the Prophet entered into an agreement with emissaries from Yathrib, some 218 miles north of Mekkah. The content gave him and his companions made up of 60 families’ sanctuary against persecution from the Mekkan authorities. Here he became ruler and exerted military and well as religious influence and authority.This, newly formed community formulated a strategy and entered into a war with the paganinhabitants of Mekkah.
The Prophet Muhammad later established a base for himself and his followers in Medinah. From this place his following rapidly spread across the region and beyond. His revelations were collectively encapsulated in a book called the Qur’an, the text of which was orally transmitted by learned followers. Later the Holy Book was compiled into a formalised publication. This process caused disquiet amongst the faithful as some elements appeared to have been missed out, resulting in what became known as the missing Suras. How many of these verses were not included is not known. Thecompilation process relied on the receipt of data from numerous sources. As such there were theinevitable discrepancies, repetitions and data overlaps.
It is entirely probable that in the process of editing some material could have been deliberately or
accidentally omitted. Additionally, it is possible that some matter would only have become available
only after the process of compilation had been completed. The fact that there were numerous
reports of missing Suras is well documented. We know of the existence of at least two such
manuscripts, the Band and the Lamb. Others may well also be in existence. It is entirely plausible
that additional material was, at one time in circulation.
As with the composition of the Holy Bible editorial licence is the most likely explanation as to what
was included and what was cast aside. In the case of the Bible numerous scriptures (Books) were
recorded as having been culled during the process when the early editions were first compiled and
composed alongside the ancient Jewish Old Testament, copy of which was and is still used by the
Jews. Printed versions of the combined Old and New Testaments did not arrive until the 15 th
century AD, nearly 1400 years after the event. As with the Koran reliance up to that point in time
had been placed on a very limited number of calligraphic editions. These costly and rare works of art varied in content, format and emphasis. As of now, the number and variety of printed and
electronically transmitted editions in global circulation may be calculated in the hundreds or even
thousands. A major difference between the Qur’an and the Bible is that the Holy Bible is not
perceived as being a definitive work dictated word for word from the mouth of God. As such over
the past 2,000 years it has been freely interpreted and printed in many languages. On the other part
the Holy Qur’an is a verbatim account of the revelations as received by the ‘Messenger’ Muhammad.
Most hand crafted calligraphic manuscript and printed versions of the Qur’an are in Arabic. This facthas helped maintain typographic consistency by limiting editorial licence in the translation process.The melody and rhythm of the Koranic verse is unique and as such helps the reader to vocalise the text in an unaltered, age old fashion.
The Old and the New Testament of the Bible and the Qur’an have, since there first recorded
publications been the respective fountains of religious learning for millions of followers. Demand for
the written word was, from the outset strong. A strong demand from across the fast growing Islamicmovement created a flourishing commercial market for scribes and later printers and publishers ofreligious works. Some of the world’s largest publishers have, over time made their fortunes printing and selling countless editions of the Bible.
For over five hundred years, since moveable type was invented by J. Guttenberg in Mainz, Germany publishers and printers alike have deployed their considerable skills to satisfy an ever burgeoning consumer market for print generally and academic, scientific and religious works in particular. As such, publishing enterprises of all sizes have had to compete for market share. In this commercial environment unmarketable, disputed or contentious text matter would generally be discarded well before being sent to the composing department.
Early reproductions of the Qur’an were undertaken by skilled calligraphers whose art and craft skillswere greatly prized. As such these calligraphic artists would have commanded commensurate
remuneration and status within their respective communities. This cost of bespoke, multi-crafted
illuminated books would have been considerable and only within reach of the privileged few.
With regards the compilation of the definitive Qur’an the primary editorial adjudication and
selective editorial cull was instigated by the highest authority, the Caliph, the editor in chief. The
scribe who undertook the initial calligraphic transcription would have done so to his express order
As such all of the very earliest publications would have been ‘Authorised’. Ibn Abbas was uncertain
about some of the attributions and was not sure whether such questionable material was included
or not in the Qur’an.
Due to the fact that this undertaking was commissioned some time after the Prophet Muhammad’s
demise meant that no one single source could be relied upon. Umar was of the opinion that much
of the text of the Qur’an was missing. A second problem arose and that related to the style of
calligraphy used. At the time most of the population were illiterate. Amongst those who could read
and write the various scribes tended to personalise their words to reflect the local dialects, much the
same as the Chinese have done for over 2,000 years.
