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Create account Login Subscribe. Islam spread remarkably quickly before the era of European colonialism. This column argues that an important economic factor in determining the geographic range was spatial inequality that necessitated a politically unifying force like Islam.
Regions that harboured such economic inequality were especially ripe for a system like Islam that offered progressive redistributive tenets with centralised authority to enforce them. Both the Arab Spring and the ongoing struggles in Syria are giving a new shape trading group definition geography the Muslim world.
The power of the state is shifting from dictators to Islamic trading group definition geography. Naturally, the international community is following this transition closely. Will centralised, religiously based political forces succeed in bringing together the heterogeneous population trading group definition geography the region? Will it put them on a path towards embracing adequate political and economic reforms?
Existing evidence regarding the impact of Islam on political and economic indicators is controversial. Some studies identify a negative relationship cf. La Porta et al. PryorSala-i-Martin et al. Such correlations are interesting, but our understanding of the Muslim world will remain limited unless we identify the forces that gave rise to the adoption of Islam across as well as within countries. Our recent research provides a first step towards that goal Michalopoulos, Naghavi and Prarolo Prominent Islamic historians and scholars e.
Ibn KhaldunLapidusBerkeyLewis whose research focuses on where Islam was adopted emphasise the historical role of trade routes. Whether Islam was adopted can also be explained in part by geography.
Building on this work, we provide a systematic exploration of the geographic factors that help explain its adherence within as well as across countries. It also shows that distance from pre-Islamic trade routes has a lingering effect on the contemporary distribution of Muslims with communities closer to preindustrial trade routes featuring a larger fraction of Muslim adherents. These findings trading group definition geography a justification to the growing empirical literature that treats Muslim representation as predetermined with respect to contemporary economic and political indicators.
Combining trading group definition geography sources with information on Muslim adherence, we establish the following empirical regularities:. Inequality in regional suitability for agriculture across the Old World.
The modern state's religious affiliation is, arguably, differentially trading group definition geography by such things as state sponsorship of religion. As such, it is crucial to account for these state-specific histories. Unlike a cross-country setting, this is feasible with an 'intra-country-across-ethnic-groups' analysis. We can show, for instance, that ethnicities whose traditional homelands are characterised by unequal land endowments located closer trading group definition geography historical trade routes have higher Muslim adherence.
We start with the observation that, on the one hand, Islam surfaced in the Arabian Peninsula under conditions featuring an extremely unequal land quality distribution across regions. And, on the other hand, Islam surfaced in areas close to lucrative trade routes. As a result, when dwellers from the oases were attempting to cross the surrounding vast arid lands in pursuit of trade profits, they were facing threats to their livelihoods from nomadic groups.
These encounters had the potential to bring trade flows to a trading group definition geography, setting the stage for the emergence of a centralising force that featured redistributive rules. We argue that Islam was such a trading group definition geography force and that, accordingly, its economic tenets had to address inherent economic inequities across clans.
This resulted in an economic doctrine that promoted poverty alleviation and redistribution, equitable inheritance rules and anti-usury laws. The conjecture that Islamic economic principles arose from the interplay between geographic inequality and trade opportunities generates an auxiliary prediction. Namely, the intensity of the adoption of Islam within unequally endowed groups should depend on their proximity to trade routes. This prediction is borne out by the data.
This finding fits the narratives of GreifInsoll and Lewiswho describe how a combination of highly developed Islamic legal codes with a single source of authority offered adherents and prospective adherents a strong commitment device.
This commitment device was well suited to handle desert issues across communities who were engaged in trade but lacked the concentrated authority that was necessary to effectively impose duties or inflict penalties across heterogeneous groups.
Similar to the pattern found for all groups in the Old World, African Muslim groups trading group definition geography on geographically unequal territories that are close to pre-industrial trade routes. Our findings are consistent with the argument that geographic inequality dictates a specific subsistence pattern; we find that Muslim societies in Africa are characterised by a distribution of productive activities that are skewed trading group definition geography pastoralism, that is, featuring little surplus-producing agriculture.
