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Islamic Careers
Islamic Careers

History of Islamic economics

Between the 8th and 12th centuries, the Muslim world developed many advanced concepts, techniques and use in production, investment, finance, economic development, taxation, property use such as Hawala, an early informal value transfer system, Islamic trusts known as waqf, systems of contract relied upon by merchants, a widely circulated common currency, cheques, promissory notes, early contracts, bills of exchange, (mufawada), advanced agricultural techniques, high literacy rates, and enlightened capture and use of slaves.

Specific Islamic concepts involving money, property, taxation, charity included
• zakat (the "taxing of certain goods, such as harvest, with an eye to allocating these taxes to expenditures that are also explicitly defined, such as aid to the needy");
• Gharar ("the interdiction of chance ... that is, of the presence of any element of uncertainty, in a contract (which excludes not only insurance but also the lending of money without participation in the risks); and
• riba (charging interest or at least high interest on money lent).
These concepts, like others in Islamic law and jurisprudence, came from the "prescriptions, anecdotes, examples, and words of the Prophet, all gathered together and systematized by commentators according to an inductive, casuistic method." [1] Sometimes other sources such as al-urf, (the custom), al-'aql (reason) or al-ijma (consensus of the jurists) were employed.[2] In addition, Islamic law has developed areas of law that correspond to secular laws of contracts and torts.
Self-described "Islamic economics" emerged in the 1940s, and as of 2004 "Islamic Banks" have been established in over 70 countries, and interest has been banned in three:Pakistan, Iran and the Sudan.[3]

Early Islamic economics

One economic policy of the Prophet in early Islam was a ban on charging fees and rents and a ban on permanent buildings in the market of Medina - only tents were allowed there. This is said to have helped poor traders.[4]

Social responsibility in commerce

Social responsibility in commerce was stressed in Islam. As a result, the development of Islamic banks and Islamic economics did not allow usury.[citation needed] No interest ratewas allowed, and investors were not permitted to escape the consequences of any failed venture—all financing was equity financing (Musharaka).[citation needed] In not letting borrowers bear all the risk/cost of a failure, an extreme disparity of outcomes between "partners" is thus avoided.[citation needed] Ultimately this serves a social harmony purpose. Muslims also could not and cannot (in shariah) finance any dealings in forbidden goods or activities, such as wine, pork, gambling, etc. Thus ethical investing is the only acceptable investing, and moral purchasing is encouraged.

Legal institutions

The Hawala, an early informal value transfer system, has its origins in classical Islamic law, and is mentioned in texts of Islamic jurisprudence as early as the 8th century. Hawalaitself later influenced the development of the agency in common law and in civil laws such as the aval in French law and the avallo in Italian law. The words aval and avallo were themselves derived from Hawala. The transfer of debt, which was "not permissible under Roman law but became widely practiced in medieval Europe, especially in commercial transactions", was due to the large extent of the "trade conducted by the Italian cities with the Muslim world in the Middle Ages." The agency was also "an institution unknown to Roman law" as no "individual could conclude a binding contract on behalf of another as his agent." In Roman law, the "contractor himself was considered the party to the contract and it took a second contract between the person who acted on behalf of a principal and the latter in order to transfer the rights and the obligations deriving from the contract to him." On the other hand, Islamic law and the later common law "had no difficulty in accepting agency as one of its institutions in the field of contracts and of obligations in general."[5]

Waqf trust

The waqf in Islamic law, which developed in the medieval Islamic world from the 7th to 9th centuries, bears a notable resemblance to the English trust law.[6] Every waqf was required to have a waqif (founder), mutawillis (trustee), qadi (judge) and beneficiaries.[7] Under both a waqf and a trust, "property is reserved, and its usufruct appropriated, for the benefit of specific individuals, or for a general charitable purpose; the corpus becomes inalienable; estates for life in favor of successive beneficiaries can be created" and "without regard to the law of inheritance or the rights of the heirs; and continuity is secured by the successive appointment of trustees or mutawillis."[8]

The only significant distinction between the Islamic waqf and English trust was "the express or implied reversion of the waqf to charitable purposes when its specific object has ceased to exist",[9] though this difference only applied to the waqf ahli (Islamic family trust) rather than the waqf khairi (devoted to a charitable purpose from its inception). Another difference was the English vesting of "legal estate" over the trust property in the trustee, though the "trustee was still bound to administer that property for the benefit of the beneficiaries." In this sense, the "role of the English trustee therefore does not differ significantly from that of the mutawalli."[10]

