"Arabia Without Spices": An Alternate Hypothesis

Gene W. Heck

Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 2003, Volume 123, pp. 547-576.

© American Oriental Society

First Composed: 6th January 2005

(We do not necessarily agree with everything written in this article - Islamic Awareness)

The Issue of "Makkan Trade and the Rise of Islam"

I. The Historiographic Challenge

1. The Methodological Confrontation

More than fifteen years have passed since Patricia Crone stunned the world of orientalism by positing dramatically new hypotheses regarding the role of Makkah in sixth to seventh-century A.D. trans-Arabian trade. Seeking to discern the economic dynamic of the early Islamic state, her thesis contended that both the composition and direction of Hijazi-Najdi trade in the era leading up to the rise of Islam were not as they have been commonly portrayed. Her presentation derived its strength from its sophisticated scientific analyses of the prevalence of specific commodities, particularly "spices," in contemporary trade flows. Its core analysis centered upon certain critical commonalities between sixth to seventh-century Makkan imports and exports, and in its effort to make trade patterns fit, even speculated that the Qurashis' primary base of commercial operation was not where modern Makkah stands today. The essence of this theme was compellingly argued in part 2 of her 1987 work, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, which she titled: "Arabia Without Spices."

Crone's work has been aggressively attacked by various scholars in recent years - an assault that has focused, in particular, upon her employment of what is termed "negative evidence argumentation": to wit, the absence of source references to trade implies the actual absence of trade. Such analytic techniques, of course, are not uncommon in medieval historiography, nor are they unique to Islamic scholarship. Six decades earlier, it will be recalled, it was a decline in references to eighth-century trans-Mediterranean commerce, documented primarily in Western ecclesiastical sources, that produced the Pirenne thesis positing that an Islamic trade blockade had precipitated Western Europe's "Dark Ages."

That the results are similar should come as no surprise. Both arguments have failed to persuade because each confronts the complex challenge of seeking to reconstruct the structure of any economy, medieval or modern, based on evaluating a market-basket of commodities cited in export trade. The examples found are often too sporadic to have serious economic consequences. Despite the fact that some seventy-five percent of its governmental revenues are generated by oil production, for example, modern Saudi Arabic typically generates less than three percent of its gross domestic product formation from non-oil export earnings. In both modern and medieval contexts, then, using select trade data as barometers of economic dynamism does not invariably yield accurate results. In Crone's case, they have produced quite controversial results. Indeed, seldom have hypotheses predicated upon an absence of commercial evidence invoked such intense scholarly scrutiny. R. B. Serjeant, in a 1990 article, for instance, describes her contentions as:

calculated to attract publicity by shocking Islamists through the strange theories that it advances on pre-Islamic Mecca, novel theories to be sure, but founded upon misinterpretation, misunderstanding of sources, even at times incorrect translations of Arabic.[1]

The acrimony has been longstanding. For while Crone and Serjeant have polarized the Hijazi trade discussion, Watt, Wolf, Kister, Shaban, Simon, Peters, Donner, and Ibrahim - and before them, Sprenger, Lammens, and sundry others - constructed the basic intellectual infrastructure upon which it is built.[2] Much of the controversy centers on the continuing debate over the general reliability of the medieval Arabic sources as a foundation for sound economic analysis. Such a dialogue does enjoy a certain logic, since the topic is historical and original sources are a prime tool of the historian. The earliest classical sources are vulnerable to criticism since, founded on oral traditions as captured by often biased literary antiquarians, they are, by their very nature, anecdotal. As such, they can be useful in illustrating certain incidents and trends, but unless taken in aggregate, as a basis for serious commercial history, in a non-pejorative sense, they are often little more than the early medieval equivalents of tabloid journalism. This is not itself a formal criticism, but rather a characteristic common to most chronicled medieval sources. While they can be useful in research, they must be recognized for what they are and treated accordingly.

Both Crone and Serjeant concede the challenge of attempting to ascertain the existence or non-existence of particular types of trade based on fragmentary evidence.[3] While the former calls the early sources "of questionable historical value," the latter describes them as "selective and the data that they record so fragmentary that argument from negative evidence has little value."[4] In the ongoing early Makkan trade debate, both contentions probably are correct. The problem is threefold. First, a prime reason that Crone and Serjeant struggle in their argumentation is that they are trying to force early trans-peninsular Arab commerce into something that it most likely was not: to wit, the overarching economic raison d'etre of Makkah. Such an approach, however, is little more than the exercise of "recreating the elephant by feeling the dimensions of its trunk." For an ever-present danger of engaging in negative evidence argumentation using limited trade data is that it can build toward conclusions that did not, in reality, obtain.

Second, they are arguing from the shaky foundations of modern historiographic invention respecting sixth to seventh-century Hijazi transit trade. Crone and Serjeant, as well as F. E. Peters, properly take issue with the conventional notion that the longstanding commerce in spices and other luxury goods to the Mediterranean basin during the early Christian centuries had continued to the rise of Islam.[5] This was an interpretation pioneered by Lammens, popularized by Watt and Wolf, and promoted, to a certain degree, even by Donner. It has often been accompanied by a notion that the success of contemporary Makkah as a trade emporium was highly instrumental, morally, economically, and socially, in the rise of Islam. Watt asserts:

By the end of the 6th century A.D., they (Hijazi traders) had gained control of most of the trade from Yemen to Syria - an important route by which the West got Indian luxury goods as well as South Arabian frankincense.

Commercial prosperity had let not merely to greater disparities in wealth, but also to a partial breakdown in the system of clans and tribes on which the security of Makkah depended.... It is against this social and moral background that we must look at the religious beliefs current in Makkah immediately before Muhammad's call.[6]

But even Watt, who has contributed two important works - Muhammad at Makkah and Muhammad at Medina - as cornerstones for these socioeconomic contentions, devotes but two brief paragraphs to the nature of this hypothesized trans-Hijazi luxury trade and just five others to the underlying indigenous industrial base that would have made a more vibrant Makkah-centric regional trade economically viable.[7]

Though this traditional notion, as noted, has been rejected by Crone, Serjeant, and others - at times, even attributing the inherent misinterpretations to the ambiguity of the medieval Arabic sources themselves - such exegesis is no more than a "straw man" dialogue, as the sources never seriously claimed a trade in oriental luxury commodities coincident with the rise of Muhammad. Instead, they document a more voluminous trade in lower unit-value, indigenous West Arabian products - animals, leather, foodstuffs, cloth, perfumes, and similar consumer goods - a reality recognized by Sprenger, Kister, Simon, and Peters.[8] Some of the regional import-export ventures in such commodities were, in reality, quite large, with commercial caravans consisting of as many as 1,500, 2,000, and even 2,500 transport camels at the dawn of Islam, as cited in the sources.[9]

There are passim references to a sixth and seventh-century trade in luxury goods in the sources, to be sure. Ibn Sa`d indicates that early in his career, the Prophet Muhammad owned silk garments that he subsequently abandoned as ostentatious.[10] Ibn Habib relates that the would-be Hijazi king `Uthman b. Huwayrith al-Asadi al-Qurashi contracted a commercial pact to send spices to the Byzantines. Al-Isfahani contends that al-Nu`man b. al-Mundhir imported silk (harir) and other cloth from Aden to al-Hirah.[11] Silk cloth also apparently was imported to the region to produce some other elegant clothing reported in the late pre-Islamic era.

But overall, the urban centers of the erstwhile Roman empire, whose requirements for oriental luxury goods had for centuries been the lifeblood of trans-Arabian commerce, were now in economic chaos; and in the Hijaz itself, the demand for widespread importation of silk that had prevailed in earlier centuries has been explicitly explained by the compiler of historical traditions, al-Bukhari. With the rise of Islam, Muhammad banned Muslim men from wearing silk.[12] Hence, the striking silence of the sources on a more general sixth to seventh-century trans-Hijazi trade in spices and other oriental goods likely signaled exactly what was meant. That trade had died.[13] Accordingly, Crone most probably is correct when she asserts that: "Meccan trade was thus a trade generated by Arab needs, not by the commercial appetites of the surrounding empires," yet she errs when she continues: "and it is as traders operating in Arabia rather than beyond its borders that the Meccans should be seen."[14] For, as will be demonstrated, it is not what early Makkan trade was not, but what it was, that merits further scrutiny. Yet comprehending its composition also requires an understanding of the economic base from which it was derived. For what the sources do describe, as indicated, is a substantial, economically consequential, trade in fundamental staples: consumer and industrial goods that the contemporary Hijaz unquestionably did produce.

Finally, the sketchy evidence from which orientalists debate is most often gleaned from the folklorist format the Arab chroniclers present. The early sources do not pretend to be detailed economic compendia. They are instead collections of human interest stories purporting to have, and generally enjoying, some basis in fact. But to attempt to portray the economic vitality of the sixth to seventh-century Hijazi based on the early Arabic sources alone, without ancillary evidence and more advanced analytic techniques, is tantamount to attempting to reconstruct the economy of New York state based solely upon the archives of the New York Post. Prudent scholarship dictates that the trivialities in such details not be magnified. As Watt states of the traditional accounts, they are "not true in the realistic sense of the secular historian."[15] Indeed, Crone herself acknowledges the futility of the undertaking using "the methodology that currently prevails in the field."[15]

Though damning, however, the sheer frankness of such concessions nonetheless simultaneously suggests that perhaps a somewhat different perspective and a different set of analytic tools are required to define more precisely the trade and industrial structures of the Hijaz at the rise of Islam. To these ends, seeking to reconcile the conflicting views, the analysis that follows augments the ongoing sixth to seventh-century Makkan "commercial structures dialogue," by synthesizing source documentation with extant physical evidence. We then view the findings through the prism, and using the tools, of the modern business economist - in so doing, drawing analogies with the operational dynamics of contemporary commerce that display similar characteristics. This can be a productive analytic approach. For, given the horizontally integrated free market economy that then prevailed in West Arabia, "modified upstream development regression analysis" - i.e., tracing the commodities of trade back to their basic production processes, and in turn, further back to their original resource inputs - can, in this instance, yield illuminating insights.[17]

2. The Issues in Question and the Tools Needed to Address Them

That this inquiry seeks new methods - including archaeology, radiocarbon dating, industrial production and distribution analysis, and other modern scientific techniques - to capture more accurately the commerce and industry of early medieval West Arabia is no mere happenstance. Crone herself calls for better evaluative tools and evidence. To wit: "Without correctives from outside the Islamic tradition, such as papyri, archaeological evidence, and non-Muslim sources, we have little hope of reconstituting the original shapes of this early period."[18]

A review of her principal concerns, thus, is in order. For, given the vigor of the early Makkan trade dialogue precipitated by Crone through her critical source analysis, it is illuminating to examine the principal contentions of her thesis. Among them, she is baffled by certain bilateral trade transactions. A two-way exchange of certain cloths, agricultural foodstuffs, and animals between Syria and the Hijaz, for instance, is incongruous to her: "Once again, we see the Meccans engaged in the peculiar activity of exporting coal to Newcastle while at the same time importing it from there."[19] In other words, if "Country X" were to produce a commodity and ship it to "Country Y," in Crone's view, then any evidence suggesting that "Country Y" shipped certain commodities within the same commercial categories back to "Country X" clearly must be flawed. Yet such two-way market flows abound in trade statistics, both historical and modern. This market reality is precisely why French restaurants are to be found in New York and there are "McDonald's" on the Champs-Elysees; this is also why Toyotas are common in the streets of Detroit and Fords grace the parking lots of Tokyo.

It is not at all surprising, then, to find a diverse product mix circulating in the early medieval Hijaz. For Makkah, with its integrated network of seasonal markets, was legendary in its role as a key entrepôt where competing goods from throughout the region were sold. Indeed, by its very nature, this is the entrepôt's prime role: to serve as a commercial meeting ground. Consequently, analysis of the trading patterns of a major modern Mideast entrepôt such as Dubai, based on anecdotal newspaper accounts of proximate, productive "fixed plant" industrial activity, would doubtless result in anomalies identical to those found by Crone in sixth and seventh-century West Arabia - portraying a caricature of this dynamic twenty-first century free port as a mere economic backwater in the course of Euro-Afro-Asian commerce.

Such, of course, is not the case. Because demand, price, quality, and consumer preference do invariably create their own trade patterns, it is not surprising that early medieval Busrans and Hijazis should have displayed mutual affinities for each others' clothing and the foodstuffs; or that such products should have been exchanged in the contemporary markets of Makkah and its environs. Indeed, these are the very factors that cause Pakistani leisure suits to be sold in haberdasheries in urban centers of the West today.

Second, Crone is vexed by certain quantification concerns; to wit, that certain episodes in the sources appear to be duplicates, "mirror images," of each other. Speaking of two reported early Muslim raids on northbound Makkan commercial caravans, for instance, she states:

That the stories of the raids at Qarada and `Is are doublets is obvious. In both stories, a Qurashi caravan loaded with silver (coined or uncoined) is raided by Muhammad's men. The silver is owned or guarded by Safwan b. Umayya or Abu Sufyan in the Qarada story, by Safwan b. Umayya or Abu Sufyan in that about `Is, and the Muslim commander is Zayd b. Haritha in both. It is hard to believe that the same commander twice intercepted a Meccan caravan loaded with the same commodity and manned by very much the same people.[20]

Yet upon closer scrutiny, the possibility that these parallel stories actually are "doublets" is not as obvious as it may appear. Here, both the political and economic dynamics in play become noteworthy, making a qualitative reevaluation of the source evidence highly appropriate. From a military standpoint, this was an extremely active era. Al-Waqidi documents at least ninety-three major Muslim "ghazawat" and "saraya" in the first Hijri decade; while Ibn Sa`d cites eighty-five and al-Dhahabi seventy-two.[21] Within this ongoing series of armed military expeditions and raids, moreover, there is a frequent recurrence of common commodities, as well as of key individuals, the latter both as force commanders and as caravan leaders. Given these realities, we may observe the following of this particular "doublet."

