The Economic System of the Early Islamic Period: Institutions and Policies

  • Book Title:
 The Economic System Of The Early Islamic Period
  • Book Author:
Seyed Kazem Sadr
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The Economic and Cultural Situation of the Arabian Peninsula prior to Islam


 The Arabian Peninsula, which was known as the Jazirat-ul Arab prior to the emergence of Islam, was located in the middle of three major continents; Asia, Europe and Africa. From the north, it had borders with Sham (Old Syria) and Iraq. It also had borders with the states under the influence of the emperors of Persia and Rome. The peninsula was connected to Asia and Europe through these states. The Red Sea, or “ Bahr ul-Qulzum ”, is located between this land and the African continent and countries such as Egypt and Habasha (Ethiopia), which were under the influence of the Romans.

Through this waterway, the connection with this continent was established. Regions like Yemen, Adan and Oman were all located to the south of the peninsula and all had access to the Gulf of Aden, the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean. The navigable waterway to India was a route via Oman. In addition to the northern roads to Iraq and Sham, the Peninsula had sea routes with Asia via India.

The geographic situation of Arabia, which is located between the three continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa, provided it with a special advantage, because the trade between Persia and Rome and their subordinate governments—that is, Sham (Greater Syria), Ethiopia and Yemen—took place through Hijaz before the rise of Islam (Fayyaz 1335 /1956, 10–12).

In addition, a section of the trade route between Rome and India passed through the south and east of Arabia for centuries, and was called the Southern Trade Route. The merchant caravans took advantage of the seasonal bazaars; these were set up in Yemen, Hijaz and 4 S.K. SADR

 Sham, especially in Sana (Capital of Yemen), Yathrib and Makkah, and were able to trade commodities. Also, another trade route passed through the north of Arabia. This route became an important trade route, when the Southern Trade Route lost its importance. Since that time, the commodities sent from India were shipped to Oman and, from there, were carried on land through the north of Arabia and Sham to Rome. Along this route, seasonal bazaars were set up and states in the area depended on these trad-ing activities.

Their capitals were centers of commerce for the merchant caravans that were traveling this route. The capitals of the states of Aal – Lakhm, Aal-Kindah and Aal-Ghassan (i.e., Hirah , DoumatulJandal and Bosra , respectively) were located along the Northern Trade Route. Other than the Southern and Northern Trade Routes, there was a third route between Sham and Yemen which was developed when Hashim , the elder grandfather of the Prophet of Islam, took over the leadership of the Quraysh tribe. Trade through this route was the result of the efforts of Hashim who obtained agreements and permissions from the kings of Rome, Persia, Ethiopia and Yemen for Quraysh. Subsequently, trade through this route developed and Quraysh gained a great deal of wealth. Makkah once again found its importance as a trading -center because the House of Ka’ba was located there and the Arab tribes came once a year for pilgrimage at Ka’ba.

Before the Pilgrimage ceremonies, the tribes had an opportunity to trade. Being a sanctuary, the House of Ka’ba created the necessary security for trade. War and bloodshed were forbidden during four months of every year, and the concurrence of the ceremonies during the same period ensured the safe movement of merchant caravans to Makkah and their return to their destinations. The treaty of Hilful-Fodzul was made between the Arab tribes and increased the trade security in Makkah more than ever. This treaty will be discussed in Chap. 2 . For these reasons, trade was the most significant activity in the economy of Arabia.

 Apart from this, the Peninsula was relatively deprived of other natural attributes. The only humid region of the Peninsula, where it was possible to have some agricultural activity, comprised the southern parts of the Peninsula, which were exposed to the westbound humid winds of the Indian Ocean. For this reason, cultivation, horticulture and animal husbandry had been established since the early years. With the sea as its border, the fi sh-ing industry was established, and trade relations with India allowed the re-export of commodities to Rome. This was a third opportunity that created the economic boom in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. In this regard, the Peninsula has always had larger settlements and been urbanized; it has…


 From the time of the prophethood to the time of the Messenger’s migration to Madinah lasted about 13 years. For three years, his invitations were not made public. The next three years, the Prophet (SAAS) and his followers spent in the Abi-Talib Valley in exile. The beloved Messenger had only seven years within which to propagate the principles of Islam before migrating to Madinah.

