Islamic Economics in The World - Classical Muslim Commerce - Agricultural Revolution

Agricultural Revolution

Further information: Arab Agricultural Revolution

During the Arab Agricultural Revolution, a fundamental transformation in agricultural practice tied in with significant economic change. This transformation involved diffusion of many crops and plants along Muslim trade routes, the spread of more advanced farming techniques, and an agricultural-economic system which promoted increased yields and efficiency. In addition to significant changes in economy, population distribution, vegetation cover, agricultural production, population levels, urban growth, the distribution of the labour force, and numerous other aspects of life in the Islamic world were affected.

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

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

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

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