Though the circumstances are somewhat similar, the two confrontations nonetheless appear at two separate, distinct, known sites, and occur three years apart.

Nor is the claim that each caravan was carrying silver that was subsequently stolen a remarkable coincidence. For as Ibn Ishaq claims, and as will be demonstrated below, the prime role of precious metals in such caravans was for use as "currency" in barter transactions for other commodities that actually were the prime targets of the multilateral trade missions.[22] What the Muslims were plundering, then, was money - "investment capital" - common to all caravans. This circumstance makes a different commodity mix, with the same precious metals-denominated investment capital, probable for each individual caravan. It likewise explains why these caravans were carrying silver both to and from Syria, another phenomenon that concerns Crone.[23]

While Zayyid b. Harithah does serve as expedition leader in both the al-Qaradah and al-`Is engagements, he likewise appears in numerous others, among them at least five cited by al-Dhahabi in A.H. 6 alone, the year of his raid at al-`Is.[24] Such raids, it seems, ranked among his prime preoccupations. So the fact that he is cited in engagements at two sites, separated in time by three years, may not be all that extraordinary.

There is admittedly some confusion in the sources as to who actually was in charge of these two trade missions. Al-Dhahabi places Abu Sufyan as a member of the caravan ambushed at al-Qaradah and Abu al-`As b. al-Rabi` in that at al-`Is,[25] as does Ibn Ishaq.[26] Al-Waqidi places Safwan b. Umayyah as a spokesperson within the al-Qaradah caravan and confirms the presence of Abu al-`As and `Abd Allah b. Abi al-Rabi`ah in the al-`Is caravan.[27] Ibn Sa`d, in turn, places Safwan b. Umayyah and `Abd Allah b. Abi Rabi`ah within the al-Qaradah caravan and Safwan b. Umayyah and Abu al-`As within that at al-`Is.[28] Though there is undeniable overlap in the participations reported in these two events, that in itself does not necessarily render them apocryphal. For Qurashi caravans generally were quite large, at times comprising as many as 2,500 camels. Yet they consisted of finite numbers of participants who habitually carried the goods of others. Thus, it is not at all surpris ing to find the names of certain principal merchants recurring in the narration of various commercial events, nor of numerous other prominent merchants similarly cited in the sources, among them al-Aswad b. al-Muttalib, his son Zam`ah, and Huwaytib b. `Abd al-`Uzza, in conjunction with trade missions in general and with these two in particular.[29]

It is no way implausible to conclude from the evidence, then, that Makkan caravans formally operated as ongoing, quasi-permanent functional units frequently containing many of the same key players - or that participation by a merchant, or group of merchants, in a given mission, such as at al-Qaradah, did not perforce preclude them from involvement in another, similar trade mission three years later, such as at al-`Is. Indeed, given the complex, integrated organizational commercial structures then in place, it would be surprising if this scenario were not the case. For such Makkan caravans served in a key private sector transport role run by the same "shipping company" carrying the goods of many people.

In sum, though there are parallels in the dual accounts, it is not unequivocal that the primary source treatment of these two raids is indeed a "doublet," as Crone contends. In this instance, in fact, the odds are likely that it was not, as there is strong countervailing evidence that suggests two separate incidents. At the close of her book, however, she returns to this allegation of "recurring themes" with more compelling evidence, detailing "miracle stories" attributed to the Prophet Muhammad.[30] Here, her claim may be more plausible, as it is more likely to find embellishment by devout followers in their descriptions of the accomplishments of someone whom they believe to be the "Seal of the Prophets" than in their more mundane accounts relating that Abu Sufyan customarily led commercial caravans, that the banu Sulaym mined gold, or that Caliph Mu`awiyah was a grower of grapes.

Such realities are not ipso facto failures of scholarship, of course. They merely indicate that further examination of the economic circumstances is required, underscoring the cogency of Crone's call for more tangible non-documentary evidence to augment the Islamic sources. The ultimate solution, though, lies not in geographically transforming the Qurashis further to the north, as she also attempts, but instead in better comprehending what the trade base really was. For it is not what the sources do not say that is important; it is what they do say. The evidence is finite, without doubt. But it can unquestionably be restructured to make more economic sense - recasting the industrial determinants of the early medieval Hijaz into a new commercial model.

Such realities thus suggest that a more productive analytic course might be to commence by examining what we do know about the Hijazi economic dynamic at the time of the Prophet Muhammad's religious ascendancy, synthesizing chronicled testimony with physical artifacts representing the workings of early medieval industrial activity residual in the region, in the search for alternate hypotheses to explain the role of trade in forging that dynamic. The quest perforce begins with precious metals.

II. The Preeminence of Precious Metals

As suggested above, Crone doubtless is correct when she, like Serjeant, Peters, and others, argues that the longstanding trans-Hijazi-Mediterranean trade in "spices" and other luxury goods that characterized the early Christian centuries had lost much of its vitality by the sixth century A.D.[31] But her contention may be as important for what it doesn't claim as for what it does.[32] For an effective examination of the incipient dynamism of the Qurashi Makkan economy probably should not initially target export trade at all. An analogy to the economic structure of modern Saudi Arabia is likely a more productive inquiry.

Early in the twentieth century, before the discovery of oil, an overwhelming proportion of Hijazi public revenues - upwards of ninety percent - was derived from providing for the needs of religious pilgrims - the identical retail trade that had sustained the Qurashis fourteen centuries before. Merchandise exports then were modest, not unlike those recorded in much of the most recent (1993-2003) decade, wherein Saudi Arabia's non-oil goods and services export sales have fluctuated between 1.32% and 2.88% of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) formation.

Had modern trade economists sought to capture the vigor of the modern Saudi Arabian economy based on these non-oil export figures - undeniably far more comprehensive in its coverage than mere fragmentary commercial references contained in the medieval Arabic sources - they would have missed entirely the fact that the Kingdom, despite its reduced oil revenues, nonetheless has produced record real GDP creation in recent years. The reason: liquid minerals - petroleum and its derivatives - still constitute about seventy-five percent of the nation's aggregate annual budgetary revenues. The lesson: absent a concerted analytic focus on other key economic, commercial, and financial factors, measurements of merchandise and service exports are often no more an effective gauge of economic activity today than they are for the seventh century.

But the comparison to modern Saudi Arabia in explaining the early medieval Qurashi economy does not end with raw export data. For Crone likewise asserts the quite striking claim that precious metals played no economically significant role in the contemporary Hijazi commerce: "The Meccans cannot be said to have exported gold and silver at all.... Meccan trade thus cannot be identified as a trade in gold."[33] Peters take the argument further still:

There are, in fact, no external indications that Mecca was prosperous or that there was any capital to invest.... The absence of gold and silver coins is perhaps somewhat startling, but only because we assume that the city lived on a monetary economy, which it almost certainly did not. And two conclusions immediately present themselves in consequence: that Mecca was not involved in international trade.... and second, whatever business the Quraysh were, in fact, conducting, it had to perforce be, and appears to have actually been, quite literally barter....[34]

Yet, as subsequent analysis will demonstrate, here both scholars can be challenged. For careful reading of the medieval Arab geographers leaves little doubt that at the rise of Islam, the analogue in seventh-century Arabia's western province to its twenty-first century eastern province's abundance of liquid minerals was hard minerals - precious metals. Elsewhere, the prominent role of indigenous Hijazi gold and silver mining in driving the operating dynamic of the early Islamic state has been amply documented. Their industrial and commercial contributions cannot be underestimated. For when they are factored into the contemporary equation, a quite different economy emerges.[35]

Indeed, the combination of source documentation and residual onsite physical evidence makes readily apparent that one cannot begin to comprehend the functioning of the early medieval Hijazi economy without first perceiving the indispensable role of precious metals. Mining created a variety of production, refining, and distribution jobs at over a thousand separate sites. Jewelry-making further contributed to expansion of the local employment base. Gold, silver, copper, and iron were inputs in other industrial production. Precious metals were, moreover, the investment capital that underwrote that production. Equally significantly, they lubricated commerce, serving as its currency base for financing import acquisitions as well as "import substitution" indigenous industrial development. They were, in fact, capital looking for a place to happen.

Yet, here a clarification of the role of precious metals in shaping trade is critical. For Crone may well be right, at least in part, when she asserts that the early Makkans did not export vast amounts of gold and silver; although, in an age of bulk bullion transactions, the linguistic distinction between gold "exported" in countertrade for other goods, and gold used as "currency" to purchase other goods, may not be commercially significant. For what the foreign recipients of such metals ultimately did with such metals is not germane to the nature of the trade of the Hijazis. Makkan merchants undeniably did carry substantial quantities of bullion on their international trading caravans, whether for export or transactional purposes. Responding to Crone's specific concern that they reportedly carried gold and silver both to and from Syria, however, the sources make quite clear that it was the latter function - used as currency payments for commodities - that was more common.[36]

Ibn Ishaq explicitly says, in fact, that the precious metals seized by Muslims in their various raids on caravans was intended for use as coin. When the Muslims won silver as booty in their raid at al-`Is in 8/630, it was trade investment capital they were plundering. Al-Waqidi's report that al-Harith b. `Amir b. Nawfal had 1,000 mithqals, Umayyah b. Khalaf 1,000 mithqals, members of the banu `Abd Manaf 15,000 mithqals, and the banu Makhzum 5,000 mithqals of gold invested in one of Abu Sufyan's periodic northbound Syrian caravans concurrently makes clear that it was carried in the form of bullion to be used as currency to underwrite commerce.[37]

Abu Baqa', in turn, claims that it was this quite common use of bullion in monetary transactions that caused one Syrian customs agent to query `Umar b. al-Khattab in some astonishment: "A caravan of Quraysh coming to Syria without gold? That isn't possible!"[38] Contending that gold was the driving force behind their commerce, he adds that the Ghassanids would customarily relieve Makkan merchants of a portion of it in transit fees whenever Hijazi caravans passed through their territories.[39]

Important for understanding the economic dynamic of contemporary west Arabia, then, is the reality that precious metals were the prevailing current denominator. Early Hijazi mining proceeds created quality jobs, incomes, marketable products, and all of the stimulatory economic multiplier effects normally attendant thereto. But it was in their contemporary use as "money" that precious metals made their greatest financial impact.

There were other proximate currencies percolating throughout the Near East in pre-Islamic times, to be sure, including the Byzantine gold dinar and the Persian silver dirham. Indeed, the Qur'an explicitly mentions the dinar,[40] the dirham,[41] and the waraq[42] - the latter defined by al-Mawardi also as a "silver coin,"[43] most probably of Himyaritic issue - and it was the specific weights of such foreign currencies that were the denominational basis for determining by proxy the value of the Hijazis' precious metal bullion used in commerce. Thus, the Arab sources commonly describe early Muslim commercial transactions in dinar and dirham terms - employing them as numeraires - monetary benchmarks corresponding to specific common-use bullion weights, as there were very few "Arabic" coins struck in the first half century of Islam.

For, irrespective of the provenance of any particular currency denominator, use of precious metals in their uncast state was the preponderant transactional practice. By way of example, the qintar was a bullion coin weight equivalent to 4,000 dinars. Al-Baladhuri attests to the widespread operation of this bulk bullion trading practice,[44] a claim affirmed by al-Maqrizi[45] and Ibn Sa`d.[46] In sum, indigenously produced Hijazi gold and silver were the "capital bridge" that compensated for commodity trade deficits, making possible acquisitions that were not directly attainable through barter; and because of them, the values of commodity exports did not, of necessity, have to equal the values of product imports. A review of the extant evidence is illuminating.

In compelling confirmation that the medieval Arab chronicler's claims of abundant wealth in precious metals were not entirely apocryphal, there exists much physical testimony that documents their continuing existence. Indeed, hundreds of early medieval Hijazi-west-central Najdi mining locations are known, and some are even now being reopened for production. Several sites merit particular attention. Among them, the productivity of "al-Mindah" mine is lavishly lauded in pre-Islamic poetry; and several others - Mahd al-Dhahab, al-Nuqrah, Bahran, and Biram among them - are directly linked by Arabic historical geographies to contemporary activities of the Prophet Muhammad's Quraysh tribe.[47] Many others of the more than 1,000 sites in West Arabia mined in the early Middle Ages, whose residual evidence remains, likely were also active in his era. Indeed, carbon 14 datings from wood residuals at the smelters that supported these mining operation activities suggest that many dated to the pre-Islamic age and the earliest decades of Islam.[48]

The financing of these early medieval Arabian mining operations appears to have been a "hybrid" individual/corporate system wherein private capital was employed. The purchase of one particular mine by `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz, and the collective ownership of the principal banu Sulaym mine, Mahd al-Dhahab, in the caliphal reign of `Umar b. al-Khattab will be described presently. Al-Baladhuri relates that, at the rise of Islam, the tax-farming of state mining properties whereby mines would be consigned to private interests in exchange for payment of the zakat, or alternately, the khums levy - was also prevalent. Both he and al-Bakri cite a variety of mining properties that were tax-farmed as "iqta`at" to local entrepreneurs by the Prophet Muhammad.[49]

Private exploration and discovery likewise appear to have played key roles in mine ownership. Ibn Hajar quotes members of the banu Lihb as asserting "We brought the Prophet of God ore from al-`Aqiq, and he wrote us a letter stating: 'Whoever finds something, it is his - and the twenty percent tax (khums) is to be levied on precious metals.'" Given the abundance of privately owned medieval mining properties that are documented in the Arabic sources whose physical evidence remains, then, it is clear that precious metals production was a key private sector industry in Muhammad's era.

Indeed, many of these mining sites clearly were "big business." Source evidence and the remnants of on-site barrack-like structures indicate that they were often labor-intensive, employing as many as two thousand men. Production volumes also were impressive. Evidence suggests that in historic times an estimated 1,500,000 ounces of gold were produced from the more than one million tons of ore mined at the still producing mine Mahd al-Dhahab; and that more than 1,000,000 ounces of gold were produced at al-Hamdah in the early medieval era as well.