The trust law developed in England at the time of the Crusades, during the 12th and 13th centuries, was introduced by Crusaders who may have been influenced by the waqfinstitutions they came across in the Middle East.[11][12]
After the Islamic waqf law and madrassah foundations were firmly established by the 10th century, the number of Bimaristan hospitals multiplied throughout Islamic lands. In the 11th century, every Islamic city had at least several hospitals. The waqf trust institutions funded the hospitals for various expenses, including the wages of doctors,ophthalmologists, surgeons, chemists, pharmacists, domestics and all other staff, the purchase of foods and drugs; hospital equipment such as beds, mattresses, bowls and perfumes; and repairs to buildings. The waqf trusts also funded medical schools, and their revenues covered various expenses such as their maintenance and the payment of teachers and students.[13]

Classical Muslim commerce

During the Islamic Golden Age (roughly 786-1258 CE), guilds were formed though officially unrecognized by the medieval Islamic city. However, trades were recognized and supervised by officials of the city. Each trade developed its own identity, whose members would attend the same mosque, and serve together in the militia.

Technology and industry in Islamic civilization were highly developed. Distillation techniques supported a flourishing perfume industry, while chemical ceramic glazes were developed to compete with ceramics imported from China.
The systems of contract relied upon by merchants was very effective. Merchants would buy and sell on commission, with money loaned to them by wealthy investors, or a joint investment of several merchants, who were often Muslim, Christian and Jewish. Recently, a collection of documents was found in an Egyptian synagogue shedding a very detailed and human light on the life of medieval Middle Eastern merchants. Business partnerships would be made for many commercial ventures, and bonds of kinship enabled trade networks to form over huge distances. During the ninth century banks enabled the drawing of a check in by a bank in Baghdad that could be cashed in Morocco.[14]

The concepts of welfare and pension were introduced in early Islamic law as forms of Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, since the time of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur in the 8th century. The taxes (including Zakat and Jizya) collected in the treasury of an Islamic government was used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058–1111), the government was also expected to store up food supplies in every region in case a disaster or famine occurs. The Caliphate was thus one of the earliest welfare states, particularly the Abbasid Caliphate.[15]

Economy in the Caliphate

In the medieval Arab Agricultural Revolution, a social transformation took place as a result of changing land ownership giving individuals of any gender,[16] ethnic or religiousbackground the right to buy, sell, mortgage and inherit land. Based on the Quran, signatures were required on contracts for major financial transactions concerning agriculture,industry, commerce, and employment. Copies of the contract were usually kept by both parties involved.

Early forms of proto-capitalism and free markets were present in the Caliphate.[17] An early market economy and early form of merchant capitalism developed between the 8th and 12th centuries.[18] A vigorous monetary economy developed based on the wide circulation of a common currency (the dinar) and the integration of previously independent monetary areas. Business techniques and forms of business organization employed during this time included early contracts, bills of exchange, long-distance international trade, early forms of partnership (mufawada) such as limited partnerships (mudaraba), and early forms of credit, debt, profit, loss, capital (al-mal), capital accumulation (nama al-mal),[19] circulating capital, capital expenditure, revenue, cheques, promissory notes,[20] trusts (waqf), savings accounts, transactional accounts, pawning, loaning, exchange rates, bankers, money changers, ledgers, deposits, assignments, the double-entry bookkeeping system,[21] and lawsuits.[22] Organizational enterprises similar to corporationsindependent from the state also existed in the medieval Islamic world.[23][24] Many of these concepts were adopted and further advanced in medieval Europe from the 13th century onwards.[19]

The concepts of welfare and pension were present in early Islamic law as forms of zakat one of the Five Pillars of Islam, since the time of the Rashidun caliph Umar in the 7th century. The taxes (including zakat and jizya) collected in the treasury (bayt al-mal) of an Islamic government were used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, the elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058–1111), the government was also expected to stockpile food supplies in every region in case of disaster or famine. The Caliphate was thus one of the earliest welfare states.[15][25]


During the Islamic Golden Age, isolated regions had contact with a far-reaching Muslim trade network extending from the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean in the west to theIndian Ocean and South China Sea in the east, and covering most of the Old World,[26] including significant areas of Asia and Africa and much of Europe, with their trade networks .[27] Arabic silver dirham coins were being circulated throughout the Afro-Eurasian landmass, as far as sub-Saharan Africa in the south and northern Europe in the north, often in exchange for goods and slaves.[28]
This helped establish the Islamic Empire (including the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates) as the world's leading extensive economic power in the 7th-13th centuries.[26]

