“Allah”, “Ali” and Vikings

A silk textile product found at the Birka Viking site in Sweden apparently caused  excitement throughout Turkey. This great interest is not surprising, since according to what Swedish archaeologists have reported, there are Arabic words of “Allah” and “Ali” in Kufic form writings on the silk fabric. As it might be expected, among those who comment below the links shared on the internet, there have been hardening debates within a short span of time.


Two main trends have emerged: those who claim that Scandinavian medieval society is honored with Islam and those who argue that Scandinavians are not interested in Islam but are already pagan / barbarians. It must be expressed in the shortest and clearest way that both views are wrong. Unfortunately, this is another example of “being an expert on every subject” that has become a fashionable, even such a natural behavior in our country in recent years. We are not going to defend the expert aristocracy of course, but there are scientific facts; that’s why we are writing this general assessment.



There is no information that would surprise a person who has done some readings about  medieval Scandinavia, whether he/she is a professional or not. It’s quite clear. Relations and the cultural interaction between Scandinavian societies and the East / Islamic / Arabic world have already been in the sphere of interest of specialists for generations (we have attached an example of these studies below as a photograph). From coins to fabrics, to Run inscriptions, and finally to contemporary sources, there is a full set of materials that proves this relationship in a wide variety. It is not a mystery to be honest.


Even if we only take the silk fabric into consideration which was mentioned in the news, it would be quite enough to remember the book named “Silk for the Vikings” written by Professor Marianne Vedeler of University of Oslo, which was published three years before that news was published. – this is just an example.


Is that finding insignificant? Of course not. Cultural intersections occured between regions which are considered to be too far away from each other are important in terms of history and in terms of the necessity of questioning where we come from and where we are going by getting out of the natural flow of our lives. So what’s the story? The root of the ripple of excitement is the way of sensational displaying that our archaeologist colleagues frequently prefer when they discover a new noteworthy finding. In fact, if you have noticed, in almost every excavation season, news come out as shown in the  following: “The world’s first (x) was found”. In this example, it is clear that a striking demonstration is aimed, even though there is not any claim that shows that they have found a unique finding. So the confusion emerges at the last layer that the news reaches, which is essentially the one that causes a problem.


The most important part of the news is the statement made by a team member: “The Viking god Oden is said to have been a warrior who migrated from Asia and settled in Sweden’s Malardalen territory. The Vikings believed in life after death, and an eternal life in heaven. This belief was directly influenced by Islam.”


We do not know whatever new knowledge our colleagues have in their hands and how they have performed that analysis, but the internet community who is not familiar to the subject also does not know it. Explanations just consist of  a piece of fabric decorated with the name of “Allah” and “Ali”. This situation is really strange, because there is no connection apart  from jumping bravely into one sentence from another. Let’s give more details by means of some arguments:

1)What is the relevance between the possible influence of Islam and the migration of Scandinavian communities, led by Odin, starting from Turkland assumed to be located at the lower course of Don river? Odin may or may not be a mythicized king; but it is clear that this narrative must be dated far ahead of Islam, which had appeared in the 7th century. Even if there was a chronological intersection between “King” Odin and Islam, it should have been faced with  detailed confirmation.

2) Isn’t it strange that if two cultures have cohesions with each other on a universal belief as life after death, it is not Christianity that is given a priority? The Scandinavian societies, both by force and voluntarily, have essentially adopted the afterlife belief of Christianity. Because these people were on the outer periphery of the cultural circle of Christianity which is such a buffer zone between Islam and them.

3) If this comprehensive argument presented to the public opinion is reached from a single fabric, what do Buddha figurines found in the excavations point to?

4) Interpretation of the grave finds is an important part of the debate whether the historical state of Russia was founded by the people who were invited by Scandinavians or the Slavs themselves, which has lasted for almost two centuries. “Are Scandinavian style artifacts unearthed from the graves original products, or local imitations?”, “Are those lying in the graves ethnically Scandinavian or indigenous?” People have had debates on these things for days, for volumes, they are still having them. Scientists debate these kind of matters for so long.


As you can see, it is not easily come through.
Do not assume that we are imposing that  Islam does not go with Scandinavian cultures. There are also interpretations coming out of this door, that’s why we are saying that. We only invite you to interpret facts insofar as materials permit this process to happen without cultural emotions.


There are also other comments which have been made, e.g Vikings are barbarians, they are such a cursed tribe. These barbaric people had their own legal system, their own authentic religious life, literature that have influenced Europe, language and multi cultural trading cities. So what are you talking about, if you please?


Just for now, this is shortly all we have to say about all these.