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Early Islamic World

Trade and Commerce

History for Kids >> Early Islamic World

Trade and commerce played an important role in the early Islamic world. Large trade networks spanned much of the globe including faraway places like China, Africa, and Europe. Islamic leaders used taxes from wealthy merchants to build and maintain public works such as schools, hospitals, dams, and bridges.

Money

A Gold Dinar
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Money is important for any economy, and this was no different for Islamic merchants. The main Islamic coins were the dinar (a gold coin) and the dirham (a silver coin). However, large transactions were often carried out on paper using letters of credit called "suftaja." These letters were much easier to carry on long trade routes than heavy coins. After arriving in a new city, merchants could take the papers to a moneychanger to exchange for coins.

Trade Goods

Islamic merchants dealt in a wide variety of trade goods including sugar, salt, textiles, spices, slaves, gold, and horses. The expanse of the Islamic Empire allowed merchants to trade goods all the way from China to Europe. Many merchants became quite wealthy and powerful.

Trade Routes

Muslim trade routes extended throughout much of Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia (including China and India). These trade routes were both by sea and over long stretches of land (including the famous Silk Road). Major trade cities included Mecca, Medina, Constantinople, Baghdad, Morocco, Cairo, and Cordoba.


Caravan with Camels
by Emile Rouergue. 1855.
Caravans

In the case where a trade route was over land, merchants travelled in large groups called caravans. Caravans were almost like traveling cities including everything from doctors and entertainers to armed guards and translators. They provided protection for the merchants and their goods. A typical caravan would travel around 15 miles a day and would stop at night at rest stops called "caravanserai."

Spread of Islam

The expanse of Islamic trade had a direct result on the spread of the Islam religion. Traders brought their religion to West Africa where Islam quickly spread throughout the region. Areas in the far east such as Malaysia and Indonesia also became Muslim through traders and Islamic Sufis. Over time, large Muslim populations grew in other regions including India, China, and Spain.

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More on the Early Islamic World:

Timeline and Events
Timeline of the Islamic Empire
Caliphate
First Four Caliphs
Umayyad Caliphate
Abbasid Caliphate
Ottoman Empire
Crusades

People
Scholars and Scientists
Ibn Battuta
Saladin
Suleiman the Magnificent
Culture
Daily Life
Islam
Trade and Commerce
Art
Architecture
Science and Technology
Calendar and Festivals
Mosques

Other
Islamic Spain
Islam in North Africa
Important Cities
Glossary and Terms


Works Cited

History for Kids >> Early Islamic World





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