Clarification of Qur’anic text content was made by Caliph Ma’mun (198-218AH) who coincidentally also forbade the use of diacritical and vowel marks. ‘The Band’ and ‘the Lamb’ as presented in this document included the vowel marks and as such can accurately be dated. They are not presently,nor have to the author’s knowledge been ever been included in the Uthman or any other publishedcodex. The source of these works remains unspecified. Clues abound as to provenance of theseimportant works. For example it is to be noted that the Uthman codex standardised the consonantaltext. By deduction The Band and The Lamb follow this style. So as to promote his version as beingthe sole source and fountain of truth Uthman reportedly destroyed rival variant readings. A scarcityof Qur’anic literature and high levels of illiteracy meant that most Muslims had no other option butto learn the Qur’an by rote, meaning that the content of authorised versions of the Holy Qur’an hadto be strictly monitored for consistency and accuracy. Clearly, this feature is much easier usingprinted word technology where one single manuscript can be repeatedly replicated in full colour inexact facsimile on multiple substrates many times over. It is to be remembered that, as now thepractice of learning the Qur’an by rote is kernel to its understanding and meaning. The beauty of therhythmic flow of words as they are uttered is unique to the Qur’an. For that reason alone many saythat it can, and should only be read out aloud in Arabic, translations clearly taint the original 25 meaning and lack the vibrancy of the message within.
Over three hundred years after the Prophet’s death Ibn Mujahid finally standardised the Qur’anic
text in the 10th c. He admitted that there were at least 14 written versions of the Qur’an in existenceat that time. By deduction the above Suras may have originated in one or other of these writings.Pre-Islamic scripts in Hiral script were then commonplace in Arabia, Hiral script being the leading andmost commonly used script in the 6th c. This name appears to link Macoraba with the written word,Al-Hiri meaning from Hira (Iraq).
7 After the Prophet’s Death
Within Islam a power struggle developed immediately after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. In656AD after the third caliph Uthman (of the influential Umayyad tribal family) was murdered. Afterthis outrage Ali put his name forward as being the rightful heir and inheritor of the Caliphate.
He based his claim on the fact that he was married to Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima. Ali also
leaned on his particular knowledge and social standing within the fledgling Islamic brotherhood. The
Prophet’s favourite wife, Aisha, also from the Umayyad family would have nothing of this and
opposed the idea completely. Ali was later assassinated and the Umayyads were re-installed in the
caliphate. When Ali’s son by Fatima, Hussein led a revolt and was killed the division between the
Shia and the Sunni resulted, a schism that never healed. From then on the Shia refused to accept as
caliph any but Ali’s descendants, while the Sunnis took the view that that these people should be
barred. Once in control of the city caliph Umar commenced the building of a mosque on the TempleRock, the precursor of the al-Aqsa mosque, which was not started until over fifty years later, andonly finished in 715AD.
After the death of the Prophet each of a succession of ruling caliphs were responsible for carrying
out the word and the letter of the Prophet, upholding his teachings and propagating his word. By
715AD 751 the Abbasid dynasty was at its zenith bringing with it a new age for Islamic civilization.
The arts and sciences, mathematics and astronomy all flourished in this new peaceful and dynamic
age of learning. As the populace became more sophisticated and more educated so did the power of
those who controlled vital communications. The educated scribes and administrators routinely used
cryptography to communicate sensitive data amongst themselves. An example of this new art is
found in the Adad al-Kuttab or Secretaries Manual which contains a chapter on cryptography. At thistime the Islamic scholars were reaching back in time to secure historic and distant knowledge fromother civilisations and places. Such knowledge and learning that was gained was translated and
stored or filed in what we would now term a library. The Islamic world provided an ideal cradle for
cryptanalysts as Islam demands justice in all spheres of human activity. By the 8 th century their rulingclasses had reached a state of sophistication in the arts, scholarship and learning. This enlightened period benefited from the newly invented process of paper making.