In the early medieval Hijaz, gold and silver reigned preeminent. They were the key determinants that distinguished the relatively wealthy Makkan economy from its early medieval Near East counterparts. To take these valued commodities out of the contemporary West Arabian trade scene, then, would unquestionably produce the same economically vacuous results as if oil were to be deleted from modern Saudi Arabia's export data. To project the full economic picture, precious metals, predominant components of both local industry and commerce, must be factored in. Credit precious metals with their proper role in driving the operating dynamic of the Hijaz economy at the dawn of Islam, however, and the remaining dimensions of the contemporary commercial and industrial picture fall readily into place.

The Question of an "Arabia Without Spices" (Instead With Gold and Silver)

I. The Framework for Debate

Analysis to this point has focused upon Crone's controversial trade claims. Yet, if a fuller contemporary commercial picture is to exist, the scope of analytic inquiry must be more encompassing than mere concerted focus on a single scholar's contributions, however careful their construction or compelling their contentions. Indeed, to ensure optimal accuracy, scientific evaluation must transcend historiographic revisionism, tempering existing evidence with tests of classic economic theory.

Questions of both the chronology and character of pre-Islamic commerce have recently received considerable attention from other, equally distinguished medieval Near East historians. Robert Simon, Mahmood Ibrahim, and F. E. Peters, for instance, are likely quite correct in their concurrence that the sixth century witnessed dramatic geopolitical developments that precipitated the culmination of the gradual transformation of the Makkan economy from a transit trade in luxury goods to the regional distribution of more basic, indigenously produced consumer goods. Simon states that "the rise of Makkan trade and the beginning of North Arabian history were not bolts from the blue, but were in close causal relationship with the history of the neighboring powers, i.e., Mecca's history was part of contemporary world history."[50]

There is much to commend this contention. For the economies of the early medieval Red Sea littoral and southern Mediterranean basin were neither "static" economic systems, nor did they evolve in isolation, but instead were profoundly impacted by powerful synergies between them. Hence, the Qurashis' preeminence in early medieval Hijazi trade was no accident. Indeed, the convenient convergence of a sixth-century series of significant events had, almost by default, delivered control of ongoing commerce directly into their hands.

Those events, largely economic at their origin, included: (i) an intensely hostile military confrontation between the Byzantines and the Sasanids within the region throughout much of the sixth century; (ii) attendant exorbitant tariffs and import and export controls imposed by these twin combatants upon goods transiting their borders; (iii) a series of trade-related alliances and counter-alliances between them and the Abyssinians and Yemenis; (iv) attempts to set up allied local tribal chiefs as "kings" on the Arabian Peninsula; (v) various skirmishes between these twin superpowers' trade vassals within the western peninsula, the Ghassanids and the Lakhmids respectively; and finally, (vi) Abyssinian occupation of Yemen in A.D. 525, which significantly disrupted Sasanid northbound commerce and diplomacy.[51]

These sundry conspiracies and intrigues predictably failed, it appears in retrospect, because of the unyielding natures both of the region and of its diverse inhabitants. Describing the unsuccessful attempt of the Byzantines to install Christian convert `Uthman b. al-Huwayrith al-Asadi al-Qurashi as a proxy "King of Makkah" as part of their strategic commercial initiative, for instance, al-Zubayr b. Bakkar calls the Qurashis "a fiercely independent people who would never subject themselves to the sovereignty of a king." Accordingly, while the Byzantines and Sasanids were militarily engaged with each other, the Qurashis quickly moved in to fill the resultant economic and administrative voids.[52]

Adroitly perceiving the resulting commercial vacuum, according to medieval Arabic sources, the Hashimi clan of the banu Quraysh now moved with great dispatch. Among their various initiatives, for instance, they immediately concluded trade agreements with local representatives of the regional superpowers situated at their Arabian peninsula borders to broker their goods, as well as with other indigenous tribes guaranteeing them shares of the profits in exchange for security for Qurashi caravans as they transited their territories.[53]

The failure of the Yemeni invasion of the Hijaz in A.D. 570, moreover, combined with the "Hurub al-Fijar" - a series of petty intertribal wars for commercial control of West Central Arabia circa A.D. 580 wherein the Qurashis vanquished the banu Hawazin, banu Qays, and other allies of the regional commercial power, al-Hirah - would ultimately assure the Hashimis preeminent trade hegemony. These developments would likewise soon prove seminal not only for the Qurashis' own economic interests but also for the evolution of the Hijaz itself as a formidable commercial force. For the Hashimi ruling elite quickly demonstrated far-reaching economic and diplomatic talents, the effective range of which transcended the borders of the peninsula, producing a flourish of regional trade expansions involving key exports as well as imports. Their achievements concurrently enhanced the geographic mobility of Qurashi merchants within an ever-expanding network of mercantile activities.[54]

Combined with these tectonic political and economic shifts, and attendant changes in Mediterranean-based market demand levels, it is likely not coincidental that the commodity mix of trans-Hijazi trade now gradually devolved from those "upscale," high unit-value oriental goods previously demanded by the rapidly degenerating urban centers of the Roman Empire as well as by Byzantium's war-ravaged and economically deteriorating provinces, to higher volume, lower unit-value Arab goods, in order to meet more fundamental consumer requirements in the proximate Near East. For, with Yemen and al-Hirah also both in decline, and with the Byzantines and Sasanids mutually preoccupied, the Qurashis' political and commercial interests were now effectively unleashed and unconstrained.

Accordingly, the Arabic chronicles are likely quite accurate in portraying the first/seventh-century Hijaz as an integrated, multidirectional commercial emporium trading in the exchange of basic staples and the import of fundamental economic needs. From the north arrived the oils, foodstuffs, grains, wines, clothing, and weaponry of Syria and Iraq; from Persia to the northeast, iron products, musk, ambergris, and jewels; from the west, the slaves, ivory, and incense of Abyssinia; and from the south, the cloths and perfumes of Yemen. Concurring in the commercial portrayal that the sources describe, the analyses of Simon, Ibrahim, and Peters are probably generally correct in identifying within its trade flows "aromatics," such as frankincense and laudanum, indigenous to the Arabian peninsula, and not the more general "condiments," such as ginger, pepper, and other seasonings that Crone evaluates in her broader interpretation of the English term "spices."[55]

Yet, while the primary Arabic sources for sixth-century Arabia do speak of an ongoing trade in "aromatics," with only passing references to "condiments," the evidence is not entirely unequivocal. Various sources, for instance, cite an aloewood used as incense in the Hijaz at the dawn of Islam called "Indian wood" (`ud al-Hind). There are similar indications that ginger was exported to Aden from India and Ceylon, from classic antiquity through the sixth and seventh centuries, and it is likewise cited in the Qur'an using its Indian name: zanjabil. The fourth/tenth-century Arab scholar, al-Qummi, asserts that the Quraysh also exported pepper, as well as cloth and leather goods, from the Hijaz to Syria. Thus, the sources provide certain indications that throughout this era, the Hijaz continued to be a venue for at least some Indian subcontinent "luxury goods" - most likely to meet Arabian peninsula and other proximate southwest Asian market demand.[56]

The fundamental nature of the private financial system that underwrote economic activity in the contemporary Hijaz is likewise a source of scholarly contention that merits further scrutiny. In such a focus, of course, clear distinction must be drawn between "mercantile capitalism" - surplus capital generated as profits at the margin through commercial exchange - and "industrial capitalism" - investment capital employed to underwrite facilities of production. Mahmood Ibrahim, for example, accepts the contemporary utility of mercantile capitalism, while discounting industrial capitalism, in framing an economic model for sixth-century Arabia, whereas Simon and Peters do not. Contending that Makkan merchants merely traded in the goods of others, Ibrahim states:

Merchant capital is that fraction of capital that is generated purely through exchange, whether merchants controlled the means of production, as in Yemen, or not, as in Mecca.... As they did not own means of production at the time, Meccan merchants merely bought and sold their merchandise, accumulating profit as they increased commercial activity and enlarged the area of their market.... Having on surplus of their own, Mecca's merchants thus accumulated capital only through trade occasioned by the institution of the haram, providing us with a classic illustration of exchange as the origin of merchant capital.[57]

Yet here, both conclusions may be challenged. For the sources clearly suggest that both capitalistic structures were very much in evidence, particularly in the era of Muhammad when the dynamics of "Islamic economics" were initially being forged. While the evidence is less comprehensive for the pre-Islamic era, it is nonetheless clear that, by the first half of the seventh century, West Arabia was far more than a mere string of way-stations on the classic trade routes of antiquity. The region was instead a significant production center that manufactured commodities in surplus to be marketed by its merchants in regional commerce. It is how that productive investment was financed at its inception that merits further consideration.

For as subsequent sections demonstrate, many first/seventh-century entrepreneurs were sufficiently wealthy that no external investment capital was necessary to underwrite their productive ventures. Abu Talib, for instance, was among the Makkan wheat growers who sold their own produce, according to Ibn Qutaybah.[58] Al-Baladhuri relates the grudging assessment by `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz of an unproductive mining property that he had purchased from the offspring of Bilal b. al-Harith al-Muzani which had been previously awarded to his family as a land concession by Prophet Muhammad. "Look at what was extracted from it and what I spent on it," he complains.[59]

But there likewise were collective forms of productive investment. At the rise of Islam, practically every wealthy Makkan was invested in agrarian properties near al-Ta'if.[60] Al-Baladhuri describes a land reclamation partnership between Harb b. Umayyah and sundry Sulamis that was financed with a mudarabah contract.[61] Al-Bakri, in turn, speaks of a dispute at Mahd al-Dhahab gold mine among the original investors, mine workers, and other Sulamis in the caliphal reign of `Umar b. al-Khattab.[62] Hence, though source references more commonly appear in commercial transactions, the concept of "pooled investment capital" to finance goods production was not unknown in the sixth and seventh centuries.[63]

It may be concluded, then, that the more prevalent commerce-based form of aggregate capital employment was due to its use as much as an income transfer mechanism aimed at wealth redistribution as to its use as a capital mobilization instrument. Some sources, al-Qurtubi among them, for example, indicate that Hashim, progenitor of the Quraysh, urged lesser merchants to pool their capital in order to gain from strength in numbers. Such comparative advantage appears to have been critical. For the sources suggest that this was an age of keen mercantile competition, with munafarah, an intense vying for social status based on wealth and material strength, in the ascendancy - and with financial failure according to some sources, even leading at times certain commercially unfortunate Makkan merchants to contemplate ritual suicide (i`tifad).[64]

The institutions of sadaqah (alms-giving, and later zakat), rifadah (providing food), and siqayah (providing water) - as well as the banning of monopolistic practices (ihtikar) - were similar mechanisms aimed at wealth redistribution as well as at attracting pilgrim merchants to Makkah. To underwrite the costs of such provisions, the Qurashi progenitor Qusayy b. Kilab levied taxes on both indigenous and incoming merchants. Thus, as Ibrahim contends, the notion of pooled merchant capital as a welfare institution, as well as a commercial capitalization tool, must not be discounted. Indeed, it was integral to the Qurashis' innovative marketing approach of brokered security (khafarah) caravan (ilafi) traffic.[65]

The evolution of each of these commercial phenomena, therefore, deserves further study in combination both with what the Arab chroniclers claim and what today remains in the form of tangible physical evidence. Given the general pedagogic skepticism regarding the reliability of the early Arabic sources, much of the current scholarly debate has centered upon "evaluative methodology." Which analytic tools can most effectively be employed to substantiate or discredit extant data? The forensic undertaking is complicated by the highly fragmentary nature of the source accounts themselves. For often a mass of anecdotal data must be woven together in the quest for a more consistent, rational whole. The difficulty has been compounded further by the targeted focus of modern inquiry. However, the narration of functional economic history was usually not the foremost objective of the medieval Arab chronicler.

Given such challenges, Crone and others have called for new analytic tools to examine the extant body of finite evidence. The challenge is daunting. Yet such tools often do exist. Among them are physical remains, such as mining tailings, remnants of dams and other edifices, as well as the evaluative techniques of modern economic analysis.

The historiographic challenge thus is significant. Absent incontrovertible evidence, a substantial measure of deductive reasoning often is required to ascertain underlying economic realities. For while there are residual tailings that indicate the undertaking of medieval West Arabian mining, and the ruins of contemporary dams to suggest the cultivation of agriculture, there is no market produce that reveals a specific commercial commodity mix, nor "Geniza documents" to demonstrate the incidence of trade, nor often, even an abundance of artifacts to prove the workings of particular crafts. Concurrently, the possibility cannot be discounted that certain economic manifestations that do exist are ex post facto phenomena produced in later Umayyad or even early `Abbasid times. Analysis thus must focus on people, events, and artifacts whose existence can be linked to times and places certain.

The textual evidence is undeniably finite, diverse, and complex, to be sure. At the same time, it is often complementary, with each part comprising a piece of a greater puzzle, capturing a collage of synergistic production and distribution functions that can be retrofitted to recreate the operations of a functional market-driven industrial system. In this quest, the sources provide a certain corroborative utility, since at least five documented cross-checks can be combined to offer a fuller economic picture. They include: (i) Qur'anic references to the pursuit of specific industries and crafts; (ii) chroniclers' accounts of private sector undertakings of such productive activities; (iii) source references to official attempts to promote their operational development; (iv) documentation attesting to systematic trade in the resulting products; and (v) accounts of regulation of that trade by Muhammad and other contemporary authorities.

