on February 4, 2011
I have read many books on Islam. I read them to understand why Islam conquered so much so quickly, and why it failed both politically and economically over the last 500 years. The relative economic decline is of interest because around 1000 CE, the Muslim world was as wealthy as Europe. This is the first book that provided understanding that I could use. Not on conquest directly, but on the economics.
In "The Long Divergence", the author emphasizes two themes around Muslim law of inheritance. Islamic law mandated distribution of wealth after death amongst multiple heirs. This mandate had two results. First, it forced partnerships to be short lived: Death followed by demands for their part of the inheritance by heirs required liquidation of a partnership. Knowing that any death would end the partnership, Muslims tended to favor two person partnerships of short duration. In contrast, after 1000 CE Europeans developed forms of partnership and corporations that could survive the death of a single participant. Partly this was adoption of primogeniture, under which a single descendant could inherit the whole on one person's assets in a property, business or partnership. At the same time Europeans were becoming innovative about the types of business arrangements used to accumulate wealth. Something like modern corporations developed to manage guilds, monasteries, and even cities. European rulers, desperate for money, and often only weakly in power, were willing to allow independent groups take local power, in exchange for stability and the right to tax revenues or profits. These independent institutions were allowed to change their internal rules and general goals as circumstances changes.
The second theme in "The Long Divergence" explaining relative Islamic economic decline is Islam's failure to develop anything like the European corporation. Again this relates to Muslim inheritance law. The Waqf, the only way Muslims could create an enterprise that could outlive the founder had to be established for only one purpose and that purpose could never change. So, for example, a Waqf to establish a caravan station could never become anything else, even if trade routes or means of transportation changed. Meanwhile, as mentioned in the last paragraph above, European corporations could adapt to changing circumstances to redirect investment in the more productive ways as circumstances changed.
There is much more in this book. I think the author has discovered something about the role of law in economic development that explains a lot about the relative decline of the Islamic world relative to Europe.
There is one other benefit I got from reading "The Long Divergence". The author argues that the codification of rules of inheritance in Islam provided economic laws that were superior to alternatives available in much of the world at the time of the early Muslim conquests. Although he does not argue that this caused the rise of Islam, it suggests one reason for its early success.
Also noted in the book, is that the separation between Church and State in Europe helped lead to innovation in Europe and stagnation in the Islamic world. This made me remember independently that existence of canon law, which the Catholic Church created to govern its internal ecclesiastical affairs, independent of the laws of the political entities in which it served the religious needs of Europeans. Canon law still exists and is still used by the Church to settle issues pertaining to the Church alone. (These include discipline of clergy, alteration of church property, etc.) Many protestant religions have their own versions of cannon law.
Another thing: From this book I learned that Shia and Sunni Muslims have slightly different inheritance laws. I did not know that despite much reading on Islam.
The book made is entertaing, and made me think. Not too much more to ask for in a book on a potentially boring subject!
on February 20, 2011
When in law school, I studied Islamic legal theory. I wish this book had existed then. But even for a lay reader who is interested in social development and asks why the Islamic world seems not to have been able to develop a modern commercial society, this book will provide insight into why.
This is not an easy book. It presumes some knowledge of Islamic thought and of Islamic belief, as well as more generally of the history of the region from about 1400 to about 1900. Okay, fine, you weren't going to buy this if you're scared of the big words, but still be ready. I put it aside a few times and came back to it. But I always came back to it.
Kuran is an excellent writer and his prose is clear. His conclusions may not be indisputable, but they are well-drawn from his premises and they are highly plausible. They are also derived from data. He has gone through not just previous writers but also historical archives to get primary source data to back up his thoughts and analysis. This isn't Niall Ferguson - you don't have to wade through pages of tables and statistics - but it's clear that if Kuran had wanted to write that book he could have.
The other review of this book (at time of my posting there was only the one) has gone into great depth on the discussion of the rules of inheritance, and I won't repeat. I'll focus instead on one element that suggests to me that Kuran is onto something: his explanation for why Islamic societies continued to allow choice of law to religious minorities even after it was clear that they were benefiting from this, while denying it to Muslims who therefore couldn't have benefited. In an oversimplified nutshell, Kuran suggests that it's related to various societal factors all of which were intended to benefit Muslims and that this was an unintended side effect, and that foreign governments which were becoming more dominant in the world capitalized on their local co-religionists in order to extend their reach into the Muslim world. You may agree, you may not, but the argument is well-made.