Due to religious sanctions against debt, Tamil Muslims have historically been money changers (not money lenders) throughout South and South East Asia.[29]

Agriculture in the medieval Islamic world

From the 8th century to the 13th century in Muslim lands many crops and plants were planted along Muslim trade routes, farming techniques spread. In addition to changes in economy, population distribution, vegetation cover,[30] agricultural production, population levels, urban growth, the distribution of the labour force, and numerous other aspects of life in the Islamic world were affected according to Andrew Watson.[31] However this is disputed by other scholars, who claim cultivation and consumption of staples such asdurum wheat, Asiatic rice, and sorghum as well as cotton were already commonplace centuries before,[32] or that agricultural production declined in areas brought under Muslim rule in the Middle Ages.[33]

The economic system in place in Muslim areas during this time incorporated reformed land ownership rules and labourers' rights, combining the recognition of private ownership and the rewarding of cultivators with a harvest share commensurate with their efforts also improved agricultural practices. The cities of the Near East, North Africa and Moorish Spain were supported by highly structured agricultural systems which required significant labor inputs. Such regional systems were often significantly more productive than the agricultural practices in most of Europe at the time which relied heavily on grazing animals and systems of fallowing.

The demographics of medieval Islamic society varied in some significant aspects from other agricultural societies, including a decline in birth rates as well as a change in life expectancy. Other traditional agrarian societies are estimated to have had an average life expectancy of 20 to 25 years,[34] while ancient Rome and medieval Europe are estimated at 20 to 30 years.[35] Conrad I. Lawrence estimates the average lifespan in the early Islamic Caliphate to be above 35 years for the general population,[36] and several studies on the lifespans of Islamic scholars concluded that members of this occupational group enjoyed a life expectancy between 69 and 75 years,[37][38][39] though this longevity was not representative of the general population.[40]

The early Islamic Empire also had the highest literacy rates among pre-modern societies, alongside the city of classical Athens in the 4th century BC,[41] and later, China after the introduction of printing from the 10th century.[42] One factor for the relatively high literacy rates in the early Islamic Empire was its parent-driven educational marketplace, as the state did not systematically subsidize educational services until the introduction of state funding under Nizam al-Mulk in the 11th century.[43] Another factor was the diffusion ofpaper from China,[44] which led to an efflorescence of books and written culture in Islamic society, thus papermaking technology transformed Islamic society (and later, the rest ofAfro-Eurasia) from an oral to scribal culture, comparable to the later shifts from scribal to typographic culture, and from typographic culture to the Internet.[45] Other factors include the widespread use of paper books in Islamic society (more so than any other previously existing society), the study and memorization of the Qur'an, flourishing commercial activity, and the emergence of the Maktab and Madrasah educational institutions.[46]

Islamic capitalism[

Early Islamic commerce applied a number of concepts and techniques, including bills of exchange, forms of partnership (mufawada) such as limited partnerships (mudaraba), and early forms of capital (al-mal), capital accumulation (nama al-mal),[19] cheques, promissory notes,[47] trusts (see waqf), transactional accounts, loans, ledgers andassignments.[48] Organizational enterprises independent of the state also existed in the medieval Islamic world, while the agency institution was also introduced.[23][24] Medieval Europe adopted and developed many of these concepts from the 13th century onwards.[19]
A market economy was established[by whom?] in the Islamic world on the basis of an economic system resembling merchant capitalism.

labour promoted capital formation in medieval Islamic society, and a considerable number of owners of monetary funds and precious metals developed financial capital. The Qur'an prohibited riba (usury), but this did not hamper the development of capital in any way.[citation needed] The capitalists (sahib al-mal) stood at the height of their power between the 9th and 12th centuries, but their influence declined after the arrival of the ikta (landowners) and after the state monopolized production; both these trends hampered any development of industrial capitalism in the Islamic world.[49] Some state enterprises still had a capitalist mode of production, such as pearl diving in Iraq and the textile industry in Egypt.[50]

From the 11th to the 13th centuries, the "Karimis", an enterprise and business group controlled by entrepreneurs, came to dominate much of the Islamic world's economy.[51] The group was controlled by about fifty Muslim merchants labelled as "Karimis", who were of Yemeni, Egyptian and sometimes Indian origin.[52] Each Karimi merchant had considerable wealth, ranging from at least 100,000 dinars to as much as 10 million dinars. The group had considerable influence in most important eastern markets, and sometimes influenced politics through its financing activities and through a variety of customers, including Emirs, Sultans, Viziers, foreign merchants, and common consumers. The Karimis dominated many of the trade routes across the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean, and as far as Francia in the north, China in the east, and sub-Saharan Africa in the south, where they obtained gold from gold mines. Practices employed by the Karimis included the use of agents, the financing of projects as a method of acquiring capital, and a banking institution for loans and deposits.

