Markets in Madina were public institutions (awqaf). The Islamic cities were, above all, a market-city. The importance of the Suq in the formation and development of the Muslim city cannot be underestimated. Muslim cities were founded on the combination of a Great Market and a Great Mosque. This combination was the heart of every city. Ottoman developers called this combination the Imaret. The Imaret is the distinctive feature of every Islamic city.

Soon after his arrival in Madina al-Munawwarah, the Prophet of Islam, salla’llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, created two institutions, a mosque and a market. He made clear by his statements and explicit injunctions that the marketplace was to be a space freely accessible to everybody, with no divisions (such as shops) and where no taxes, levies or rents could be charged.

The Market is like a Mosque: …

The Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Markets should follow the same sunnah as the mosques: whoever gets his place first has a right to it until he gets up and goes back to his house or finishes his selling. (suq al-muslimin ka-musalla l-muslimin, man sabaqa ila shay’in fa-huwa lahu yawmahu hatta yada‘ahu.)”.

(Al-Hindi, Kanz al-’Ummal, V, 488, no. 2688)

it is a sadaqa, with no private ownership …

Ibrahim ibn al-Mundhir al Hizami relates from Abdallah ibn Ja’far, that Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Hasan said, “The Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, gave the Muslims their markets as a charitable gift (tasaddaqa ‘ala l-muslimina bi-aswaqihim).”

(Ibn Shabba, K. Tarikh al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, 304)

with no rent charged …

Ibn Zabala relates that Khalid ibn Ilyas al-’Adawi said, “The letter of Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz was read out to us in Madinah, saying that the market was a sadaqa and that no rent (kira’) should be charged on anyone for it.”

(As-Samhudi, Wafa al-Wafa, 749)

with no taxes levied on it …

Ibrahim ibn al-Mundhir relates from Ishaq ibn Ja’far ibn Muhammad, from Abdallah ibn Ja’far ibn al-Miswar, from Shurayh ibn Abdallah ibn Abi Namir, that Ata’ ibn Yasar said, “When the Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, wanted to set up a market in Madinah, he went to the market of Bani Qaynuqa’ and then came to the market of Madinah, stamped his foot on the ground and said, ‘This is your market. Do not let it be lessened (la yudayyaq), and do not let any tax (kharaj) be levied on it.’”

(Ibn Shabba, K. Tarikh al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, 304)

where no reservations or claims can be made …

Ibn Zabala relates from Hatim ibn Isma’il that Habib said that Umar ibn al-Khattab [once] passed by the Gate of Ma’mar in the market and [saw that] a jar had been placed by the gate and he ordered that it be taken away. … Umar forbade him to put any stones on the place or lay claim to it [in any way] (an yuhajjir ‘alayha aw yahuzaha).

(As-Samhudi, Wafa al-Wafa, 749)

and where no shops can be constructed.

Ibn Shabba relates from Salih ibn Kaysan …that …The Messenger of Allah, salla’llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, …said: ‘This is your market. Do not build anything with stone (la tatahajjaru) [on it], and do not let any tax (kharaj) be levied on it’”

(As-Samhudi, Wafa al-Wafa, 747-8)

Abu r-Rijal relates from Isra’il, from Ziyad ibn Fayyad, from one of the shaykhs of Madinah that Umar ibn al Khattab, radiya’llahu ‘anhu, saw a shop (dukkan) which someone had newly put up in the market and he destroyed it.

(Ibn Shabba, K. Tarikh al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, 750)

Open Markets versus Supermarkets
Openness and competition can only be granted not only if the legal conditions permit them to exist, but also if the infrastructural and practical conditions support them too. 
For example, we cannot speak of full and fair competition in Britain when 80% of all retailing is controlled by 4 supermarkets. These supermarkets have driven out tens of thousands of small shops and small manufacturers throughout Britain. The same phenomenon is taken place across Europe. All sectors of industry are consolidating in fewer and fewer hands. The number of players is diminishing and the SME’s are suffering. The key concern behind the national protectionist measures that resist further integration in the EU single market is the effect that it will have in their small business. Carrefour is now the second largest retailer in the world, just behind Walmart.

Suqs in the Muslim City
Suqs were an integral part of every city. The number of suqs varied considerably from one city to another. Cairo had 145, Aleppo 77, Baghdad, Damascus and Algiers only around 50. Within the central zone the markets were located, broadly, in decreasing order of importance: the markets for goldsmiths and money changers (sagha), for spices (‘attarin), and for the cloths (suq al-qumash) normally occupied the area closest to the center. The division of activities in Tunis around the Zaytuna, is specially significant in this regard.

The basic element of these central quarters was the shop (dukkan). In the large covered markets, the space of the dukkan was divided into two parts: 
• the selling area which belonged to the suq and was free. It was the visible frontal part of the dukkan that connected to the passages of the suq;
• the storage area which belonged to the services of the suq which had to pay a rent. It was located in the back or on the top of the selling area.

An Example: The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

The construction of the future Grand Bazaar’s core started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. The construction of the initial Bedesten ended in the winter of 1460/61, and the building was endowed to the waqf of the Aya Sofya Mosque. Over the centuries the market was made bigger and new sections were added.
According to a 1890 survey, in the Bazaar were active 4,399 shops, 2 Bedesten, 2195 rooms, 1 Hamam, one mosque, 10 Medrese, 19 fountains (among them two Şadırvan and one Sebil), one Mausoleum and 24 Han.
The full extension of the market complex is 30.7 hectares, protected by 18 gates, there are 3,000 shops along 61 streets, the 2 Bedesten, 13 Han or caravanserais (plus several more outside).
Bazaar’s merchants were organized in guilds. In order to establish a new one, it was only necessary to have enough traders of the same good.
The ethics of trade in the Market until the Tanzimat age (half of the 19th century) was quite different from the modern one: indifference to profit, absence of envy in the successes of other traders and a single and correct price were peculiar traits of the Ottoman bazaar during its golden age. The reason for such behavior lies partly in the ethics of Islam, and partly in the guild system which provided a strong social security net to the merchants. Afterward, the westernization of the Ottoman society and the elimination of the waqf and the guilds caused the introduction of the new practices that we see today.

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