But his most important argument is this: there is nothing innately anti-Islamic about modern capitalist structures, and the fact that Islamic countries haven't adopted them is a historical artefact and not an innate impossibility. As I was reading this, the revolution in Tunisia had just ended, Egypt was just ending, and Bahrain/Yemen/Algeria/Iran/Libya were ongoing. It will be interesting to see, if any of these countries decides to bring themselves into the modern commercial era, whether Kuran is right.
In the year 1000, the Middle East's economy was at least as advance as Europe's. But by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind. "The Long Divergence's" author, Timur Kuran, argues that the explanation lies not in geography or Muslim attitudes; instead it was Islamic legal institutions that slowed private capital accumulation, corporations, and large-scale production. Low trust, rampant corruption, and weak civil institutions have followed, and will take generations to overcome.
A good place to start is with the lack of corporate structure in early Islam. The first mostly Muslim-owned joint stock company came in 1851; further delaying Muslim corporations was the lack of a mechanism for trading shares, forcing shareholders to give up liquidity. 'Tax farmers' (those who paid rulers for the right to collect and keep taxes) might have evolved into corporations, but the rulers developed a bad habit of revoking the agreements.
The alternative to corporations, traditional Islamic partnerships, dissolved upon the death, withdrawal, incapacitation of any single member.
Estates, in turn, were divided according to Islamic inheritance rules. The intent was to spread wealth, strengthen families, benefit wives and daughters, and promote political stability. Muslim inheritance practices are embodied in the Koran, and had to modify.
Until modern times, Middle Eastern cities lacked corporate status. Kuran did point out that the early Muslim alternative to incorporated towns providing service was the 'waqf.' The waqf was perpetual, controlled by the founder per his directions, and could provide drinking water, pavement, travelers assistance (especially to those making a pilgrimage to Mecca), even colleges and madrases. Since the colleges were also constrained by the founders' directives, over time they evolved little and became intellectual backwaters. Regardless, these partially successful alternatives to incorporation reduced pressure to develop the corporate mode, and along with it the accounting and legal framework needed in support.
Non-Muslim subjects of Islamic states had to follow Islamic law only in matters of taxation and security - they were free to do business under the rules of their home jurisdiction. A frequent complaint was that Islamic courts were biased against Muslims (and vice-versa in Europe). Non-Muslims were prohibited from testifying against Muslims. Judges lacked training in commercial law, and the proceedings relied heavily on oral evidence (concerned over forgery, misreading of the contents Muslim illiterates, about 95% of the population). Litigants could hire witnesses.
Many mistakenly believe that Muslim law precluded charging interest. Kuran says this isn't true - it only prohibits 'riba,' the Arabian practice whereby a borrower's debt id doubled if not paid on time. This practice often resulted in the confiscation of the borrower's assets, even enslavement.
Overall, "The Long Divergence" is difficult reading, but worth the effort.
on August 22, 2011
Kuran has examined this subject closely, well supported by a lot of historical evidence. I'll not restate his basic arguments like the dual outcomes of Islamic inheritance law (beneficial to family-member survivors but destructive to large-scale capital formation), that has been covered well by other reviews here. The author rather carefully considers past arguments concerning the "backwardness" of Islamic countries and shows many of them to be either false or by themselves inadequate, i.e., the prohibition against charging interest is (1) not in the Koran, and (2) even though this prohibition gained traction with religious jurists (as it did in the West with Bibilical "interpretations") these laws were seldom enforced and many clever ways were created by borrowers and lenders to get around this alleged prohibition. What emerges is a rather complex web of self-reinforcing religious laws - or accepted modes of economic behavior - that could not compete with the corporate form (and its attendant laws and regulations) that developed in the West. That, beginning in the 16th century, many Muslim rulers allowed these Western business forms to penetrate their system is an interesting story in and of itself.
