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Al-Quraysh: Divine capitalism?

September 20, 2010 1 comment

Over just a couple generations, Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh, went from a Bedouin nomads struggling to scrape by in one of the most brutal environments on Earth, to a wealthy, settled culture funded by trade of luxury goods.

This wealth had changed Muhammad's tribe from the far more charitable (and more violent) Bedouin culture, to a more selfish (and more peaceful) "city" culture.Why were Bedouin charitable (at least, among their extended family)? Because a year of bounty could easily be followed by a year of famine. If you shared your surplus one year, the odds that the recipients of your largess would return the favor in a following year when the tables were turned would be much higher.

For the taming of Quraysh
For their taming (We cause) the caravans to set forth in winter and summer
So let them worship the Lord of this House,
Who hath fed them against hunger and hath made them safe from fear.

I can't help but read "taming" in this sura to encompass the "urbanization" of the Quraysh, and this sura pointedly claiming all credit for this wealth to God, who caused the caravans to run each season. It's a potent message: while the Quraysh weren't Bedouin anymore, the fierce independent streak of the Bedioun would likely have persisted despite the "taming." A wealthy Qurayshi would attribute his/her success entirely to his/her own efforts and ingenuity. God is telling them they are wrong: it is he that has caused their success in this world.

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