Food Production and Food Security Management in Muslim Civilization by Marwan Haddad

This article attempts to describe and analyse food production and food security management practices and experiences during various periods in in Muslim Civilization.Each Islamic era is separately analysed, adopting the FAO four major food security aspects for evaluating food security, including food availability, access, use, and stability. The Islamic background of food security is abstracted from the Quran and the teachings Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), including the role of the Caliphate in attaining food security. It was found that

(i) It was difficult to implement a methodological approach due to the scarcity of information,

(ii) There were limited cases found of food production crises and food insecurity in Muslim civilization. Documented food production crises and food insecurity were mostly caused by natural disasters such as drought or floods and, to a lesser extent, by wars and political instability,

(iii) Historical references show that, wherever Muslims went, they spread agriculture and passed on their knowledge and experiences to the people of the region. Thus, as time passed, Muslims developed and enhanced the sector,

(iv) After the abolition of the Caliphate, there was a high need for integration and coordination of efforts among the various Muslim countries to increase food production and enhance food security, resulting in the exchange and transfer of agriculture and food production.

1. Introduction

1.1 Food Production and Food Security

Food production (various crops, livestock, and fish) is inseparable from food security (food availability, access, and use). Agriculture provides most of the world’s food and fabrics. Cotton, wool, and leather are all agricultural products. It also provides wood for construction, furniture, energy, and paper products. Over the centuries, the growth of agriculture marked and contributed to the rise of civilizations [1].

Agriculture played a key role in the development of human civilization. It is widely believed that the domestication of plants and animals allowed humans to settle and give up their previous hunter-gatherer lifestyle during the Neolithic period [2, 3]. Human existence has always been dependent on food. However, how we get our food and how we produce that food has changed dramatically over the years. There has been much written about scientific and technological development related to food production, but little has been written about human behaviour and culture in food production [4].

The challenge of feeding 9 billion people with continuing population and consumption growth suggests that the global demand for food will increase for at least another 40 years. Growing competition for land, water, and energy, in addition to the overexploitation of fisheries, will affect our ability to produce food to reduce the impact of the food system on the environment. The effects of climate change are a further threat. But the world can still produce more food and can ensure that it is used more efficiently and equitably [5].

The term “food security” was introduced first during the 1974 World Food Conference during discussions on enhancing supply [6]. FAO et al 2018 defined food and nutrition security as all people, at all times, have economic, social, and physical access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences to enable them to lead active and healthy lives. The four pillars of food security are (i) availability, (ii) stability, (iii) access (including affordability) and (iv) food nutrition, quality, and safety [7].

It worth noting that there are two additional classifications of food security. (i) Absolute food security: the state’s ability to produce food within its territory equivalent to or greater than its domestic needs or internal demand and (ii) Relative food security: the ability of the state to provide goods, in whole or in part, to its people and its citizens [8].

Food self-sufficiency means the ability to achieve full self-reliance on resources and self-possibilities in producing locally all of the community’s food needs [9, 10, and 11].

At the 1996World Food Summit (WFS), representatives from 185 countries committed to “achieving food security for all” and to an “ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries” [12].

There is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, and at the global level, we know that population growth has been accompanied by a downward trend in hunger [13]. However, the absolute number of people in the world affected by chronic food deprivation began to rise in 2014 – going from 775 million people to 777 million in 2015 – and is now estimated to have increased further, to 815 million in 2016 [14]. Besides, 44 million people are living in extreme poverty on1.25 USD/day because of the 2010/2011 food price shock [15].

One of the biggest challenges the world faces is how to ensure enough food to meet the nutritional needs of the world’s growing population – expected to rise to around 10 billion by 2050. To feed another two billion in 2050, food production will have to increase by 50 percent globally. Food security is a complex situation that requires a comprehensive approach to all forms of malnutrition, soil and water management, pest control, livestock and fisheries production, the productivity and income of small food producers, the flexibility of food production systems, and the sustainable use of biodiversity and genetic resources [16].

Over hundreds of years and until the start of the 20th century, a significant percentage of the world’s population was still directly involved in farming and agriculture. Technical and technological progress, accompanied by huge scientific advancement, transformed agricultural production and processing into a complex global industry [17].