The book is closely written, arguments are critically examined, and it's difficult to disagree with Kuran's conclusions - he is neither a dogmatic attacker or defender of the Islamic business system, one that served this population rather well for centuries and expanded their trading network far into Africa and to the East. Kuran is, however, not a great prose stylist, the language does get somewhat dense and reads a bit like a legal brief at times. My reason for subtracting a star from this review is the work could have done with some hard editing; on too many occassions the book loops back to make some of the same arguments, if seen from a slightly different perspective. This is good from an academic perspective as Kuran covers all his bases, but a bit tiresome from the reader's point of view as it seems a tad repetitious. All-in-all, a most interesting book, at times a bit of a slog, but I guess it's better to have an author know too much about his subject than too little.
on March 23, 2011
The disparity between Islam and the West is sometimes termed the Long Divergence. As early as the thirteenth century Muslim countries began to fall behind the West in a number of key respects. This decline is not due to the predatory incursions of imperialism and colonialism as some on the left allege, but it reflects something that happened in the Islamic civilizational sphere itself.
Accepting this point, historians are divided as to what caused the Great Divergence. Some say that the poor performance of Muslim countries is due to the very nature of Islam, which is hostile to both commerce and learning, the latter being traditionally been subordinated to religion. Others say that the problems are more local, involving particular features of Islamic practice which could be corrected without attenuating or discarding the religion itself.
Put briefly, is it a macroproblem or a cluster of microproblems? The latter position is maintained by Timur Kuran in his impressive book.
In a column in the New York Times (March 5), Nicholas Kristof summarizes Professor Kuran's findings as follows:
"Professor Kuran persuasively argues that what held the Middle East back wasn't Islam as such, or colonialism, but rather various secondary Islamic legal practices that are no longer relevant today.
"It's a sophisticated argument that a column can't do justice to, but for example, one impediment was inheritance law. Western systems most commonly passed all property intact to the eldest son, thus preserving large estates. In contrast, Islamic law stipulated a much fairer division of assets (including some to daughters), but this meant that large estates fragmented. One upshot was that private capital accumulation faltered and couldn't support major investments to usher in an industrial revolution.
"Professor Kuran also focuses on the Islamic partnership, which tended to be the vehicle for businesses. Islamic partnerships dissolved whenever any member died, and so they tended to include only a few partners -- making it difficult to compete with European industrial and financial corporations backed by hundreds of shareholders.
The emergence of banks in Europe led long-term British interest rates to drop by two-thirds leading up to the Industrial Revolution. No such drop occurred in the Arab world until the colonial period."
Other points could be made from Kuran's book, which I found very profitable reading. But the New York Times columnist covers the gist.
Still, to my mind, there is a curious omission from Timur Kuran's analysis of finance and commerce in historical Islam, and that is the Hawala system. At this point, I will repeat some features of the account I gave at [...].
Hawala (or hundi) is an informal value-transfer system based on the performance history and established trust linking a huge network of money brokers, based mainly in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and South Asia.
The hawala concept has its origins in classical Islamic law (Sharia); it is mentioned as early as the eighth century in texts of Islamic jurisprudence. It is said to have later influenced the development of the principle of agency in the common law and the civil law tradition (cf. aval in French law and avallo in Italian law, both terms deriving from hawala).
Roman law had not permitted the transfer of debt, but the practice became common in medieval Europe, influenced by the trade Italian merchants conducted with the Muslim world. Again, Roman law forbade one person to act as the agent of another, for no individual could conclude a binding contract on behalf of another. By contrast, Islamic law and the later common law freely permitted agency in the field of contracts and of obligations in general.
Hawala is believed to have arisen in the financing of long-distance trade around the emerging capital trade centers in the early medieval period. In South Asia, it appears to have developed into a fully-fledged money-market instrument, which was only gradually replaced by the procedures of the formal banking system of Western origin in the first half of the twentieth century. Today, hawala plays a major role in the remittances of migrant workers to their country of origin.
In the most basic version of the hawala system, a network of hawala brokers, or hawaladars, arrange for the transfer of money. A customer approaches a hawala broker in one city, producing a sum of money to be transferred to a recipient in another, usually foreign, city. The hawala broker calls another hawala broker in the recipient's city, gives disposition instructions of the funds (usually minus a small commission), and promises to settle the debt at a later date.
A special feature of the system is that no promissory instruments are exchanged between the hawala brokers; the transaction relies entirely on the honor system. As the system does not depend on the legal enforceability of claims, it can operate even in the absence of a legal and juridical environment. Informal records are kept of individual transactions, and a running tally of the amount owed by one broker to another is maintained. Settlements of debts between hawala brokers can assume a variety of forms; it need not take the form of direct cash transactions.