Islamic socialism

Though medieval Islamic economics appears to have somewhat resembled a form of capitalism, some arguing that it laid the foundations for the development of modern capitalism,[53][54] Others see Islamic economics as neither completely capitalistic nor completely socialistic, but rather a balance between the two, emphasizing both "individual economic freedom and the need to serve the common good."[25]

Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, a Companion of Prophet Muḥammad, is credited by many as the founder of Islamic socialism.[55][56][57][58][59] He protested against the accumulation of wealth by the ruling class during ‘Uthmān's caliphate and urged the equitable redistribution of wealth.

The concepts of welfare and pension were introduced in early Islamic law as forms of Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, during the time of the Rashidun caliph Umarin the 7th century. This practiced continued well into the era of the Abbasid Caliphate, as seen under Al-Ma'mun's rule in the 8th century, for example. The taxes (including Zakatand Jizya) collected in the treasury of an Islamic government were used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058–1111), the government was also expected to stockpile food supplies in every region in case a disaster or famine occurred. The Caliphate is thus considered the world's first major welfare state.[15][25]

The Prophet Muhammad himself advocated common ownership, reportedly saying according to Ibn Abbas that "Muslims are partners in three things, water, herbage and fire" in the modern day terms this can probably be applied to water, food, energy, fuel, oil and gas.

Industrial development

Muslim engineers in the Islamic world were responsible for numerous innovative industrial uses of hydropower, early industrial uses of tide mills, wind power, and fossil fuels such as petroleum. A variety of industrial mills were used in the Islamic world, including fulling mills, gristmills, hullers, sawmills, shipmills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, tide mills, and windmills. By the 11th century, every province throughout the Islamic world had these industrial mills in operation, from al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.[60] Muslim engineers also employed water turbines, and gears in mills and water-raising machines, and pioneered the use of dams as a source of water power, used to provide additional power to watermills and water-raising machines.[61] Such advances made it possible for many industrial tasks that were previously driven by manual labour in ancient times to be mechanized and driven by machinery instead in the medieval Islamic world. The transfer of these technologies to medieval Europe later laid the foundations for the Industrial Revolution in 18th century Europe.[60]

Many industries were generated due to the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, including astronomical instruments, ceramics, chemicals, distillation technologies, clocks, glass, mechanical hydropowered and wind powered machinery, matting, mosaics, pulp and paper, perfumery, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, rope-making, shipping, shipbuilding, silk, sugar, textiles, weapons, and the mining of minerals such as sulfur, ammonia, lead and iron]. The first large factory complexes (tiraz) were built for many of these industries. Knowledge of these industries were later transmitted to medieval Europe, especially during the Latin translations of the 12th century, as well as before and after. The agricultural and handicraft industries also experienced high levels of growth during this period.[27]

In Islamic governments such as the Fatimid Caliphate, the tax collection, rather than being wasted on temples or courts, was invested industrial development, such as the Fatimid government's investment in the textile industry. In addition to government-owned tiraz textile factories, there were also privately owned enterprises run largely by landlords who collected taxes and invested them in the textile industry.[62]

Labour force

The labor force in the Caliphate were employed from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, while both men and women were involved in diverse occupations and economicactivities.[63] Women were employed in a wide range of commercial activities and diverse occupations[64] in the primary sector (as farmers for example), secondary sector (asconstruction workers, dyers, spinners, etc.) and tertiary sector (as investors, doctors, nurses, presidents of guilds, brokers, peddlers, lenders, scholars, etc.).[65] Muslim women also held a monopoly over certain branches of the textile industry,[64] the largest and most specialized and market-oriented industry at the time, in occupations such as spinning,dyeing, and embroidery. In comparison, female property rights and wage labour were relatively uncommon in Europe until the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.[66]