The prospects for corroboration thus compel the analyst to evaluate any given body of textual evidence as a "data composite," seeking to discern, in detail, what the totality of information, both chronicled and physical, may reveal about a particular economic function's operation and chronology. Part of the analytic challenge is subjective, part must be empirical. In the first instance, the challenge is to ascertain whether, in a particular circumstance, if the testimony of a given source is suspect, perhaps through an error in transmission or reception, could other, corroborating, chroniclers, acting independently, have made the identical mistake?

In the latter case, artifacts and advanced technology-based analytic tools - such as infrared sensing and radiometric dating - can fill in the blanks left by the written manuscripts. But while scientific evaluation as well as the application of modern economic theory can aid in the discovery process, they too clearly have their limitations. For while they may provide snapshots of specific economic phenomena at a given time, they nonetheless still require the reliability of corroborating evidence, including the veracity of the medieval Arabic sources, to develop a fuller picture. The underlying determinant, in each instance, must again revert to the subjective issue of "preponderant plausibility," when the data are viewed in aggregate.

In other words, does the combination of what the sources have to say convey a coherent economic logic? If in microeconomic functioning, for instance, they are remarkably accurate in depicting the mechanical operations of early medieval precious metals mining, of which there is ample physical proof, why should one then conclude that they are categorically wrong about trade, the crafts, and agriculture, of which there is less tangible proof? Here, however, the crucial distinction may often be less one of kind than of degree. To wit, despite a possible embellishment in numbers, does a given source provide a probable underlying truth in its data documenting the functioning of a particular industrial sector?

The medieval Arab chroniclers were not entirely oblivious to economic reality, and hence deserve a certain attention in measuring their merit. As R. B. Serjeant has aptly stated: "criticism of historical sources should aim at eliciting from them what is possible to accept as evidence, not at manufacturing a case for destroying them in toto."[66] This goal is crucial in reconstructing early medieval Arab economic history. For, without a reasonable willingness to accept elements of truth in the early source accounts, there remains no basis for meaningful commercial and industrial reconstruction of the first/seventh-century Hijaz. Moreover, analysis is left with the improbable conclusion that Arab chroniclers, working quasi-autonomously on an ad hoc basis, a full seven centuries before Adam Smith, heuristically and inadvertently derived an almost perfect (albeit fictitious) working model of what today is known as "free market economics."

Defining the Economic Dynamics of The First/Seventh-Century Hijaz

Having fixed the primacy of precious metals at the core of early medieval Western Arabian economic operations, the challenge becomes that of fitting into place remaining pieces of the contemporary industrial and commercial puzzle - a match made possible by the availability of significant, albeit anecdotal, source data. Indeed, when viewed in aggregate, and through the analytic prism of modern economic theory, the chroniclers' accounts often may be seen not as mere human interest stories, but as complementary components of a highly functional, integrated microeconomic system.

The ready availability of adequate supplies of investment capital to support production has previously been demonstrated; and with such finance available in abundance, a greater understanding of the other factors of production falls into place. At this stage, a review of the uses to which these capital resources were put, as well as of the operations of the economic base industries to which they were committed will be helpful.

1. The Productivity of Agriculture

Despite the barren setting, there can be little doubt that agriculture played a key role in the commercial vitality of the first/seventh-century Hijaz. The region's landscape was dotted with trees, bushes, grasses, and plants, and fertile oases existed at al-Ta'if, al-Nakhlah, Khaybar, Fadak, Turabah, Yanbu`, Wadi al-Qura, al-Suwarqiyah, Wadi al-`Aqiq, throughout al-Madinah region, and elsewhere. The `Asir, to the south, also historically served as a key breadbasket for West Arabia. The farm produce of these areas included grains such as wheat and barley, sorghum, alfalfa, a wide variety of vegetables, citrus and other fruits, grapes, olives, dates, and pomegranates.

Al-Ta'if, called by al-Qalqashandi "a little bit of Heaven transported by God from Syria to the Hijaz" - a beneficiary of a substantial 200-450 millimeters of rain annually - was particularly known for its grape and raisin production, with Mu`awiyah b. Abi Sufyan, `Abd Allah b. `Abbas, al-`Abbas b. `Abd al-Muttalib, Abu Talib, and `Amr b. al-`As all owning large vineyards there. It, together with al-Madinah, was also legendary for exporting quality wines made from dates and grapes. Indeed, the very first booty won by Muhammad's newly formed Muslim forces were al-Ta'ifi wines, raisins, and leather goods seized from a Qurashi caravan in their raid at al-Nakhlah.[67]

Dates, another farm product, also were ubiquitous and were used not only as a basic foodstuff but also as an in-kind currency to settle commercial obligations. Because of their durability, raisins too were extremely convenient foodstuffs, both as commercial goods and consumables, the latter particularly on lengthy trade and military expeditions. They likewise could be used in local desalination and water-purification processes, and al-Istakhri indicate that their production was another prime industry of al-Ta'if region. Of these farm products, the Qur'an states: "We grow for you gardens of date palms and vines; in them, you have abundant fruit, and of them, you eat."[68] Various regions throughout the Hijaz distinguished themselves through their cultivation of particular farm products. Numerous Qu'ranic verses testify to the abundance of dates, grapes, grains, fruits, and vegetables produced in the vicinity of al-Madinah. The fruit and date farms of al-Ta'if were famous both for their quantity and quality of output. Khaybar similarly was known for its fine dates, whereas Dumat al-Jandal (modern al-Jawf) was situated in an area propitious for the production of dates as well as cereals.[69]

Hijazi agriculture was frequently carried out on a significant scale. Capital availability was a key to its success, with wealthy citizens often cited as major financiers of agrarian activities. In al-Madinah region, Mu`awiyah b. Abi Sufyan and Talhah b. `Ubayd Allah appear as major wheat growers, with the latter credited as the first to grow wheat in Wadi Qanah north of the city. The sources report that investments in ten farms by Mu`awiyah, who owned numerous grain and date-producing properties in the vicinities of Makkah and al-Madinah, resulted annually in the production of 150,000 camel loads of dates and 100,000 camel loads of wheat.[70] This future caliph also dedicated special care to developing properties in the Wadi al-Qura area and elsewhere that had been previously owned by Jewish farmers. The famed Muslim conqueror of Egypt, `Amr b. al-`As, is said to have had a vineyard in al-Ta'if that contained more than one million vines; whereas Hamzah b. `Abd Allah b. Zubayr owned a grove of 20,000 date palms in al-Furu`. Al-Samhudi relates that Ja`far b. Talhah spent 200,000 dinars for land reclamation on his estate in Umm `Iyyal, which contained 20,000 spring-irrigated date palms that produced 4,000 dinars in annual income.[71]

Livestock likewise was a key industry at the dawn of Islam, with animal herds frequently very large. We have already noted that caravans consisting of as many as 2,500 camels are cited in the sources. The victorious Muslim forces reportedly seized 24,000 camels in the battle of Hunayn in the year 8/630. Ibn `Abd al-Barr asserts that future caliph `Uthman b. `Affan personally contributed 950 camels, 50 horses, and 1,000 dinars to the embryonic Islamic army. Over 1,000 horses participated in the Muslims' conquest of Makkah in 8/630; and in the battle of Badr in 2/624, Prophet Muhammad is said to have employed seventy camels in his cavalry.[72] Mu`awiyah b. Abi Sufyan similarly was reportedly the beneficiary of an animal bequest involving 2,000 sheep,[73] and Zubayr b. Bakkar relates that a prime occupation of Hakim b. Hizam was marketing camels at the Makkah market.[74] He likewise relates the purchase of a female slave in exchange for 100 she-camels.[75]

Thus, farming clearly was a significant industry within Islam's birthplace, the Hijaz. And again, there is physical evidence, in the form of remains of irrigation canals and dams dating to this period, to support the documentary sources. Indeed, the remnants of at least nineteen dams from that period still exist in various state of preservation in the Hijaz - thirteen in al-Ta'if region, three in the vicinity of the Khaybar Oasis, and three near al-Madinah. While many of these dams were built in the early Islamic era, recent archaeological expeditions investigating their structural design and provenance suggest that some, such as "Sadd Qasr al-Bint," in the Khaybar region, likely are attributable to late pre-Islamic times.[76]

2. The Output of Manufacturing

The non-agricultural industrial base of the early medieval Hijaz was likewise quite diverse, ranging from mining to hunting and fishing, to construction and manufacturing, and other productive undertakings. Amongst the various enterprises, indigenous manufacturing was an industrial sector that consisted of several substantial sub-sectors, as Hijazi craftsmen were engaged in diverse productive activities that created a noteworthy selection of marketable commodities. For illustrative purposes, let us focus on five key sub-sectors: (i) jewelry-smithing, (ii) black-smithing, (iii) tanning, (iv) textiles, and (v) perfumes.

(i) Jewelry-Smithing. Because of the proliferation of indigenous gold and silver, it was logical that jewelry-making would become a key profession. Hijazis were historically known for their love of decoration with precious metals, and the Qur'an abounds with references to gold and silver as esteemed possessions. For instance, "Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet; women and sons; heaped up hoards of gold and silver"; and "For them will be Gardens of Eternity; beneath them, rivers will flow; they will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold."[77] Malik b. Anas relates that so passionate were local Arabs in their reverence for gold and silver tableware at this time that the Prophet felt compelled to ban its production and use as being an ostentatious detraction from religious observance.[78]

Jewelry-making was a specialty of Jews in general - and of the Jewish banu Qaynaqa` in al-Madinah in particular. This city was especially known for its craftsmen of precious metals throughout early medieval times. Al-Salihi al-Shami relates that when Prophet Muhammad vanquished the banu Qaynaqa` in al-Madinah, he seized great numbers of swords and black-smithing and jewelry-making equipment.[79] Al-Waqidi, in turn, affirms that the principal products sold in "suq bani Qaynaqa` in the pre-Islamic era were jewelry, bows, lances, and swords.[76] Indeed, Medinese jewelers, together with the goldsmiths of Fadak and Khaybar, were regionally renowned for the quality of their work; and al-Samhudi, citing Ibn Zubalah, indicates that there were more than three hundred jewelers at this time in the Medinese suburb of al-Zuhrah alone.[81]

Makkah, al-Ta'if, and Wadi al-Qura likewise reportedly had sizable jewelry-smithing sectors. Their output doubtless enjoyed a receptive market, as references to jewelry permeate the sources - and include descriptions of opulent rings, earrings, bracelets and anklets, bangles, pendants, and other objects of adornment. One lady of al-Madinah, Zaynab bint Mu`awiyah al-Thaqafiyah, reportedly owned a necklace whose gold content weighed more than twenty mithqals.[82]

Gold and silver plating also was a handicraft pursued by early medieval Hijazi jewelry smiths. The sword worn by Prophet Muhammad upon his triumphant entry into Makkah in 630 reportedly had gold and silver inlay. The sword of Abu Jahl, seized as booty in the Battle of Badr in the year 2/624, is said to have had similar features; and lances and shields likewise were often embellished in this manner. Doors and window frames were a particular focus of gold-leaf decoration. Al-Azraqi, al-Fasi, and al-Qutbi relate that in pre-Islamic times, Qurashi tribal chieftains would take great pride in embellishing the Ka`bah with elaborate gold and silver overlay - a practice that has been perpetuated until the present day.[83]

(ii) Blacksmithing. With iron ore and copper available in commercial quantities on the Arabian peninsula, blacksmithing was another craft practiced in many of the towns and villages of the sixth and seventh-century Hijaz. Production included weapons, tools, utensils, and sundry other iron goods, as well as local copper kitchenware and piping. Pre-Islamic poetry extols the virtues of professional iron-working.[84] When the first/seventh-century Arab conquests dramatically increased the contemporary demand for weaponry such as swords, shields, arrowheads, and other instruments of war, additional iron ore was imported from India and Persia via al-Basrah for use in armaments production. Hijazi craftsmen thus made metal-working a significant cottage industry at the rise of Islam. Indeed, the sources indicate that there were at least thirty prominent blacksmiths plying their trade during the Prophet's era in Khaybar. They further relate that at the siege of al-Ta'if, after the battle of Hunayn in 8/630, a Roman slave skilled in smithing, who took the name al-Azraq b. `Uqbah al-Thaqafi after defecting to the Muslim camp and embracing Islam, became renowned for his work. Al-Azdi reports the presence of wholesale iron dealers operating in al-Madinah at this time as well.[85]

Local metal-working output appears to have been substantial. Upon the Muslims' subjugation of the banu Qurayzah in 5/626, for instance, the victorious troops reportedly seized 1,500 swords, 2,000 lances, 300 suits of armor, and 500 shields. Three thousand lances are also said to have been employed in the battle of Hunayn in 8/630, an encounter wherein, the chroniclers claim, Muhammad armed his troops for battle with two hundred suits of armor provided by Safwan b. Umayyah.[86] The Qur'an makes frequent references to body armor - for instance, "Make thou coats of mail; balancing well the rings of chain armor"; and "It was We who taught the making of coats of mail for your benefit to guard you from each other's violence."[87] The Qur'an, in fact, devotes an entire chapter to iron, Surat al-Hadid, where we find the following verse: "We sent down iron, an ingredient for war, as well as having many benefits for mankind."[88]

Muhammad's son Ibrahim's day-care was provided by the wife of a blacksmith, Abu Sayf. Another of his close acquaintances was the Makkan blacksmith, Khabbab b. al-Aratt, who also specialized in the manufacture of swords. He is cited in the sources as having made a number of swords for al-`Isa b. Wa'il, tribal chieftain of the banu Jumah. An apprentice, Marzuq al-Sayqal, worked with him as a "metal-polisher"; and together, they reportedly embellished the Prophet's favorite sword, dhu al-Faqar, which, Ibn Sa`d reports, had been seized as booty by the Muslims from the Quraysh in the battle of Badr. Walid b. al-Mughirah, al-`As b. Hisham, and al-Azraq b. `Uqbah al-Thaqafi are among other Arab blacksmiths known to history; the latter, according to al-Baladhuri, having been a slave freed by Prophet Muhammad after the conquest of al-Ta'if.[89]