In addition to commissions, hawala brokers often earn their profits through bypassing official exchange rates. Generally, the funds enter the system in the source country's currency and leave the system in the recipient country's currency. As settlements often take place without any direct foreign exchange transactions, they can be made at other than official exchange rates.
Customers find hawala attractive because it provides a fast and convenient means for transfer of funds, usually with a far lower commission than that charged by banks. Its advantages are most pronounced when the receiving country manipulates exchange rates (as has been the case for many typical receiving countries in the Middle East), or when the banking system in the receiving country is fairly primitive. Moreover, in some parts of the world it is the only option for legitimate funds transfers, and has even been used by aid organizations in areas where it is the best-functioning institution. In recent years the latter practice has caused concern because it is thought to have facilitated money transfers for terrorist groups. In principle,hawals may also be used for money laundering of drug profits, though the evidence for this is scanty.
The money transfers are informal and not effectively regulated by governments, which is a major advantage to customers with tax, currency control, immigration, or other concerns. In some countries, hawalas are actually regulated by local governments and hawaladars must be licensed to perform their money brokering services.
Let us return to the Middle Ages, in the centuries in which the Mediterranean was a Muslim lake. In those days, before the Great Divergence, the hawala system spread far and wide. That the first bankers in Italy were familiar with it is shown by the loan- word avallo, which is simply an Italian version of hawala. Yet the European bankers went far beyond their model, to introduce the wide-ranging innovations that we are all familiar with. The Islamic world kept to the more primitive institution of the hawala.
Today, of course, Western banking (sometimes disguised under the rubric of Islamic banking, which is simply Western banking with a few rhetorical changes) flourishes in Islamic countries. So does hawala. That this dual system, with one foot in the past and one in the present, is the norm is one indicator of the way in which Islamic economies are lagging.
on January 11, 2012
A robust and detailed analysis of the effect of different forms of Islamic Law on the ME, focusing largely on the Ottoman case. Turan's focus is on 3 main issues: inheritance law, taxation and support for alternate legal systems.
Compared to prior Arab tribal law and even European Law, Islamic inheritance law was more equitable in the division of wealth, but there were emergent problems of asset fragmentation which worked against the accumulation of capital over the long term, from one generation to the next. This often resulted in farms and businesses that were too small to work profitably. A way around this was to create a tax free trust known as a "waqf" but dedicated to a public purpose such as a school or fountain which surviving family members could then run - but the waqf's purpose was completely static and could not be changed once established. Another problem was the requirement that all business partnerships were automatically terminated on the death of any one of the partners. Continuing a partnership required renegotiating the terms with all the heirs, any one of whom could have arbitrarily caused problems. The result was that the majority of partnerships were small and short term. The contrasting European approach was the establishment of family networks such as the Medicis (lasting 97 years), Fuggers, Bardi and Peruzzi conglomerates, which eventually lead to the idea of corporations and selling shares - abstract instruments which allowed enterprises to continue and assets to be divided without disruption of commercial agreements.
Turan uses the interesting example of Abu Taqqiya, a 16th century coffee merchant who essential franchised a series of cafes and also dominated the sugar market as well - in effect the original Starbucks. This feat was later reproduced by Qasim al-Sharaybi and also by Mahmud Muharram in the early and late 18th century - yet none of the above created a business that survived him.
Notwithstanding these problems, Muslims were not unsuccessful in business. Muhammed after all was first a merchant and many passages of the Quran are quite business friendly. Muslims colonized the far east through trade quite successfully, rather than the reverse, bringing their own scribes and systems of jurisprudence with them, though Turan does pass over the aspect of militant conquest.
With regard to religious tolerance, different faith groups could have their own judges for internal matters. Which sounds fair. Except that in matters involving even a single Muslim the matter had to be referred to a Muslim court, or for interfaith disputes between different sects of Christians or with Jews, both parties were likely to prefer the 3rd party Muslim courts rather than the court of one side or the other. Even Muslims had different courts depending on the "school" to which an individual belonged, ie: Hanafi, Hanbali.... This could lead to shopping around for an suitable court, though switching from court to court was discouraged. Another bias was, that since under Islamic Law only Muslims could bear arms, only the Islamic courts had recourse to physical enforcement - other faiths had to rely on moral or economic means of suasion.