Moreover, unlike non-Muslim groups for which the association between geographic and social inequality is strong, the tendency of trading group definition geography unequal geography to create social inequality within a group is muted for Muslim-majority ethnicities.
But what economic traits characterise Muslim communities? Islamic doctrine prescribes an array of redistributive economic principles. Unfortunately, data on the extent of charity or usury laws within a group are not available.
However, evidence does exists on types of pre-colonial inheritance systems, key aspects of Islamic economic principles Kuran Islamic scholars such as Lapidus have suggested that nascent Islam aimed at creating a strong sense of community by imposing informal and formal punishments on its adherents, such as those related to ridda apostasy.
In this way, Islam effectively acted as a state-building force. It offered a means by which tribes could be unified through a common identity under one god that transcended clan and class divisions Stearns et al.
Is this facet of Islam evident in the anthropological record? Fortunately, among the pre-colonial traits recorded by Murdock there is an entry trading group definition geography whether a group believes or not in gods that are supportive of human morality. Similarly, we argue that the presence of an unequal geography and proximity to trade opportunities intensified the need for cooperation among heterogeneous clans.
Such cooperation could be achieved by adopting a religion which, besides the appropriate economic rules, would provide a coordination mechanism that penalised those who deviate from prescribed norms. If anything, Christian and ethnoreligious groups are less likely to have harboured beliefs in a moralising god in the pre-colonial period.
The narrative suggests that Islam attempted to bring together heterogeneous tribal societies by appropriately crafting its economic principles. But was it successful in doing so? Is there evidence to suggest that Muslim groups are more politically centralised than non-Muslim groups? Muslim societies certainly have more levels of jurisdictional hierarchy enveloping their underlying communities. This pattern also suggests that Islam was a trading group definition geography force, gaining a hearing across tribal populations, thereby politically integrating them into more centralised units.
Our findings show that Islam flourished in very challenging geographical terrains. These terrains harboured inherently unequal economic opportunities and bred conflict.
Any political platform that attempted to bring clashing populations together had to address these primordial inequities. IMuqaddimah: Kuran, TIslam and Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism. Princeton, Princeton University Press. The Global Experience6th Edition. Development Poverty and income inequality. AfricaInequalityhistoryIslamArab Spring.
Trade, geography, and the unifying force of Islam Stelios Michalopoulos, Alireza Naghavi, Giovanni Prarolo 08 December Islam spread remarkably quickly before the era of European colonialism. Islam, institutions and economic development. The role of 'geographic inequality' and trade in the adoption of Islam Prominent Islamic historians and scholars e.
To conduct the empirical investigation we construct new data trading group definition geography The regional suitability for farming.
The pre-Islamic and pre-industrial trade routes in the Old World. Combining these sources with information on Muslim adherence, we establish the following empirical regularities: First, countries with unequal endowments of regional agricultural potential and those located closer to pre-Islamic trade routes have higher Muslim representation, as shown in Figures 1, 2 and 3.
Second, we focus on ethnic groups. Exploiting intra-country variation mitigates concerns related to the endogeneity of contemporary political boundaries. Inequality in regional suitability for agriculture across the Old World Figure 2. Major trade routes in the Old World AD AD The modern state's religious affiliation is, arguably, differentially affected by such things as state sponsorship of religion. From 'geographic inequality' to economic equality We start with the observation that, trading group definition geography the trading group definition geography hand, Islam surfaced in the Arabian Peninsula under conditions featuring an extremely unequal land quality distribution across regions.
The rise of Islamic economic principles The conjecture that Islamic economic principles arose from the interplay between geographic inequality and trade opportunities generates an auxiliary prediction.
Are Muslim groups really different? Islamic redistributive principles But what economic traits characterise Muslim communities? Conclusions Our findings show that Islam flourished in very challenging geographical terrains. Oxford, Oxford University Press. Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Bologna. A trade war will increase average tariffs by 32 percentage points.
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