(iii) Tanning and Leather-Making. Given the abundant livestock resources of the early medieval Hijaz, it was logical that the preparation (al-dibaghah) of animal hides and skins (adm) for leather should likewise become a key contemporary industry. To this end, leather craftsmen would purchase hides from local tanners to manufacture tents, saddles, bridles, sword sheaths, shields, knapsacks, clothing, shoes, sandals, belts, sacks, food containers, floor coverings, water basins, bottles, and other containers. Even certain very prominent Makkans, among them Abu Sufyan b. Harb and Ayyub al-Sakhtiyani, reportedly worked as leather merchants. The sources relate that both men and women were involved in the tanning profession, the economic significance of which is indicated in the Qur'anic verse: "It is God who made your habitations homes of rest for you; and made for you out of the skins of animals dwellings which you find most light when you pause in your travels; and makes out of their wool and soft fibers valuable things and articles of convenience to serve you."[90]

Leather-making was particularly prominent in al-Ta'if area, a region famous for the quality of its production to the extent that it enjoyed a significant export market, not only to Suq `Ukaz and other neighboring areas, but also to Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Persia, Iraq, and Abyssinia. The fourth/tenth-century Yemeni geographer al-Hamdani marvels at the extent of al-Ta'if's leather industry, calling it "a land of tanners," and al-Waqidi and other chroniclers as well cite numerous commercial caravans departing from there bearing leather goods.[91]

In this trade, the sources relate that Hashim b. `Abd Manaf commenced his commercial career by gaining official permission to sell leather goods in Byzantine-occupied Syria. They likewise contain various references to camel caravans bearing leather goods from the Hijaz to Syria as well as to `Amr b. al-`As and others selling Hijazi leather goods in Egypt and Abyssinia; and indeed to `Amr b. al-`As ostensibly discussing the merits of his Hijazi hides with the latter's ruler. Amongst the first goods seized by the Muslims as booty was al-Ta'ifi leather, in their raid on a Makkan caravan at al-Nakhlah.[92]

An abundance of both wild and domesticated animals, combined with a suitable climate, made al-Ta'if region a natural center for the processing of hides and for leather goods manufacturing. In addition, qaraz trees, which produced a substance used in tanning, were indigenous to both the Hijaz and the Najd. This product appears to have enjoyed a brisk demand, as one Companion of Muhammad reportedly became so wealthy brokering it that he was known as "Sa`d al-Qaraz."[93]

Other cities of the region developed significant tanning and leather-making industries as well. Both Makkah and al-Madinah had major hide-processing centers, importing their qaraz from Wadi al-`Aqiq, near al-Madinah. A variety of sources suggest that the sale of leather goods in the regional markets was generally quite buoyant, particularly at the peak of the pilgrimage season.[94]

(iv) Textiles and Weaving. Hijazi textiles also were a flourishing industry. Weaving was an art form in early medieval Arabia that capitalized upon the ready availability of various raw materials. Wool was available in abundance. It was an input in the production of yarn, which local craftsmen specialized in weaving into useful household and clothing articles. Dying and sewing cloths also were key sub-sectors of this industry, and al-Bukhari devotes several chapters of his book of traditions to their pursuit. Various Companions of the Prophet - among them `Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, `Amr b. al-`As, al-Zubayr b. `Awwam, Talhah b. `Ubayd Allah, and future caliphs Abu Bakr and `Uthman b. `Affan - are said to have specialized as cloth (bazz) merchants, marketing their output in the aswaq of al-Madinah.[95]

This was a significant regional industrial sector, both in trade and manufacture. Al-Waqidi cites the inventories of one merchant consisting of 1,500 articles of clothing and twenty bales of Yemeni cloth on sale in al-Madinah during the time of the Prophet; and other sources indicate that at one point in Muhammad's era, no less than seven caravans bearing Syrian cloth arrived in al-Madinah in a single day. Egyptian and Coptic textiles likewise made their way along well-plied trade routes to a variety of Hijazi markets.[96] Slaves appear to have been extensively involved in indigenous clothing manufacture. Al-Isfahani states that `Umar b. Abi Rabi`ah owned seventy slaves who were engaged in weaving,[97] that members of the banu Makhzum employed slaves for the same purpose,[98] and still others were involved in weaving date-palm leaves into baskets and other useful products.[99]

Kiswahs from the early Islamic era - coverings measuring fourteen meters by forty-seven meters, bearing gold and silver decorative embroidering (and later Qur'anic verses), made each year to cover the Ka`bah during the pilgrimage season - evince sophisticated tailoring.[100] They were not invariably entirely "Hijazi," of course, for the requisite cloth was often imported from Yemen or Egypt. Perpetuating a tradition that dated to pre-Islamic times, the Makkan historian al-Fasi relates that whereas Muhammad covered the Ka`bah with "al-thiyab al-Yamaniyah," his early successors had dressed it with cloth made of Egyptian "Coptic" linen.[101]

Nonetheless, local decorative and inlay workmanship often appears to have been intricate. Certain sources claim that it was the third caliph, `Uthman b. `Affan, who introduced brocaded ornamental embellishments to the kiswah, a practice that appears to have grown increasingly more elaborate with the passage of time. Though it was not until the onset of the eighth/fourteenth century, according to a much later chronicler, al-Fasi, that Qur'anic inscriptions first appeared, the sources nonetheless make clear that the Prophet and his caliphal successors were committed to quality workmanship and spared no expense in the manufacture of the kiswah, a phenomenon that has been perpetuated to the present day.[102]

By relative cost analogy, even with modern automated technologies, the most recent kiswahs - black, five-piece silk curtains covering 658 square meters - have required for production each year the Saudi Riyal equivalent of more than U.S. $4.5 million and more than two hundred laborers. The heretofore cited 100-dinar gowns and 1,000-dirham thiyab said to have been worn by contemporaries of Muhammad - not to mention the Prophet's grandfather's burial gown, which reportedly was gilded with 1,000 mithqals of gold - must also have been distinguished by their fineness to have commanded such imposing prices.[103] The latter story, however, may border on the apocryphal, since the gold weight alone in this burial gown would have exceeded three kilograms.

(v) Perfumes. Perfumes likewise were in high demand in contemporary West Arabian commercial markets, causing al-Bukhari to title a significant section of his assembled traditions "A Chapter on Buying Perfumes and Musk."[104] The Hijaz, and al-Ta'if in particular, were known both for the production of fragrances and their subsequent wholesale and retail distribution, a portion of which would be dispatched annually to Makkah to perfume the Ka`bah.[105] Abu Jahl's mother is said to have sold perfumes in Makkah, as did `Abd Allah b. Kathir.[106] Al-Isfahani states that during one pilgrimage season, `Umar b. Abi Rabi`ah purchased perfumes and cloth at the Makkan market valued at a thousand dinars; and adds that he often procured such goods from the Yemen as well.[107] Al-Tabari asserts that `Abbas b. `Abd al-Muttalib also dealt in Yemeni perfumes,[108] whereas al-Kindi testifies that `Amr b. al-`As sold perfumes (as well as leather goods) in Egypt;[109] and al-Isfahani claims that Hakam b. Abi al-`As sold them to the Lakhmids in al-Hirah.[110]

Ibn Qutaybah indicates that in addition to being a major grain broker, Abu Talib was a perfume merchant dealing in a kind called `itr.[111] The compiler of prophetic traditions, Muslim, describes the operations of a first/seventh-century Qurashi merchant in al-Madinah who traded in a perfume-yielding plant called idhkir.[112] Al-Baladhuri, in turn, relates that there were over four hundred perfumers at this time in al-Madinah alone, and that they participated with Prophet Muhammad in the defense of the city while it was under siege by Umayyad forces.[113]

In sum, the industrial economy of the Hijaz at the rise of Islam was not as primitive as it has been portrayed. Indeed, wealth generated from precious metals made productive investment possible in a very diversified industrial base, enabling local entrepreneurs to pursue a wide variety of economic ventures. The early Makkans did possess commodities to consume and export, and trade in them they did, producing those complex bilateral trade patterns that seem to have mystified Crone. Let us now turn to a review of her most perplexing trade concerns.

Unraveling the "Coals To Newcastle" Enigma

1. The Role of Multi-Directional Trade in Forging the Medieval Hijazi Economic Dynamic. Recent scholarly analysis has focused extensively upon the countertrade dimension in early medieval Hijazi commerce; and with apparent reason, as it was not inconsequential. The diversified economic base of early Makkah and its environs constituted a significant consumption center, both from the standpoints of production inputs and consumer purchases, as well as serving as a crucial nexus for transit trade. The division of labor documented in the Arabic sources suggest that local merchants and entrepreneurs met both their business and personal consumption requirements through acquisitions from others. Wholesale purchases to meet the physical needs of pilgrims and other participants in the seasonal trade fairs in the form of foodstuffs, tent housing, and other accommodations lent further impetus to regional market demand. At the same time, the reported wealth of local businessmen suggests that Makkah's citizens possessed sufficient resources to make such acquisitions.

The sources thus make clear that the legend of an expansive early medieval Hijazi trade was by no means a myth. It was, instead, the story of a dynamic, diverse, integrated economy comprised not just of merchants and financiers but of miners, farmers, jewelers, black-smiths, tanners, tailors, and other producers; in short, people who had commodities to trade, to export as well as to import. In the species of free market economics then at work in the Hijaz, we observe the truism that "trade follows demand," producing quite natural bilateral commercial flows.

Yet Crone, among others, wrestles with what she calls the "carrying coals to Newcastle" trade phenomenon. Why would a region export products from a specific commodity category - be it clothing, leather goods, or foodstuffs - to a particular area, and then import products from the same category back again? From the standpoint of economic theory, the answer is simple. Demand, quality, taste, preference, and price differentials play highly significant roles in creating particular commercial patterns. It often is the case that one region manufactures a lesser quality product that meets lower or middle-class needs, while another makes more pricey, sophisticated products of the same generic type, and that these goods are then exchanged between them. That is why one finds today a particular industrial district of Germany manufacturing Volkswagens, "people's vehicles," while another produces the more expensive Mercedes.

It is a timeless axiom of macroeconomics that the only way net wealth is generated in any jurisdiction is through the sometimes quite complex combination of external exports and reverse investments. Foreign trade has historically been prerequisite to both processes, since selling only to those within the same jurisdiction is economically no more than a zero-sum game; as it is an inescapable commercial reality that if you are to produce significant wealth through industrial production, then you must export the products that you make. This fact has been recognized in all civilizations, and the early medieval Hijazis were clearly no exception.

Thus it is that the Qur'an speaks of annual trading caravans to Yemen and Syria; and the early sources find Hashim, the ostensible Qurashi founder of Makkan international trade, in southern Syria selling leather goods and cloth, indeed setting up an entire Qurashi trading community there. Thus it is that we also find Abu Sufyan and `Abd al-Rahman b. `Awf often in Syria selling leather, cottage cheese, and clarified butter; the Prophet himself journeying to Busra with his uncle Abu Talib to promote the sale of diverse products including, through a mudarabah trade contract, the merchandise of his future wife Khadijah; the military commander `Amr b. al-`As in Egypt selling perfumes and leather; Hakam b. Abi al-`As in al-Hirah selling perfumes; `Uthman b. al-Huwayrith contracting to sell clarified butter to Byzantine Syria; and Abu Sufyan in Iraq, `Uthman b. `Affan and Sa`id b. al-`As in Syria, `Abbas b. `Abd al-Muttalib, Abu Rabi`ah, and Walid b. al-Mughirah in Yemen, and `Amr b. al-`As and Umarah b. Walid al-Makhzumi in Abyssinia on similar trading expeditions.[114]

For they were on a common mission: promoting familiar products, all of which were manufactured in their home base, the Hijaz, at the rise of Islam. One need not be baffled by their activities. Nor is it illogical that contemporary Hijazis, like other manufacturers, should want to export the commodities that they produced. This is homo economicus at work - creating trade patterns dictated by the quest for net wealth generation, as shaped by market demand, unit price, and consumer preference.

2. The Role of the Pilgrimage in Shaping Makkan Trade. As we have seen, the nature and content of the Makkah region's sixth and seventh-century export flows can be rationally explained by evaluating the full spectrum of commodities indigenously produced. The same is true for imports. For it is not improbable that, because of other, equally cogent economic factors, the early Makkans should have wanted to procure products within commodity categories similar to those they exported. Indeed, given a sizable, albeit fluctuating, consumer base that possessed a nucleus of self-sustaining productive industries but a paucity of various specific natural resources, what they imported may be as economically significant as what they exported.

Accordingly, one finds reports of Hashim importing wheat from Syria; of Syrians bringing grains and oils to Makkah in the Prophet's era; of Makkans also bringing oils from Syria by camel caravan (al-zayt al-rikabi, an early version of the "mobile oil corporation"); of wheat being brought in from Hawran and al-Balqa'; of `Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf employing seven hundred camels to import grains and flour back from Syria after having delivered other agricultural commodities there; of `Abd Allah b. Jud`an bringing two thousand camel loads of honey, wheat, and clarified butter, and Talhah b. `Ubayd Allah carrying quantities of cloth back from the Levant as well; of `Abd Allah b. Abi Rabi`ah selling Yemeni perfumes in al-Madinah; of Safwan b. Umayyah, according to both al-Azraqi and al-Fakihi, running a market facility in lower Makkah wherein he stored goods that he imported from Egypt; and sundry other reports documenting Hijazi imports of various armaments, food products, clothin g, textiles, and perfumes from Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Abyssinia - commodities similar to those that they also made and exported to those countries.[114]

What was the dynamic? Again, nothing more than demand, price, and preference - the basic functioning of free market economics - at work in the early Makkan economy. This is why the Makkans delivered clothing and foodstuffs to Syria and also brought back their Syrian commodity equivalents. This is also why Michigan, which has its own dairy herds, imports cheeses from a sister state, Wisconsin, just as successful Western businessmen today often prefer Hong Kong tailored suits to local fashions.