 The belief-oriented verses of the Qur’an regarding monotheism, the prophecy of the Messenger and the Day of Judgment are commandments from this period. It is evident that monotheism, which is the basis of the Islamic worldview and which describes the relationship between the Almighty and his creatures, human beings and nature, was to be introduced during this very period so that the Muslims would become aquainted with them and be guided accordingly. Prophecy was the declaration of the new mission of the Prophet (SAAS) and the Qur’an introduced this mission as a complement to all other previous Heavenly religions and named the Messenger as “ Khatam-ul- Anbia ” (the last and fi nal Prophet (SAAS)). Most of the verses regarding his prophecy and being the last prophet were all revealed during this period (Bazargan 1355/1976).

The destiny of human beings and their state after death is envisaged by the principle of the Day of Judgment. Truly speaking, monotheism states how human beings have been created, directed, nourished and evolved, and the nature of the relationship between Mankind and Allah (ST) and nature. Prophecy states the mission and objectives of a human being during his lifetime in nature and eschatology is about his destiny and his regression to God after his death. These principles of Islam and the objectives in life, together with various values, were all presented in Makkah . Some parts of worship were also canonized in Makkah .

They clarify values that prepare and educate human beings for evolution and self-development. Consequently, Prophet (SAAS) Muhammad (SAWAWS), despite being in an unfavorable situation and under intense pressure, took the opportunity to present the principles of his religion in Makkah and in this way educated and trained a group of committed believers about Islam. With this human capital, after migrating to Madinah he tried to form an Islamic community and an Islamic state.

 The importance of faith-related principles to worshiping guidelines makes it incumbent on us to clarify the pre-migration acts which were themselves based on these beliefs and this training. So, in what follows, we will offer a brief and classified presentation of them.

Presentation of the Islamic Worldview and the Principles of Islamic Beliefs

 Since Muslims are characterized by their principle beliefs and their vision about the universe and their Creator, the great Messenger of Islam sets out his invitation based on the Islamic worldview and the applications of divine verdicts. For this purpose, Prophet (SAAS) used to continually spell out Qur’anic verses and only those prepared to read these verses were able to become familiar with Islam or to learn more about their newly adopted religion; by these means, he invited them to Islam.

 The Qur’an invites human beings to obtain knowledge and perfection, and prime characteristics and views. The ultimate endeavor and efforts of human beings would be to approach a state of divinity. ( Hojorat , 49/13; Anfal , 8/26; Raad , 13/28; Mo’menoon , 23/1–11; Loqman , 31/22; Ahzaab , 33/21–23; Ahqaf , 46/12–14; Ankaboot , 29/5). The preaching of the Qur’an introduces the great values of a human being ( Baqareh, 2/31–33). Ma’ad is introduced as a new stage in life and our death is merely a turning point in the type of life ( Saba , 34/29–30; Yasin , 78–80). A human being will be confronted with the consequences of his deeds and actions during his life and Ma’ad (Baqareh , 2/277–281; Aal- Emran , 3/30; Kahf , 18/30; Zokhrof , 43/66–76).

 In addition to developing the basis for fundamental thoughts and beliefs for Muslims, the great Messenger was also involved in guiding their deeds and behaviors, trying to introduce the most balanced mannerisms to them, at the same time asking them to refrain from improper conduct. Since economic activities constitute a very large part of every Muslim’s overall conduct, the great Messenger paid special attention to them. He equated and termed most of the economic deeds as “worship”, an act that is of interest to the Almighty Allah, and the performance of which makes one closer to him.

 The great Messenger considers fasting, Zakat , Khums and Hajj as compulsory deeds for every Muslim. These deeds constitute about half of the total worship or by-laws of the religion. Further, for acts such as Infaq, Qard Hassan, Waqf and Haqqul Maaloom , the great Messenger placed very high values and blessings on these, and considered them as transactions with the Creator of the universe ( Baqareh , 2/254, 261–262,

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