This, new found knowledge of paper making propelled communications generally across the Islamic
world. The technical break though created an impetus for educational and religious learning. Here a
new industry of warraqin ‘those who handle paper’ was borne. It was in this environment that Arabic scholars invented cryptanalysis, the science of code breaking. It was they who found a method of breaking the monoalphabetic substitution cipher, a cipher that had remained invulnerable for several centuries. Islamic Cryptanalysts with a capability and capacity to develop and apply state of the art encryption and decryption technology only came into their own when the Muslim civilisation had developed to a point where its scholars were both numerate and literate. Using a secret cipher code system called Macoraba an elite Islamic group (later to be referred to as the Macoraba) was recruited to undertake this task. Practicing scholars were well versed in bureaucratic governance and were, in most cases trained in algebra and advanced mathematics. Using this knowledge as a base they became cipher experts and were paid well to perform encryption and decryption work on their master’s behalf. These men were of impeccable standing,
the most trusted. The cipher patterns that they created were of a very high standard and in most cases unbreakable. They were far more sophisticated than the various alphabetic systems then in
use. This advance brought with it influence and power, which did not go unnoticed amongst the
clerics and theologians who studied law and the Hadith, which consist of the Prophet’s daily
utterances. Using their particular skill sets they were able to demonstrate that each statement
uttered was indeed attributable to Muhammad. This process was done by studying the entomology
of words, sequences and structure of sentences. Having achieved this they could then confirm
attribution based on conformity with linguistic patterns as spoken by the Prophet. Scholarship,
knowledge and secure communications skills when combined played an important role in Islamic
development. The drivers who headed this thrust were these who processed specialist crypto skills.
A ninth century scientist called Abu Yusuf Ya’ qub ibn Is-haq as-Sabbah ibn ‘omran ibn al-Kindi wrotea thesis titled ‘A Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages. His deductions are as relevant to-day as they were in the 9th century. In effect, his summation was, that first for the cipher to be broken the analyst must know the language and from there is to find a different plaintext of the same language long enough to fill a sheet or so. By deduction one can then count the occurrences of the different letters and or words, a principal recently used to determine the numbers of each of the letters used in the game Scrabble.
The group that made this discovery had a long tradition of scientific advancement. Since the earliest
times as specialists and advisors to the rulers they held ‘Court’ in Mekkah where they were called
the ‘Macoraba’, coincidentally, this being the ancient name for Mekkah. It is entirely probable that
the origins of this elite, intellectual class of academics preceded Islam by hundreds of years. What is
clear is that they collectively displayed a sophisticated understanding of algebra and mathematics.
This elite class acted as advisors to the tribal rulers and Sheikhs generated income by applying their
particular skill sets to commerce and trade. Some sources claim that they are able to trace their
lineage back to Babylonian times. Whilst their existence pre-dates Islam with a reputed history
dating back well over 2,000 years their contribution to science and learning has been on-going ever
since. The group’s sphere of influence accelerated during the time of Mohammad. Even during the
7th century by adopting new science principles they were able to elevate themselves above the rest.
In pursuit of this goal they advanced the evolving science of cryptography.
8 Background Research
It was only in the 1950’s that research work started in earnest on the Al-Hira artefacts. Since then a
diverse group of experts and interested parties have generously contributed to the previous
knowledge base. Research work accelerated in 2002 when a more concentrated effort was made.
This undertaking injected additional resources, adding pace into to the proceedings. As a
consequence the Trustees now have sufficient data to move to the next phase. The research lines
that have been drawn are broadly divided into two sections, the minor element focusing on Robert
Purnell whilst the main thrust deals with the history and significance of the artefacts. Interleaved
amongst these two distinct stories are aspects that may have a direct impact on Islamic history.
Much of the second tranche of data pertains to the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the
subsequent development and spread of Islam. From the outset the Trustees were never quite sure
as to the ultimate direction that the study would take. As more data became available the direction
of the research programme fell into clearly defined compartments. This document is a general
summary of the task that the author and the Trustees were presented with back in 2002. The work
ahead of them at that point in time was made harder due to the fact that none of the volunteers
within small group that started the work had any specialist knowledge in the subject and none was
professionally trained in this specialist field of research. Nevertheless they started out with good
intentions and soon were put in touch with the appropriate authorities and experts. Over the past
years the individual and collective contribution of these ‘experts’ has been particularly helpful.
Having said that, there is a limit to the amount of free time and resources that this group can set
aside for what are a very serious and worthwhile cause. Headway has nevertheless made. Theknowledge bank that is now available is growing by the day. Slowly, but surely inroads are beingmade into the long programme and some breakthroughs have been made which provide a
tantalising insight into the Al-Hira conundrum. If, for whatever reason you wish to share in this quest with us then the please read on. This story is based on the ancient, the origins of which can be traced back to numerous sources. The primary reason for our recent research is because it relates directly to a certain Robert Purnell, a Bristolian who died in 1813. He is the link, the one who has provided the tangible evidence upon which these notes are based. We know a lot about Robert and it is with great fortune that many items personal to him and his family survive.