Crone is aware of the bilateral trade activities cited above. Many, if not most, of them, are mentioned in her book. Yet she remains troubled by the "common commodities" dimension to bilateral trade, based on a few transactions documented in anecdotal source evidence, while missing the true significance of the total trade picture. "It makes no sense," she laments.[116] But it does.

The annual Hajj has historically generated dramatic seasonal shifts in local populace levels; and with them, concomitant changes in consumer demand. In the off-season in early Makkah, the regional economic base probably was adequate to meet proximate consumption needs and even to permit some exporting, thereby creating rational, market-driven economies of scale. But during the rapid upswing in numbers of consumers in the sacred months of pilgrimage, more voluminous imports of transport animals, foodstuffs, clothing, and other consumer goods doubtless were required - commodity needs that, in slacker times, would be met through local production. To meet these seasonal requirements, then, the Makkans had to import consumer goods in substantial wholesale volume.

There were other concurrent cogent commercial and economic factors actively at work in the early medieval Makkan marketplace as well. For example, basic production economics would dictate that annual manufacturing infrastructure capacity not be substantially expanded for just three months of increased consumption, particularly for perishable goods that could not be stockpiled in this pre-refrigeration age. Also, transportation economics would dictate that Hijazi merchant camel caravans not return from their destinations emptyhanded. Only with additional wholesale acquisition risk could they effectively compete, at retail, with the incoming foreign pilgrim-merchants with their own home-based goods - a practice readily viable within the essentially laissez faire economy that characterized the contemporary Hijaz.[117] Moreover, in this tight merchandise demand market, selling to foreign pilgrims products from their own homelands with which they were acquainted would doubtless have been more marketable than the promotion of less familiar, and perhaps lesser quality, Hijazi goods. Finally, the seasonal trade fairs likewise allowed for "product diversity" - offering an ideal venue for the exchange of a broad range of merchandise, distinguished by price and quality differentials, obtained from a wide range of sources. They were a commercial midpoint for merchants of many nationalities. A Yemeni pilgrim wholesale peddlar might be seeking a line of Syrian thiyab, but not Hijazi counterparts. Hijazi merchants, prudently attuned to market demand and profit motive, therefore, would have a ready selection of them in their inventories. Thus it is that al-Marzuqi states of "Suq `Uqaz": "There were in `Uqaz things that were not in any other Arab market. A Yemeni king would send a good sword and the finest cloths, and holding these up in `Uqaz, would say: 'Let the noblest of Arabs take these.'"[118]

At the same time, a better understanding of the commercial role of key players in early Makkan trade likewise contributes to comprehending its structure and direction. For just as numerous Qurashis were individually involved in trade at the rise of Islam, so its "blueblood" banu Hashim clan was collectively involved in the regional promotion, regulation, and administration of trade. Indeed, their "Dar al-Nadwah," generally functioned economically not unlike a modern "chamber of commerce," having major trade contracts drawn up within its confines. Major trading caravans are said to have started out from its doorstep, and it was to there that they returned.[119]

Such developments were not without precedent, of course. Indeed, it would be surprising were it otherwise. For the banu Hashim, within the Hijazi tribal matrix, historically functioned as "first among equals" - charged with such functions of public religious administration as the sidanah (custodianship of the Ka`bah), hijabah (opening and closing of the Ka`bah to visitors), sifarah (negotiating inter-tribal affairs), rifadah (providing pilgrims with sustenance), and "siqayah" (providing pilgrims with water). Ibn Habib indicates that full-scale commercial caravans as well as individual pilgrims would be provided with such services.[120]

Many of these responsibilities, such as the rifadah, were significant commercial functions in their own right, involving substantial logistical coordination. Al-Muqaddasi states, for instance, that when Caliph `Umar b. al-Khattab ordered rebuilt an erstwhile Roman canal, across Egypt north of al-Fustat, that connected the Nile with the Red Sea, thereby enabling Egyptian merchant ships bearing corn, grains, and other produce to sail directly to ports situated on the western coastline of the Arabian peninsula, no less than three thousand camel loads of corn were exported from Egypt to the Hijaz in a single season to meet the needs of pilgrims.[121]

In short, the market functioning of the early medieval Hijaz was no more than the dynamic of fundamental free-market economics operating in an early medieval Mideast commercial setting. Hijazi market demand fluctuated by season, creating certain infrastructural imbalances and, with them, demand shifts in both import and export requirements. It was precisely this dynamic that produces the quite natural "coals to Newcastle" bilateral trade patterns. For Newcastle imports coals perforce when it cannot readily meet local demand.


Crone ends her compelling treatment of early Makkan trade by concluding modestly: "This is a book in which little has been learnt and much unlearnt."[122] Yet in debunking the notion of early Christian era trans-Arabian trade patterns perpetuating well into the sixth and seventh centuries, she, like Serjeant, Simon, Ibrahim, Peters, and others, has made a considerable contribution to the study of early Islamic commercial historiography. For her analysis downplaying the significance of contemporary transit trade has permitted a refocusing on other critical facets of the medieval Hijazi industrial base that were far more economically significant - among them, indigenously generated import and export trade derived from agriculture, mining, and manufacturing. Indeed, such a focus, tying the testimony of the chronicled sources to tangible physical evidence, clearly supports the contention that the region did produce many of those commodity exports that have been the source of recent scholarly concern.

Likewise, a better understanding of the commodity demand requirements of the Hajj unravels the various bilateral trade dilemmas that Crone poses, indicating that substantial imports likely were required to meet the incoming pilgrims' needs, whereas in the pilgrimage off-season, certain exports in similar commodities were possible. This was a simple case of economic rationalization, a delicate industrial and commercial fine-tuning invoking those ever-present, market-driven economies of scale that shape all trade patterns. In this instance, the local production infrastructure appears to have possessed the capacity to generate exportable commodities beyond routine local needs, but doubtless lacked the ability to meet the massive volume of inbound Hajji "consumer demands" entirely from internal resources.

Accordingly, the present inquiry has developed complementary evidence presented by written sources, supported by the residual physical artifacts, that incontestably indicates that sixth to seventh-century Makkah was far more than a mere transit stop on the classic trans-Arabian spice route of antiquity. Because of the prevalence of gold and silver, the indigenous macroeconomy was both vibrant and productive. Precious metals underwrote investments in expanding industries that produced exportable commodities. They also served as production inputs for key manufacturing industries; and what emerged was a wealthy, burgeoning economy with its own basic export mandates and import needs. The early Makkan trade claims of the medieval Arab chronicles thus are not incomprehensible nor are they even particularly contradictory when examined under the scope of modern economic theory.

This is a reconciliatory, somewhat revisionist interpretation. It is sustained by both textual and extant tangible evidence, and enjoys the additional merit of allowing closure on a more positive note than has often characterized the early Makkan trade debate. Now, on at least four issues, most scholars of the region's early economic history should concur: (i) that as economic resources, the medieval Arabic sources must be treated as the fragmentary, anecdotal accounts that they are, not historical fiction, but also not detailed statistical abstracts; (ii) that they document a quite significant import-export trade in high-volume, lower unit-value goods of the types then being produced in the Hijaz; (iii) that their noteworthy silence on perpetuation of the Near Eastern trade patterns that obtained in the second Christian century is probably significant; and finally (iv) that the significance may lie in the reality that a sixth to seventh-century trade in "spices, silks, frankincense, and myrrh of Arabi" is likely no more than a modern orientalist myth.

For the reality is that the Arabic sources did not make such extravagant claims - modern scholars merely presumed that they had - and the great contribution of Crone, Serjeant, Peters, Simon, Ibrahim, and others has been to prove a critical non-sequitur to be precisely what it was. As such, and in this context, their historiographic trade concerns might more precisely be addressed to Montgomery Watt (and before him, Henri Lammens) than to Muhammad al-Waqidi.

In sum, the early medieval Arabs had at their disposal both the resource base and the business tools needed to achieve what the Islamic sources claim they did. Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of any particular source, moreover, the data, when taken in aggregate, converge in a compelling way to indicate that early medieval West Arabia enjoyed the presence of a substantially productive economic base and an attendant, equally significant multi-directional trade in the commodities produced. The net result, then, is not a commercial illusion produced by hagiographic lore. It is, instead, a rational data-composite effectively defining a complete and fully integrated free-market macroeconomy.


1. R. B. Serjeant, "Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam," JAOS 111 (1990): 472.

2. See M. Watt, Muhammad at Makkah (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1953); idem, Muhammad at Madinah (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956); M. Kister, "Makkah and Tamim: (Some Aspects of Their Relations)," JESHO 8 (1965): 117-63; idem, "Some Reports Concerning Mecca from Jahiliyya to Islam," JESHO 15 (1972): 61-91; M. Shaban, Islamic History: A New Interpretation (London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1971); F. Donner, "Mecca's Food Supply and Muhammad's Boycott," JESHO 20 (1977): 249-66; idem, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1981); R. Simon, Meccan Trade and Islam: Problems of Origin and Structure (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1989); F. E. Peters, "The Commerce of Mecca Before Islam," in A Way Prepared: Essays on Islamic Culture in Honor of Richard Bayly Winder, ed. F. Kazemi and R. D. McChesney (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1988); M. Ibrahim, Merchant Capital and Islam (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1990); A. Sprenger, Das Leben und die Lehre des Muhammad (Berlin: Grosstenheils, 1869); H. Lammens, La Mecque a la Veille de l'Hegire (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1924).

3. See Serjeant, "Meccan Trade."

4. Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), 203; Serjeant, "Meccan Trade," 472.

5. Crone, Meccan Trade, 12ff.; Serjeant, "Meccan Trade," 474; Peters, Mecca: A Literary History of the Muslim Holy Land (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994), 30.

6. Watt, Muhammad at Makkah, 3; idem, "Makkah as the Springboard for the Call of Islam," in Studies in the History of Arabia: Arabia in the Age of the Prophet and the Four Caliphs (Riyadh: King Saud Univ., 1989), vol. 3, pt. 1, p. 23.

7. Watt, Muhammad at Makkah, 3, 72-73; idem, "Makkah as the Springboard," 23; E. Wolf, "The Social Organization of Mecca and the Origins of Islam," Southwest Journal of Anthropology (1951): 334-36; Lammens, La Mecque; Donner, "Mecca's Food Supply," 240.

8. A. Sprenger, Das Leben und die Lehre, 2: 94ff.; Kister, "Makkah and Tamim," 116; Peters, Mecca: A Literary History, 33.

9. See al-Tabari, Ta'rikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk, ed. M. de Goeje (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1879-1901), 1: 271; al-Waqidi, Kitab Maghazi Rasul Allah, ed. M. Jones (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1965), 1: 9-10, 12, 27, 198, 200; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah (Riyadh: Maktabat al-Nasr, 1966), 2: 128.

10. Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, ed. E. Sachau (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1904-27), 1: 456-57.

11. On Yemeni to al-Hirah trade, see al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyah, 1927-74), 12: 57, 17: 319ff., 19: 75, 22: 57.

12. Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari (Istanbul: Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyah, 1979), 22: 30.

13. See Peters, Mecca: A Literary History, 30.

14. Ibn Habib, Kitab al-Muhabbar, ed. I. Lichtenstadter (Hyderabad: Da'iat al-Ma`arif al-`Uthmaniyah, 1942), 171; Crone, Meccan Trade, 151. Again, note the parallels to Henri Pirenne, Muhammad and Charlemagne (London: Unwin University Books, 1974), 174, who states: "It is a proven fact that the Musulman traders did not install themselves beyond the frontiers of Islam. If they did trade, they did so among themselves."

15. Watt, Muhammad at Makkah, 33.

16. Crone, Meccan Trade, 199.

17. Such an approach can likewise be rationally supported in assessing the historic evolution of the Near East's sixth century A.D. For the economies of the early medieval Red Sea littoral and southern Mediterranean Basin were neither "static" systems, nor did they evolve in isolation, but instead were profoundly impacted by powerful synergies between them. Accordingly, while the unilateral imposition of modern economic theory upon early medieval economic models can admittedly normally be a somewhat risky proposition, in this case it can be justified - as the evolution of capitalistic institutions - such as the metamorphosis of the Islamic mudarabah and mukhatarah commercial and industrial investment contracts into the Italian commenda and "mohatra," as well as other analogous business institutions and much medieval western commercial vocabulary - including carat (qirat), douane (diwan, customs office), magazines (makhazin, meaning "magazines" or "stores"), and tariff (ta`rifah) - derived from early Arabic antecedents. It can be effectively demonstrated, in fact, that no small measure of early Western capitalistic practice - built by Muslim jurists to reconcile the Islamic ban on interest-bearing transactions (riba) to contemporary commercial exigencies - was subsequently transmitted to the West in the 9th to 11th centuries by Italian merchants to directly circumvent the Holy Roman Empire's parallel ban on "usury" during Europe's Dark Ages. Thus, in comparing the two "capitalistic models," the analogy is not to one of "kind," but rather of in-kind "degree."

18. Crone, Meccan Trade, 230.

19. Ibid., 104, also 102, 107, 111.

20. Ibid., 90.

21. Al-Dhahabi, Ta'rikh al-Islam: al-Maghazi (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, 1990), 809-15; al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, vols. 1 and 2.

22. Ibn Ishaq, cited in Crone, Meccan Trade, 90.

23. Ibid.

24. Al-Dhahabi, Ta'rikh al-Islam, 810.

25. Ibid., 154, 354.

26. Crone, Meccan Trade, 87, 90.

27. Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 2: 553.

