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Bedouin, fellahs and sultans: History of the Islamic Countryside Week 4 Land tenure Queen Mary University of London HST 5112, 2011-12.

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Presentation on theme: "Bedouin, fellahs and sultans: History of the Islamic Countryside Week 4 Land tenure Queen Mary University of London HST 5112, 2011-12."— Presentation transcript:

1 Bedouin, fellahs and sultans: History of the Islamic Countryside Week 4 Land tenure Queen Mary University of London HST 5112, 2011-12

2 Arab conquests & land-tenure At the time of conquest, Arabs retain Byzantine / Sassanian land-tenure: Non-Muslim landowners/peasants pay an agricultural tax = kharaj, in addition to poll-tax Arab land-owners pay a charitable tax = ushr (tithe); State distributes land grants to Arab leaders or groups If area was conquered without a agreement of capitulation, all land becomes property of the Muslim community (fay)

3 Arab conquests & land-tenure How to collect land-tax (kharaj)? By fixed tax (in kind or in cash) By share of the produce

4 Arab conquests & land-tenure How to collect land-tax (kharaj)? From individual cultivators From the village community

5 Arab conquests & land-tenure How to collect land-tax (kharaj)? By agents of central government By Tax-farming By and for local leaders (decentralization)

6 Abbasid land tax (8 th - 10 th c) Impact of large-scale conversion to Islam: Exemption from poll-tax, but kharaj tax continues; Charity tax (zakat) on livestock and selected cash crops

7 Abbasid land tenure (8 th - 9 th c) Land reclamation projects in Iraq Large estates run by urban landowners Use of slaves in estates around Basra, and in Tunisia (Qayrawan) Zanj Slave revolt around Basra (868-883) Peasants revolts in Egypt (9 th century)

8 The Middle period, 1000-1500 Virtual end of private ownership over arable land (fields) Death of the kharaj-payer: Kharaj is now a rent paid by cultivators for the right to use the land Decentralization of tax-collection

9 Islamic feudalism, 1000-1500 iqta - a grant of agricultural revenue in return for military service. Different from feudal estate: Temporary, non-hereditary grant, to be withdrawn by the ruler at any time. Iqta-holder would reside in a city, visiting his village only occasionally. No judicial authority over the cultivators. al-Aqsarai, a manual of horsemanship (Syria/Egypt, 1371)

10 Islamic feudalism, 1000-1500 What was the position of the peasant under the iqta system? According to some ethical and legal works: 1. Peasants are attached to the land 2. iqta holders can raise taxes at will 3. No incentives for long-term investment

11 Islamic feudalism, 1000-1500 What was the position of the peasant under the iqta system? Legal sources, especially fatwa literature: 1. Tenancy contracts concluded with the iqta holders (share-cropping or fixed rent). 2. De-centralized negotiation of lease payments with iqta holders. 3. Individual iqta holders at a disadvantage, as they tend to lack local knowledge and power base.

12 Islamic feudalism, 1000-1500 Continuous shifts from state land-ownership to private ownership and back, unless land endowed for religious purposes Private owners convert land to charitable endowments (waqf) to protect from state confiscation Waqf could benefit religious institutions, the poor, or families of land-owner

13 Islamic feudalism, 1000-1500 Iqta to medieval Islamic socieites, from India to Spain, is what feudalism is to European Islamic societies


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