Ad valorum taxes on merchandise in the 8th century were fixed at 2.5% for Muslims, 5% for dhimmis and 10% for foreigners. The practice of giving foreign communities their own legal privileges and tax reductions (capitulations), with reciprocity on the foreigner's home turf, was a practice adopted from the Byzantines (pp221). In the 19th century the Ottomans found it necessary to sign trade with various European powers. Turan mentions the Anglo-Ottoman Commercial Convention of 1838, where the Sultan agreed to enforce higher duties on exports than on imports, though he doesn't mention that this was a quid quo pro for English help against rebel Ali Pasha who had taken control of Egypt and was advancing by land and sea towards the Turkish core of empire.
European consuls were allowed to include their local agents as part of their grouping, and so began the process of different non-Muslim groups within the empire soliciting the protection of the consuls, to a point where a the majority of the merchant class, though native born, were essentially foreign citizens. Again reciprocity was applied, but was largely taken up by members of the dhimmi classes - Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians and Jews went to Europe and availed themselves of the infrastructure of their European diaspora communities to establish trade, but very few Mulsims did the same.
This fragmentation of the legal system had a disastrous effect over the long term in that it hollowed out the legal and taxation power of the Ottomans. IMHO it also widened a division between Muslim and non-Muslim wherein the Muslim regarded the Jews and various Christian groups as outsiders. This wouldn't be true everywhere - the pattern would only have a chance to establish itself in cities and towns with access to a foreign consul.
The lesson for modern times might be that one should severely restrict foreign or even international legal systems within national jurisdictions as over the long term that jeopardizes national sovereignty. On the other hand, I've supported the North American Free Trade Agreement along with it's dispute management system. No doubt my position will evolve over time on this as there should always be a balance between open borders and sovereignty, and policy needs to be adjusted when society swings too far in either direction.
Recommended as an excellent resource for students of the ME, particularly the Ottoman empire and it's successors, but also those interested in the origins and evolution of contract or inheritance law. The book is well written, abounds in good and interesting details, and presents some counter arguments in addition to the author's POV. Well worth reading and having on your shelf!
on November 24, 2011
For centuries the Islamic world dominated the West militarily, economically, and culturally. As late as 1683, when Ottoman forces laid siege to Vienna, Muslim military domination was a legitimate fear for the Christian world.
Excluding the sophisticated Byzantine Empire--which Muslim Arab forces nearly conquered and Muslim Turkish forces did conquer in 1453--and some of the city-states of Italy, the West remained backward and underdeveloped compared to the Middle East for roughly 1,000 years. Prior to the Renaissance the West had nothing that could rival Damascus, Baghdad or the other great cities of the region.
But then, a funny thing happened. Europe emerged as an economic juggernaut and turned the tables on the Islamic world. Starting in the late 1400s and accelerating with the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s, the West emerged as the dominant military, economic, and cultural force in the world.
The question that has perplexed scholars for ages is why?
None of the popular explanations are satisfactory. Those who would suggest that Islam is hostile to commerce have clearly never walked the streets of a Muslim country or have never spent five minutes discussing business with a Lebanese--Muslim or Christian. Arabs--particularly in the Levant--have capitalism in their blood, as do Turks and North Africans. Try your luck at haggling in a bazaar, and you'll see what I mean.
The oft-cited Muslim prohibition against the charging of interest also fails to hold water. The charging of interest was prohibited for Christians in the West for most of the Middle Ages, and neither Christians nor Muslims prevented Jewish minorities within their borders from charging interest.
Islam's founder was also no stranger to the business of making money. Unlike Jesus Christ--who lived his earthly life as a humble carpenter and eschewed worldly possessions--Muhammad was a hard-nosed trader and businessman before he became a religious leader, and the Koran is far more "business friendly" than the Christian New Testament.
The second popular explanation--that the Islamic world is poor due to Western imperialism--makes even less sense. Until roughly 1500 it was the Muslim powers doing the colonizing, not the Christian. And in any event, the West's eventual colonization of the Islamic world happened only after it had become wealthier, so we're back to the original question: why did the West rise to the top in the first place?
In his engaging new book The Long Divergence, Timur Kuran believes he has found the answer: the West invented the corporation.