28. Ibid., 1: 36, 2: 354.

29. They were key members of a small cadre of contemporary wealthy merchants engaged in international trade cited in the sources whose ranks included Abu Sufyan; `Abd al-Rahman b. `Awf; `Uthman b. `Amir b. Ka`b; al-Hakam b. 'Abi al-`As; al-`Abbas b. `Abd al-Muttalib, al-Aswad b. al-Muttalib, his son Zam`ah, and his grandson Yazid b. Zam`ah; `Abd Allah b. Jud`an; Harb b. Umayyah and his more famous son, Abu Sufyan Sakhr; Hisham b. Mughirah, his brother Walid, and his sons Abu Jahl and al-Harith; Sa`id b. al-`As b. Umayyah; Qays b. `Udi b. Sa`d; and `Utbah b. Rabi`ah b. `Abd Shams.

30. Meccan Trade, 219-21.

31. On this, see Crone, Meccan Trade, "Introduction," part IV.

32. Ibid., 51ff.; also Serjeant, "Meccan Trade," 474; Peters, Mecca: A Literary History, 29-31.

33. Crone, Meccan Trade, 95.

34. Peters, "The Commerce of Mecca," 6.

35. See G. Heck, "Gold Mining in Arabia and the Rise of the Islamic State," JESHO 42 (1999): 363ff. It is critical to bear in mind, however, that while this analysis focuses upon the Hijaz and West Central Najd, there likewise are contemporary reports of medieval mining in what is now modern Yemen, Oman, and elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula.

36. Crone, Meccan Trade, 87-95, esp. 90.

37. See Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1: 27ff.; Ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad (Cairo: Matba`at al-Sa'adah, 1895), 3: 271; al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: 1374-75; al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Al-Akhbar al-Muwaffaqiyat, ed. S. al-`Ani (Beirut: `Alam al-Kutub, 1996), 498; Ibn Hisham, Kitab Sirat al-Nabi, ed. M. Al-Saqqa (Cairo: Makatabat Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1955), 364; al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf, ed. M. Hamidullah (Cairo: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1959), 1: 374, 377, 398ff.; al-Muqaddasi, Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Ma`rifat al-Aqalim, ed. M. de Goeje (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1906), 101-2; Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Ibn Ishaq, ed. M. Hamidullah (Rabat: Ma`had al-Dirasat wa al-Abhath, 1976), no. 500; Ibn al-Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Ta'rikh (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, 1985), 2: 145-46.

38. Abu Baqa' Hibatallah, Al-Manaqib al-Mazyadiyah (Amman: Maktabat al-Risalah al-Hadithah, 1984) (British Museum, London, MS Add. 23), 1: 67.

39. Ibid.: wa kanu ya`khudun shay'an mima yakun ma`a al-tujjar min al-dhahab.

40. Qur'an, 3:75.

41. Qur'an, 12:20.

42. Qur'an, 18:19.

43. Al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyah (Cairo: Maktabat Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1973), 148.

44. Al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, ed. R. Radwan (Beirut: Dar Maktabat al-Hilal, 1978), 452. Al-Baladhuri states that while in the pre-Islamic era, Byzantine dinars and Persian dirhams did reach the markets of Makkah, the indigenous people traded only with one another using metals bullion: la yatabayi`un ila`ala innahatibr.

45. Al-Maqrizi, Shudhur al-`Uqud fi Dhikr al-Nuqud, ed. M. al-`Ulum (Al-Najaf: al-Maktabah al-Haydriyah, 1967), 4. Al-Maqrizi indicates that in the pre-Islamic era: innama kanat tata`amulu bi'l-mathaqil wazn al-darahim (wa) wazn al-dananir.

46. Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 2: 25. Ibn Sa`d further contributes that the early medieval West Arabian merchants typically made 100% returns on their investments: kanu yarbahum fi tijaratihim li'l-dinar dinaran.

47. Al-Hazimi, Kitab al-Amakin, ed. H. al-Jasir (Riyadh: Dar al-Yamamah, 1995), 2: 862-63; G. Miles, "Some Early Arab Dinars," Museum Notes (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1948), 3: 102; M. Casanova, "Une mine d'or au Hidjaz," Bulletin de la Section Geographie 35 (1920): 24-33; S. al-Rashid, Darb Zubaydah (Riyadh: Riyadh Univ. Libraries, 1980), 128; S. Shamma, "Al-Madinah: Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin," Al-Maskukat 7 (1976): 106-9.

48. Indeed, indicative of the provenance of early Makkan gold, in a slightly later era, currency minting operations also may have taken place using the ore yields of these sites - as there are numerous early Islamic coins whose metal content is directly linked to bullion mined in western Arabia. An Umayyad dinar dating to the year 105/724, for instance, includes the phrase "mine of the Commander of the Faithful in the Hijaz." Numerous copper fulus have likewise been found that bear similar inscriptions. On these developments, see Miles, "Some Early Arab Dinars," 102; Casanova, "Une mine d'or"; Shamma, "Al-Madinah," 106-9; S. al-Rashid. Darb Zubaydah, 128; Arab News (Jiddah, July 23, 1990), 2.

49. Al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, 22-27; al-Bakri, Mu`jam ma Usta`jam min Asma' al-Bilad wa al-Mawadi`, ed. M. al-Saqqa' (Beirut: `Alam al-Kutub, 1983), 28-29; Ibn Hajar, Kitab al-Isabah fi Tamyiz al-Sahabah (Cairo: Matba`at al-Sharifah, 1906), 4: 196. With clear evidence of the widespread use of the qirad/mudarabah commercial investment contract in pre-Islamic times, and with ancestors of the Prophet Muhammad also documented in its use, it seems quite likely that this contract was the principal fiducial mechanism employed in such investments.

50. Simon, Meccan Trade, 22ff.; Ibrahim, Merchant Capital, 32ff., 42-52; Peters. "The Commerce of Mecca," 47ff.

51. On these developments, see I. Shahid, "The Arabs in the Peace Treaty of 561 A.D.," Arabica 3 (1956): 185.

52. Al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Jamharat Nasab Quraysh wa Akhbaruha, ed. M. Shakir (Cairo: Maktabat Dar al-`Urubah, 1961), 1: 425.

53. On these agreements, see al-Ya`qubi, Ta'rikh al-Ya`qubi (Najaf: al-Maktabah al-Murtadawiyah, 1939), 1: 201-2; Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1955), 58-59; al-Qali, Kitab Dhayl al-Amali wa al-Nawadir (Cairo: Matba`at Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyah, 1926), 199; al-Tha'alabi, Thimar al-Qulub (Cairo: Matba`at al-Zahir, 1908), 89; Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 1: 45-46.

54. See al-Maqrizi, Shudhur al-`Uqud, 4-6. Scholars often refer to this period of "commerce sans guerre" as a "Pax Makkanah" or the era of the "Makkan commonwealth" - a consolidated economic regime that underwrote significant region-wide trade flows, as evidenced by the abundance of Byzantine gold dinars and Sasanid silver dirhams then reportedly flowing through contemporary Hijazi markets.

55. On this, see Simon, Meccan Trade, 91-95; Ibrahim, Merchant Capital, 190; Peters, "The Commerce of Mecca," 6-7, 14-16; Crone, Meccan Trade, 12ff., 61, 70, 76.

56. See al-Qummi, Tafsir al-Qummi, ed. T. Al-Jaza'iri (Najaf: Maktabat al-Huda, 1967), 2: 144; al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, ed. F. Wustenfeld (Hildesheim: George Olms, 1858), 176, 179; al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: 1: 578; Qur'an 76: 17. Here, a clear distinction must be made between Southwest Asian market demand and Mediterranean-based market demand.

57. Ibrahim, Merchant Capital, 5, 7, 34; Simon, Meccan Trade, 13, 21, 74, 75, 95, 98; and Peters, "The Commerce of Mecca," 6, 11-12, 14, however, reject the notion of either "capital" or "production" at work in sixth-century Makkah.

58. See Ibn Qutaybah, Kitab al-Ma`arif, ed. F. Wustenfeld (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1850), 249-50.

59. Al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, 26-27.

60. See, e.g., al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf, ed. M. Hamidullah (Cairo: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1959), 4: 74, 139, 142, and subsequent sections below.

61. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf, ed. M. Schloessinger (Jerusalem: Hebrew Univ. Press, 1938a), 4a: 3.

62. Al-Bakri, Mu`jam ma Usta`jam, 28-29.

63. It must be noted that some medieval Muslim jurists were of the opinion that its use in manufacturing ventures was forbidden. Maliki and Shafi'i scholars, in particular, rejected a "productive investment" application of the "mudarabah," arguing that since the agent would be engaging in actual production, traditionally compensated by a fixed wage rate, all profit and loss should accrue exclusively to the investor. The Hanafi jurist al-Sarakhsi (Kitab al-Mabsut [Cairo: Matba`at al-Sa`adah, 1906/1986], 22: 54), however, believed that there were ways for producers to circumvent this prohibition merely by engaging in the sale, as well as in the manufacture, of the goods: "If the investor instructs his agent to employ his capital to purchase leather and hides - and then design them into boots, buckles, and leather bags - this is all part of the practice of merchants in their pursuit of profit, and is permissible in a mudarabah contract." Hence, in this interpretation, the mudarabah could, in fact, be legally employed in production operations - but only if the producer of the commodity was also its distributor.

64. Al-Qurtubi, Al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur'an (Cairo: Dar al-Qalam, 1966), 2: 205; Ibrahim, Merchant Capital, 41, 65ff.

65. Al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 66, 69, 107, 135, 436-41; Ibrahim, Merchant Capital, 39, 80. Qusayy b. Kilab reportedly had wells dug and rest stops built within the city's environs to support the transient logistics needs of incoming merchants.

66. Serjeant, "Meccan Trade," 486.

67. Al-Qalqashandi, Subh al-A`sha (Cairo: al-Matba`ah al-Amiriyah, 1914), 4: 65; al-Istakhri, Kitab al-Masalik wa al-Mamalik (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1927), 19; al-Muqaddasi Ahsan al-Taqasim, 69, 79; Ibn `Abd Rabbihi, Al-`Iqd al-Farid (Cairo: Lajnat al-Ta'lif wa al-Turjimah wa al-Nashr, 1948), 38; Ibn Hisham, Das Leben Muhammad's nach Muhammad Ibn Ishak, ed. F. Wustenfeld (Gottingen, 1858), 424; Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1: 16; N. Saqar, Al-Ta'if fi al-`Asr al-Jahili wa Sadr al-Islam (Jiddah: Dar al-Shuruq, 1981), 40ff.

68. Qur'an 23:19; also sources cited in the preceding note.

69. See Qur'an 2: 261, 264, 266: 6: 99, 141; 18: 33-34; 23: 19; 36: 33-34; 50: 7-11; Ibn Habib, Kitab al-Muhabbar, 263-64, 267. Various sources (see al-Mubarrad, Al-Kamil fi al-Lughah wa al-Adab, ed. M. Ibrahim [Cairo: Dar Nahdat Misr, n.d.], 3: 207) relate, for instance, that `Ali b. Abi Talib grew an assortment of gourds on his estate in Yanbu`.

70. Al-Samhudi, Wafa' al-Wafa' fi Ta'rikh Dar al-Mustafa (Beirut: Dar Ahya' al-Turath al-`Arabi, 1973/1981), 3: 988, 4: 1130, 1272; al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 442-43; Ibn al-Faqih, Mukhtasar Kitab al-Buldan (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1885), 22; al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Jamharat Nasab Quraysh, 1: 52; al-Zubayri, Kitab Nasab Quraysh, ed. E. Levi Provencal (Cairo: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1953), 172, 746; Ibn Rustah, Al-A`laq Al-Nafisah (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1892), 178; Ibn Hazm, Jamharat Ansab al-`Arab (Cairo: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1971), 140; al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyah, 1927-74), 3: 130; M. Gilmore et al., "A Preliminary Report on the First Season of Excavations at al-Mabiyat, an Early Islamic Site in the Northern Hijaz," Atlal: Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology 9 (1985): 110.

71. See preceding note.

72. Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Al-Isti'ab fi Ma`rifat al-Ashab (Cairo: Maktabat Nahdat Misr, n.d.), 3: 1040; al-Qalqashandi, Nihayat al-Arab fi Ma`rifat Ansab al-`Arab (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Lubnani, 1980), 463; al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 13: 118; al-Samhudi, Wafa' al-Wafa', 1: 544, 2: 222.

73. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, 8: 325; Ibn Fahd, Ithaf al-Wara bi-Akhbar Umm al-Qura, MS 2204 (Cairo Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyah, n.d.), fol. 330.

74. Al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Jamharat Nasab Quraysh, 1: 364.

75. Ibid., 1: 80, 115-16 Ibn Qutaybah, Al-Shi`r wa al-Shu`ara' (Cairo: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1966), 2: 61, relates that while serving as governor of al-Madinah. `Umar b. `Abd al-'Aziz received a gift of 15,000 she-camels.

76. See al-Samhudi, Wafa' al-Wafa', 3: 1044, 1050, 1072; 4: 1231; al-Isfahani, Bilad al-`Arab, ed. H. al-Jasir (Riyadh: Dar al-Yamamah, 1968), 401; al-Harbi, Kitab al-Manasik wa Amakin Turuq al-Hajj wa Ma`alim al-Jazirah (Beirut: Matba`at al-Mutannabi, 1969), 330; Ibn Rustah, Al-A`laq Al-Nafisah, 20; al-Halabi, Al-Sirah al-Halabiyah fi Sirat al-Amin al-Ma'mun (Beirut: Dar al-Ma`arif, 1980), 2: 393; J. `Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Ta'rikh al-`Arab Qabl al-Islam (Beirut: 1970-80), 7: 173; S. al-Rashid, Darb Zubaydah, 8-10; Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture and Water, Water Atlas of Saudi Arabia (Riyadh, 1984), 15; M. Gilmore et al., "A Preliminary Report," 20. M. Khan and A. Mughannam, "Ancient Dams in al-Ta'if Area - 1981 (1401)," Atlal: Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology 6 (1982): 129-30; `A. al-`Umari, Al-Hiraf wa al-Sina'at fi al-Hijaz fi `Asr Rasul Allah (Riyadh: `A. al-`Umari, 1985), 230.