The division of labour was diverse and had been evolving over the centuries. During the 8th–11th centuries, there were on average 63 unique occupations in the primary sector of economic activity (extractive), 697 unique occupations in the secondary sector (manufacturing), and 736 unique occupations in the tertiary sector (service). By the 12th century, the number of unique occupations in the primary sector and secondary sector decreased to 35 and 679 respectively, while the number of unique occupations in the tertiary sector increased to 1,175. These changes in the division of labour reflect the increased mechanization and use of machinery to replace manual labour and the increasedstandard of living and quality of life of most citizens in the Caliphate.[67]

An economic transition occurred during this period, due to the diversity of the service sector being far greater than any other previous or contemporary society, and the high degree of economic integration between the labour force and the economy. Islamic society also experienced a change in attitude towards manual labour. In previous civilizations such as ancient Greece and in contemporary civilizations such as early medieval Europe, intellectuals saw manual labour in a negative light and looked down on them with contempt. This resulted in technological stagnation as they did not see the need for machinery to replace manual labour. In the Islamic world, however, manual labour was seen in a far more positive light, as intellectuals such as the Brethren of Purity likened them to a participant in the act of creation, while Ibn Khaldun alluded to the benefits of manual labour to the progress of society.[64]

By the early 10th century, the idea of the academic degree was introduced and being granted at Maktab schools, Madrasah colleges and Bimaristan hospitals. In the medical fieldin particular, the Ijazah certificate was granted to those qualified to be practicing physicians, in order to differentiate them from unqualified quacks.[68]


There was a significant increase in urbanization during this period, due to numerous scientific advances in fields such as agriculture, hygiene, sanitation, astronomy, medicineand engineering.[citation needed] This also resulted in a rising middle class population.[69]
As urbanization increased, Muslim cities' growth was largely unregulated, resulting in narrow winding city streets and neighborhoods separated by different ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations. Suburbs lay just outside the walled city, from wealthy residential communities, to working class semi-slums. City garbage dumps were located far from the city, as were clearly defined cemeteries which were often homes for criminals. A place of prayer was found near one of the main gates, for religious festivals and public executions. Similarly, Military Training grounds were found near a main gate.[citation needed]
While varying in appearance due to climate and prior local traditions, Islamic cities were almost always dominated by a merchant middle class. Some peoples' loyalty towards their neighborhood was very strong, reflecting ethnicity and religion, while a sense of citizenship was at times uncommon (but not in every case). The extended family provided the foundation for social programs, business deals, and negotiations with authorities. Part of this economic and social unit were often the tenants of a wealthy landlord.

State power normally focused on Dar al Imara, the governor's office in the citadel. These fortresses towered high above the city built on thousands of years of human settlement. The primary function of the city governor was to provide for defence and to maintain legal order. This system would be responsible for a mixture of autocracy and autonomy within the city. Each neighborhood, and many of the large tenement blocks, elected a representative to deal with urban authorities. These neighborhoods were also expected to organize their young men into a militia providing for protection of their own neighborhoods, and as aid to the professional armies defending the city as a whole.

The head of the family was given the position of authority in his household, although a qadi, or judge was able to negotiate and resolve differences in issues of disagreements within families and between them. The two senior representatives of municipal authority were the qadi and the muhtasib, who held the responsibilities of many issues, including quality of water, maintenance of city streets, containing outbreaks of disease, supervising the markets, and a prompt burial of the dead.

Another aspect of Islamic urban life was waqf, a religious charity directly dealing with the qadi and religious leaders. Through donations, the waqf owned many of the public bathsand factories, using the revenue to fund education, and to provide irrigation for orchards outside the city. Following expansion, this system was introduced into Eastern Europe by Ottoman Turks.
While religious foundations of all faiths were tax exempt in the Muslim world, civilians paid their taxes to the urban authorities, soldiers to the superior officer, and landowners to the state treasury. Taxes were also levied on an unmarried man until he was wed. Instead of zakat, the mandatory charity required of Muslims, non-Muslims were required to pay the jizya, a discriminatory religious tax, imposed on Christians and Jews. During the Muslim Conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries conquered populations were given the three choices of either converting to Islam, paying the jizya, or dying by the sword.
Animals brought to the city for slaughter were restricted to areas outside the city, as were any other industries seen as unclean. The more valuable a good was, the closer its market was to the center of town. Because of this, booksellers and goldsmiths clustered around the main mosque at the heart of the city.[citation needed]

By the 10th century, the library of Cairo had more than 100,000 books, while the library of Tripoli is said to have had as many as three million books. The number of important and original Arabic works on science that have survived is much larger than the combined total of Greek and Latin works on science.[70]


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