The Christian New Testament is a general guide for spiritual and personal living; it is distinctly not an all-encompassing blueprint for organizing a society. Ever since Christ's admonition to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and render to God what is God's, there has been an understanding that there are secular areas of life for which religion does not have the answer. This left the Christian world free to experiment with concepts such as double-entry accounting, the limited partnership or the corporation.
Not so in the Islamic world. As Kuran writes,
In principle, Islamic law covered all human activity... In commerce and finance, two areas in which the Middle East fell conspicuously behind, Islamic law played a key role. People entered into contracts that followed an Islamic template and were enforced through Islamic courts. They apportioned estates according to Islamic inheritance rules. Residents of the region's great cities obtained services mostly from waqfs, which were trusts formed under Islamic law and supervised by officials with religious training. Almost all lawsuits involving at least one Muslim were litigated by Muslim judges, under Islamic legal principles.
Interesting, the uniform commercial code imposed by Islam was initially a boon to commerce. Since all Muslims played by the same set of rules and were held accountable in the same Islamic courts, business deals across borders became remarkably easy.
Unfortunately, these Islamic institutions had several limitations that made them unsuitable for the modern era:
The concept of limited liability did not exist in Islamic partnership law. All partners were responsible for the obligations of the partnership, which discouraged risk taking.
Islamic partnerships are designed for specific projects and are not designed to be perpetual going concerns. The partnerships are automatically dissolved with the death of a partner, and any partner can dissolve the partnership at any time. Partners could not sell their ownership interests in the form of tradable shares of stock or pass their ownership interests to their heirs.
Islamic inheritance law ensures that assets are dispersed among wives, children, and even siblings, and the common practice of polygamy among the wealthy meant that there were more heirs entitled to a share of the inheritance. Under sharia, a Muslim only has discretion over one third of his or her assets; the rest is distributed per Koranic guidelines.
These restrictions prevented the multigenerational accumulation of wealth and prevented the emergence of large corporations that were capable of engaging is long-term, global enterprises. Something like the British East India Company, for example, would have been absolutely out of the question.
It was only in the late 1800s that Muslim rulers began to import Western legal institutions, and these were subject to opposition by religious conservatives. But by then, the damage was done. The West had already leapt into the position of world dominance.
Though his explanations may seem too simple to some readers, Mr. Kuran makes a compelling case and he has the research to back it up. The Sizemore Investment Letter recommends The Long Divergence for any readers that are economic history buffs.
Alas, for the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the book will only provide more proof of the unassailable power of the modern corporation.
on June 22, 2011
Timur Kuran takes an evidence-based approach to the causes of the Middle East's poor economic performance compared with Europe's over the last few hundred years. He dispassionately analyses the impact of Islamic laws on economic performance and comes up with compelling explanations using primary sources and in-depth analysis of research by hundreds of other authors. In doing so he convincingly dismisses superficial and stereotypical explanations. Read this book if you have no preconceptions. Don't read it if comments about the adverse economic impact of certain Islamic laws (e.g. the prohibition on apostasy) are likely to offend you.
There are quite a few books these days examining why the West suddenly surged on ahead in progress while most of the world lost their significant lead in technology, learning, science, and overall wealth. There are other books that examine the bigger question from the aspect of science, such as Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution (Huff), The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (Hannam), and so on. This is one that is focused on whether Islam held back the Middle East in trade and wealth creation due to its now-antiquated forms such as the waqf.
Kuran describes several Islamic "innovations" that were indeed progressive for their time, but, far from being proof for a divine blueprint for all of life, created problems in the long run. For example, inheritance laws split up wealth and prevented a greater portion of it from being used for bigger ventures. The waqf seemed a good idea at the time, but its rigidity did not allow the advances that came with the corporation, which was adopted from Roman law in the West (why this was so is not clear, but it seems to have had to do at least with figuring out what happened to a church and its shared property when the leader died).
I see there are some "reviewers" who are terrified that he is criticizing Islam (since they haven't actually read the book). But if you read it all the way to the end you'll see that Timur Kuran is fair and objective and has no bone to pick with Islam. In fact, he sees nothing in "actual" Islamic law that would do so today. Whether he is right is a matter for further debate, but this is definitley worth a read.
on December 13, 2012
The Muslim civilization was far ahead of the European Christian world in science, wealth and knowledge during the Middle Ages, This book sought to explain where the two civilizations diverged and the Christian world forged ahead while stagnation was the fate of the Muslims.