77. Qur'an, 3:14, 18:31, 22:23, 76:15-16.

78. Malik b. Anas, Al-Muwatta' (Beirut: Dar al-Afaq al-Jadidah, 1981), 799.

79. Al-Salihi al-Shami, Subal al-Hudan wa al-Rashad fi Sirat Khayr al-`Ubbad, ed. `Abd al-`Aziz `Abd al-Haqq (Cairo: Lajnat Ahya' al-Turath al-Islami, 1975), 4: 267.

80. Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1: 138-40.

81. Ibn Zubalah, as related by al-Samhudi, Wafa' al-Wafa', 4: 1230.

82. Abu `Ubayd, Kitab al-Amwal, ed. M. Hiras (Cairo: Maktabat al-Kulliyah al-Azhariyah and Dar al-Fikr, 1975), 538; Ibn Hajar, Kitab al-Isabah, 4: 319; al-Samhudi, Wafa' al-Wafa', 4: 1230.

83. Al-Sudayli, Al-Rawd al-Unuf fi Tafsir al-Sirah al-Nabawiyah (Beirut: Dar al-Ma`rifah, 1978), 3: 49; al-Tirmidhi, Al-Jami` al-Sahih, ed. Ahmad Shakir (Beirut: Dar Ahya' al-Turath al-`Arabi, n.d.), 4: 401; Malik b. Anas, Al-Muwatta', 799; al-Azraqi and al-Fasi, both cited in Qutb al-Din, Kitab al-I`lam bi-Bina' Bayt Allah al-Haram (Hildesheim: George Olms, 1981), 53-57; M. al-Alusi, Bulug al-`Arab fi Ma`rifat Ahwal al-`Arab, ed. Muhammad al-Athri (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-Hadithah, 1924), 3: 404; Riyadh Daily, 2 April 1992, p. 2; on "tahliyat al-Ka`bah bil-dhahab wa al-fiddah" throughout history, see al-Qutbi, I`lam al-`Ulama' al-A`lam bi-Bina' al-Masjid al-Haram (Riyadh: Dar al-Rifa`i, 1982), 53ff.

84. See Yaqut, Mu`jam al-Buldan (Beirut: Dar al-Sadr, 1957), 5: 447.

85. Al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 476; al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Jamharat Nasab Quraysh, 1: 372; al-Isfahani, Bilad al-`Arab, 30: al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, 67; al-Suhayli, al-Rawd al-Unuf, 3: 260; al-Azdi, Ta'rikh al-Mawsil, ed. `A. Habibah (Cairo: Dar Ahya' al-Turath al-Islami, 1967), 49; M. al-Alusi, Bulug al-Arab, 3: 401; `A. al-`Umari, Al-Hiraf wa al-Sina`at fi al-Hijaz, 313ff.; `A. al-Sayf, Al-Hayah al-Iqtisadiyah wa al-Ijtima`iyah fi al-Najd wa al-Hijaz fi al-`Asr al-Umawi (Riyadh: Mu'assasat al-Risalah, 1983), 156.

86. Al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Jamharat Nassab Quraysh, 1: 372; al-Isfahani, Bilad al-`Arab, 30; al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, 67; al-Suhayli, Al-Rawd al-Unuf, 3: 125-26, 260, 298; al-Salihi al-Shami, Subal al-Hudan wa al-Rashad, 4: 286, 307, 408; al-Azdi, Ta'rikh al-Mawsil, 49; al-Halabi, Al-Sirah al-Halabiyah, 2: 666; J. `Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Ta'rikh, 7: 554-60; M. al-Alusi, Bulug al-`Arab, 3: 401; `A. al-Sayf, Al-Hayah al-Iqtisadiyah wa al-Ijtima`iyah, 156; `A. al-`Umari, al-Hiraf wa al-Sina`at, 314ff.; `A. al-Kitani, Nizam al-Hukumah al-Nabawiyah al-Musamma al-Taratib al-Idariyah (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, n.d.), 2: 75.

87. Qur'an, 34: 11, 21:80.

88. Qur'an, 57:25; also 18:96: "Bring me blocks of iron. At length, when he had filled up the space between the two steep mountainsides, he said: 'blow (with your bellows).' Then, when he had made it red as fire, he said: 'bring it to me, that I might pour over it molten lead.'"

89. Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 1: 485; al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari (Istanbul: al-Maktabah al-Islamiyah, 1979), 3: 13; al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir al-Jami` bayna Fana al-Riwayah wa al-Dirayah min `Ilm al-Tafsir (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1979), 3: 195, 349; 4: 60; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-`Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Ma`rifah, 1968), 2: 586; 3: 135; Ibn Qutaybah, Kitab al-Ma`arif, 249-50; Ibn Hisham, Kitab Sirat al-Nabi, ed. M. al-Saqqa (Cairo: Maktabat Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1955), 1: 357; al-Suhayli, Al-Rawd al-Unuf, 2: 105; al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, 67; `A. al-`Umari, Al-Hiraf wa al-Sina`at, 316ff.; A. `Awd Allah, Makkah fi `Asr ma Qabl al-Islam (Riyadh: Da'irat al-Malik `Abd al-`Aziz, 1981), 148.

90. Qur'an, 16: 80; al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 466; al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Jamharat Nasab Quraysh, 1: 370; al-Baghdadi, Khazanat al-Adab (Cairo: al-Matba`ah al-Salafiyah, 1928), 1: 106; Malik b. Anas, Al-Mudawwanah (Cairo: Dar al-Sa`adah, 1905), 11: 391, 491; al-Samhudi, Wafa' al-Wafa', 4: 1230; Ibn Qutaybah. Al-Shi`r wa al-Shu`ara, 1: 440; al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 3: 346; 8: 152-53; 9: 55ff.; Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 5: 230; `A. al-Kitani, Nizam al-Hukumah al-Nabawiyah, 2: 57; J. `Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Ta'rikh, 1: 537ff., 587ff.

91. Al-Hamdani, Sifat Jazirat al-`Arab, ed. M. al-`Akwa (Riyadh: Dar al-Yamamah, 1977), 260; Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1: 92.

92. On this trade, see al-Kindi, The Governors and Judges of Egypt, ed. R. Guest (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1912), 6ff.; al-Hamdani, Sifat Jazirat al-`Arab, 260; al-Zubayr b. Bakkar, Jamharat Nasab Quraysh, 2: 486; Ibn Habib, Kitab al-Muhabbar, 32, 73; al-Qali, Kitab Dhayl al-Amali, 199; al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf. 1: 101, 232; Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1: 13, 16; 2: 742; Ibn Rustah, Al-A`laq Al-Nafisah, 215; al-Rashid b. al-Zubayr, Kitab al-Dhakha'ir wa al-Tuhuf, ed. M. Hamidullah (Kuwait: Da'irat al-Matbu`at wa ala-Nashr, 1959), 11; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, 8: 345; Ibn Fahd, Ithaf al-Wara bi-Akhbar Umm al-Qura, MS 2204 (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyah, n.d.), fol. 330; Ibn al-Athir, Usud al-Ghabah fi Ma`rifat al-Sahabah (Cairo: Jam`iyat al-Ma`arif al-Misriyah, 1864), 3: 315; Ibn al-Mujawir, Ta'rikh al-Mustabsir (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1951), 25, 32; al-Khuza'i, Takhrij al-Dalalat al-Sam`iyah `ala ma Kana fi Ahd al-Rasul (Cairo: al-Majlis al-A`la li'l Shu'un al-Islamiyah, 1980), 715; al-Salihi al-Shami, Subal al-Hudan wa al-Rashad, 2: 87.

93. See sources cited in the preceding footnote, plus `A. al-`Umari, Al-Hiraf wa al-Sina`at fi al-Hijaz, 326ff.; J. `Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Ta'rikh, 7: 538-39, 587; `A. al-Kitani, Nizam al-Hukumah al-Nabawiyah, 2: 56-57; N. Saqar, Al-Ta'if fi al-`Asr al-Jahili, 44.

94. Ibn al-Mujawir, Ta'rikh al-Mustabsir, 13; al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 466; Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 5: 26, 366; 8: 73, 206; `A. al-`Umari, Al-Hiraf wa al-Sina`at fi al-Hijaz, 327-28.

95. See Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimat Ibn Khaldun (Beirut: Dar al-Hilal, 1978), 411-12; al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, 3: 13-14, 19, 52; al-Khuza'i, Takhrij al-Dalalat al-Sam`iyah, 702; al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir al-Jami`, 3: 190; Ibn Qutaybah, Kitab al-Ma`arif, 249-50; al-Salihi al-Shami, Subal al-Hudan wa al-Rashad, 3: 350; `A. al-`Umari, Al-Hiraf wa al-Sina`at fi al-Hijaz, 330ff.; J. `Ali, Al-Mufassal fi Ta'rikh, 7: 525, 588, 594; `A. al-Kitani, Nizam al-Hukumah al-Nabawiyah, 2: 59-60; Sergeant, "Meccan Trade," 476.

96. On this trade, see Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 2: 664; al-Jahiz, Al-Tabassur fi al-Tijarah (Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al-Jadid, 1966). 25ff., 35: al-Tha'alibi, Thimar al-Qulub, ed. M. Ibrahim (Cairo: Dar Nahdat Misr, 1965), 534, 539; Ibn Habib, Kitab al-Munammaq (Beirut: `Alam al-Kutub, 1985), 32, 73, 106; Ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 4: 75; al-Qali, Kitab Dhayl al-Amali, 3: 199; al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 18: 123.

97. Al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 1: 78.

98. Ibid., 5: 114.

99. Al-Baghdadi, Khazanat al-Adab, 1: 106; Malik b. Anas, Al-Mudawwanah, 9: 24; 15: 153.

100. See al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 174.

101. Al-Fasi, Al-`Iqd al-Thamin fi Ta'rikh al-Bilad al-Amin (Beirut: Maktabat al-Risalah, 1985), 1: 195-97; M. al-Ruqqun, Kiswat al-Ka`bah al-Mu`azzamah `abr al-Ta'rikh (Cairo: Matba`at al-Jiblawi, 1986), 27, 31.

102. Al-Fasi, Al-`Iqd al-Thamin, 1: 198ff.; M. al-Ruqqun, Kiswat al-Ka`bah, 28, 73-74.

103. T. P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam (New Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 1982), 280; Arab News (Jiddah) 25 March 1998, p. 3; Riyadh Daily, 25 March 1998, p. 2.

104. Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, 9: 176.

105. Ibn Rustah, Al-A`laq Al-Nafisah, 198.

106. Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1: 65; Ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-A`yan, ed. Ahsan `Abbas (Beirut: Dar al-Thaqafah, 1969), 3: 41.

107. Al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 1: 167; Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 8: 220; al-Mubarrad, al-Kamil fi al-Lughah wa al-Adab, 2: 230.

108. Al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: pt. 1, 162.

109. Al-Kindi, The Governors and Judges of Egypt, 6ff.

110. Al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 17: 369; 22: 38.

111. Ibn Qutaybah, Kitab al-Ma`arif, 249-50.

112. Muslim, Sahih Muslim (Cairo: Maktabat Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1929), 8: 143-44.

113. Al-Baladhuri, Ansab al-Ashraf, 4: pt. 2, 42-43, 136; 7: 158.

114. See Qur'an, 106: 1-4; Ibn Hisham, Das Leben Muhammad's, 119ff.; idem, Kitab Sirat al-Nabi, 1: 192; Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 1:75, 126ff., 156; Ibn Habib, Kitab al-Muhabbar, 162; idem, Kitab al-Munammaq, 42, 171; al-Salihi al-Shami, Subal al-Hudan wa al-Rashad, 1:316ff.; al-Tha'alabi, Thimar al-Qulub, 115-16; al-Qali, Kitab Dhayl al-Amali, 199; al-Kindi, The Governors and Judges of Egypt, 7; al-Isfahani, Kitab al-Aghani, 8: 206, 369; 9: 55ff.; Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1: 28, 197; al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 175; al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: pt. 1, 162; Ibn Hajar, Kitab al-Isabah, 3: 237-38; Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, 82-83.

115. See Ibn al-Athir, Usud al-Ghabah, 3: 115; Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 1:43-44; 3: 125ff., 215: Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, 8: 4, 70; 9: 232; al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: pt. 1, 162; Al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghazi, 1:395; 2: 523; 3: 989ff., 1051; Ibn Hisham, Das Leben Muhammad's, 232, 531, 911; al-Zabidi, Taj al-`Urus min Jawahir al-Qamus, ed. A. Farraj (Kuwait: Wizarat al-Irshad wa al-Anba', 1965), 1: 277; al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 474; al-Fakihi, Ta'rikh Makkah (Leiden, n.d.), MS Or. 463, fol. 461b.

116. Crone, Meccan Trade, 102.

117. This is a point made by F. Donner, "Mecca's Food Supply and Muhammad's Boycott," JESHO 20 (1977): 254: "... for the caravans that went north bearing spices, ivory, and gold could easily have returned carrying loads of cereals, dried fruits, and oils, which were plentiful and inexpensive in Syria."

118. Al-Marzuqi, Kitab al-Azminah wa al-Amkinah (Hyderabad: Matba`at Da'irat al-Ma`arif. 1914), 2: 66; al-Isfahani, Bilad al-`Arab, p. 32, echoed by Ibn Habib, Kitab al-Muhabbar, 267. Al-Marzuqi, 2: 165, also states: "These are the markets of the Arabs and there is none greater than `Uqaz."

119. Al-Azraqi, Akhbar Makkah, 69, 436-41.

120. Ibn Habib, Kitab al-Muhabbar, 176ff. "Zamzam water" was another Qurashi monopoly.

121. See al-Muqaddasi, Ahsan al-Taqasim, 97, 195.

122. Crone, Meccan Trade, 203.

The Qur'anic Studies