The period from the 9th century to the 13th century witnessed a fundamental transformation in agriculture that can be characterized as the Islamic green revolution in pre-modern times. These transformations, along with an increased mechanization of agriculture, led to major changes in the economy, population distribution, vegetation cover, agricultural production and income, population levels, urban growth, the distribution of labour force, linked industries, cooking, diet, and clothing in the Islamic world [18, and 19].

Another aspect of concern for food security is the impact of climate change phenomena on food production. It was suggested that millions of people in Africa and Asia might starve by the year 2050, due to the rise in prices of basic food items to more than double their current levels because of the anticipated harsh climatic conditions of high temperatures, floods, and droughts that will change the pattern of agriculture in the world. The Observer quoted senior scientists as saying that food insecurity could turn parts of Africa into disaster spots. The increase in ambient temperatures will have a major impact on people’s access to basic foodstuffs, with serious consequences for the poor [20].

A study of food insecurity by the director of the Consultative Group for Agricultural Research in the USA, Frank Regsberman, revealed that food production must rise by 60% to keep pace with the increase in the expected population and demand rates in the world. He added that climate change will eliminate the agricultural production expected by the world, saying:

“We are not as concerned about the total quantities of food produced as we are about the possibility that one billion people will be at risk of hunger who are already deprived of food, and who will be most affected by climate change” [21].

A study by Khairi Amal, (2019)concluded that despite the efforts of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other organizations, food insecurity and malnutrition in these countries had increased and worsened, which necessitates directing more support and building international partnerships to improve the food production and food security situation in these countries [22]. 

Artist impression of water-raising machines designed by Al-Jazari (Copyright: (Source)

1.2 Islamic Civilization

Islam originated in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century CE, approximately 600 years after the founding of Christianity, with the revelations received by the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Prophet’s activities were mostly limited to the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant [23].

Islam rapidly expanded into a large and diverse civilization. After the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) death, the first four rightly guided caliphs conquered Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and parts of Persia. The Umayyad caliphs, ruling from 661–750 CE in Damascus, then further expanded the boundaries of Muslim rule to Spain in the West and India in the East. The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750 CE and ruled from Baghdad until the 13th century [24, 25, and 26].

It worth mentioning that a unique characteristic of the spread of Islam across three continents in the 7th and 8th centuries was the concomitant diffusion of new crops [27].

The Fatimids established their dynasty in North Africa in 909 CE, conquering Egypt in 969. In 1258 The Mongols from Central Asia swept across the eastern Islamic heartland to Syria, ending the Abbasid Caliphate at Baghdad. Many of the invaders adopted Islam and the Persian language. Their descendants ruled Persia and central Asia for centuries, developing Persian culture and art. In the aftermath of the Mongol invasion, new countries emerged. The Ottoman Turks, based in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) after 1453, established a vast domain that lasted from the fourteenth century until World War I. The Safavids championed Shi‘ism in Persia from 1499 to 1722 [28].

Because Islam originated and has developed in Arab culture, other cultures that have adopted Islam have tended to be influenced by Arab customs and social habits. Thus, trans-regional Islamic culture mixed with a wide variety of cultures and local traditions to produce distinctive forms of statecraft, theology, art, architecture, and science [29].

It is important to note that a successful historical record of implementation of Islamic regulations for more than fourteen centuries led to advancements in social and material conditions (including food availability and security), resulting, ultimately, in the establishment of an Islamic civilization which exceeded all previous civilizations (including the Roman) in its expansion, resilience, and achievements [30, 31, and 32].

The golden age of Islamic civilization; a term used to describe a historical stage in which the Islamic civilization was advanced and extends from the middle of the eighth century to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries AD. The golden age of Islam includes parts of the Umayyads including the Islamic rule of Andalusia and the Abbasids [33 and 34].

Scholars living in Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate contributed to the preservation of Greek and other existing knowledge about philosophy, astronomy, medicine, agriculture, and many other disciplines. In addition to preserving information, these scholars contributed new insights into their fields and ultimately passed their discoveries along to future generations [35].

At its largest extent, the Umayyad Caliphate covered more than 5,000,000 square miles  13,000,000 km2  making it one of the largest countries the world had yet seen, and the fifth-largest contiguous country ever [36]. A large country with such size and without declared hunger or starvation in any of its provinces is a remarkable empire. Securing food to all the provinces within the country was a remarkable achievement of the Umayyads to complete and proof that Islam cared about fulfilling the food needs of its people within a huge empire.

