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The Arabian Silent Trade: Profit And Nobility In The “Markets Of The Arabs”

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Chapter Summary

In the case of pre-Islamic Arabia, a key to understanding the silence and secrecy of the marketplace turns out to be the notion of "profit," which we know from Avram Udovitch's indispensable study. This chapter discusses the "profit" within a broader argument regarding nobility and political networks throughout the Arabian peninsula just before the rise of Islam. Arabic prose narratives tell us a certain amount about the markets of Yathrib (Medina) just before and after the arrival of Muḥammad and Islam. This is a narrative tradition on "the markets of the Arabs before Islam" which appears in several literary sources, beginning in the third/ninth century. This narrative tradition describes a sequence of markets held every year, moving in a clockwise spiral throughout the entire peninsula. The chapter concludes with a final look at the silence of the Arabian markets. The earliest examples of silent trade are reported from Africa.

Keywords: Arabian markets; pre-Islamic Arabia; Yathrib



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