NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Trade and Geography in the Origins and Spread of Islam

Stelios Michalopoulos, Alireza Naghavi, Giovanni Prarolo

NBER Working Paper No. 18438
Issued in October 2012
NBER Program(s):   DEV   EFG   POL

This study examines the spatial distribution of Muslim societies shedding light on its geographic origins. The empirical analysis conducted across countries, virtual countries, and ethnicities establishes that geographic inequality and proximity to pre-Islamic trade routes are fundamental determinants of contemporary Muslim adherence. We provide anthropological evidence from historical societies suggesting that geographic inequality (i) increased the importance of trade for subsistence, and (ii) exacerbated social inequality nurturing a predatory environment. We conjecture that Islam with its moral and economic principles was instrumental in providing a centralized authority addressing the underlying economic inequalities and promoting trade.

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This paper was revised on October 30, 2013

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18438

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