Accordingly, until now the data has not been fully chronicled and assembled into a complete unit.
From what we now know there appear to be several overlapping leads which when combined will,
add weight and importance to the central theme of the research. Whilst this recent development
adds considerable new interest to our quest for a complete answer to the many questions posed the
work has seriously over stretched the abilities and resources of the founding Trustees. For this
reason we now encourage help and assistance from anyone who feels able to contribute, or add
value or new insights to the work done so far or that which is planned. So far, all the effort to-date
has been conducted on a mutual participation and interest basis. The documents, files, diaries and
other material sources that have been used are now being tested to see how they fit together to
make a definitive summary. This objective is still some way off and clearly far from complete. The
Trustees now wish to expand their understanding of the subject and have thus embarked on some
new lines of research one of which is the use of the internet. The reason for this is because they feel that having worked thus far they have almost reached the limits of their personal contributions.
Having read through the following manuscript the reader may feel that that there is an element
upon which he or she might wish to comment, or add too. If this is the case then please let the
Trustees know, their contact details can be found on the last page. Any resource contribution that
you can make, no matter how small or apparently irrelevant will be greatly appreciated.
As and when there is enough new material available the collective team of researchers and
custodians will be in a far better position to catalogue and formalise the historic train of events and
from that resource deduce where Al-Hira really fits into the greater scheme of our common history
and heritage. That said, the sum total of the work undertaken so far represents merely the bones of
the Al-Hira skeleton – its full story is yet to be built upon that frame. Having read this account you
will see the scope of the content is extensive, covering a very wide range of topics, some of which
are presently only loosely connected to the central theme, some, more or less complete. In each
case, as we proceed we will continue to endeavour to find the missing links and thus meld such
irregularities into a seamless flow of accepted facts. We trust that with the help of our friends we
can, sometime in the future unravel the full content of this complex narrative. As you will read this
includes various ancient religions, archaeological time zones, historical personalities, a plethora of
places, beliefs and theoretical concepts, all of which need to be systematically evaluated and put in
their respective place. Whether you are a historian, theologian, archaeologist or time traveller your
voice will be heard and your contribution will be much appreciated. The bare facts that have
amassed over time provide some tantalising clues as to why history evolved as it did. Contributions from our readers will, most certainly accelerate the research undertaking. In this regard we hope
that you will derive as much pleasure as we have in unearthing and bringing to life the Al-Hira story.
9. Origins of the Signet Ring
The political impact that the ring had on the tenuous alliance that existed between Hira and the Roman Empire was immediate. Having committed himself to Christianity King Numan 1st, King of Hiraset about to convert his entire kingdom to the Christian faith. Curiously he did this by abdicating andtaking on the life of a hermit monk. Nevertheless, his actions ultimately achieved his objective. Hisconversion from pagan worship to Christianity helped consolidate the political stability of the vassal State but some historians argue that his untimely abdication destabilised the cosy albeit one sidedunion with the Roman Empire. King Numan, was, by all accounts a wise politician and prudent leader. Even though his legacy and Christianisation policy lived, on his abdication generally created a political vacuum within the buffer State, a peripheral vassal of the Roman Empire in the West.
Whilst autobiographic records of the lives and works of Bahira, and his successor Nestor were
recorded in both Nestorian and Islamic accounts the full impact of the association with the Prophet
did not materialise for several decades after the Prophet’s demise. It was only after his death when
the Prophet‘s fame and influence had already spread across the region that questions pertaining to
the ‘Ring’ surfaced. Since his youth stories about its provenance, ownership and power circulated
freely amongst the faithful and across Hirra. Many later attributed the Prophet’s personal powers
directly to the Ring. This debate simmered for centuries thereafter. Some Jewish factions believed
that the Ring had originally been taken from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Some Hassidic,
right wing Jewish factions expand the claim stating that it originally belonged to Moses who decreed
that it pass directly to his successors. Their rationale is that this lineage ultimately ended up with
King Solomon. On this basis they argue that custodianship should rightly be given back to the Jews
and that the Ring should forthwith be repatriated with them at a place of their choosing in
Each of the above structures are directly based on the frontal lobe of the Al-Hira Signet ring. In the
case of the Quba’ Mosqu its foundations stones were laid by the Prophet Muhammad and as such
reflected his design – a mirror of the facet of his ‘Ring’ .