Muslims produced everything they needed even one civilization historian said:

“I have not heard that Muslims, wherever they were settled, were importing food from outside the countries of the Islamic world. Muslims also wrote on the properties of the soil and how to produce compost, introducing substantial improvements in methods of ploughing, planting, and irrigation” [37].

It was reported that currently there are between thirty to fifty percent of the population in the Muslim world suffering from extreme poverty, hunger, starvation and malnutrition, and economic deprivation, desperate to see a system that will take care of their miseries [38]. Accordingly, food production and food security management is of prime interest and need.

his paper examines food production and food security management practices and experiences in Muslim civilization including the various eras from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the present time.

2. Food Security in Islam: A Theoretical Background

Very little was found in the literature on the systematic approach or theoretical framework of the Islamic perspective on food security and/or sustainability.  There are numerous articles written on Islamic food security, but they emphasized halal and haram food, Islamic food habits, description and interpretation of Quran verses encouraging agriculture, charity, and food production. There is little discussion about the scientific measurement of food availability, implementation methods, or best practices of food production and processing, food sustainability, and how these are structured within Islamic rules and orders. The four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence talked about many behavioural aspects of Muslims including Muslim’s purity, prayer, fasting, zakat (charity and taxes), hajj, prohibitions and permissions, the oath for any promise except for any of the previously mentioned food security aspects.

The Islamic Management Approach to food management and towards attaining sustainable food security: Going through and subjectively understanding the verses of Holy Quran, it was found that Islamic regulation has a balanced management approach to several Muslim’s life aspects [39, 40, and 41] including that to food management and towards attaining sustainable food security [42]. This approach includes many social, spiritual, resource supply, security, and institutionally related perspectives. If harmonization between Allah’s (Allah=Arabic word for God) orders and Muslim behaviour was maintained, either within or outside an Islamic state, food security would already be happening, succeeding, and sustaining, regardless of time or space. An institutional structure to maintain this harmonization concerning food security management in an Islamic State was proposed, including three interconnected departments responsible for interrelated administration and duties: a Muslim Treasury Department, Department of Food Reserves, and Department of Social Affairs. The three departments would be governed by a Muslim Council of Consultants. A thorough discussion of the Islamic view of food security and related water policy implications was presented including the leading rules and specifications, the administrative aspects required, procedures used and guiding directions for proper development and planning [43].

The Role of Muslim’s Imam/Caliphate: The cultivation and reclamation/development of the land is one of the obligations of sufficiency (Fard Kifayeh) that all Muslims must do, and if some of them did it, it becomes a delegate or permissible against others. Al-Qurtubi said:

“Cultivation is one of the obligations of sufficiency. Accordingly, the Muslim community/State imam/Caliphate must compel people to cultivate, plant and farm the land, until the country’s/people’s/community sufficiency of food has been achieved” [44].

Islamic jurists have unanimously held the view that it is the collective obligation (Fard Kifayah) of the society to take care of the basic needs including agricultural food products of the poor.[45and 46] Accordingly, A Muslim society and nation must ensure that there are people from its community who embark into the agriculture sector to ascertain ample food supply for the Muslim society at large [47].

The Islamic Reward of Food Production (Continuous Charity): The Prophet, ((PBUH)) stated that planting is one of the deeds that remain for a man after his death. Anas narrated that Prophet (PBUH) said:  seven things that a person be granted in righteousness rewards after his death including, one who taught science, developed a river to flow, or drilled a water well, or planted palm trees, or built a mosque, or inherited a Koran, or left a son to ask forgiveness for him (updated by Al-Albany in Sahih al-Targheeb No. 959). This indicates that all works related to agriculture and food production are considered in Islam as a continuous charity.

Seeking Food Security in Islam is considered as a part of worship: The following are examples of how Islam considers attaining food security as part of faith and worshipping:

  • In surah Al-Baqaraverses 57 and 172, Allah (God) commands His servants to select and eat appropriate good food.
  • The Quran (Al-Israverse 27) states that the prodigals were the brothers of devils. Also, in (Al-Rahman verse8), servants are commanded not to exceed the balance or to exercise excessive power. Accordingly, wasting food or excessive eating should be avoided.
  • The Prophet, ((PBUH)) said: Ask Allah for assuredness (Yaqeen) and for well-being, for no one has yet given after assuredness better than goodness in health. Narrated by Ahmad and authenticated by Al-Albany in Sahih Al-Jami.
  • Al-Tirmidhi narrated that the Prophet ((PBUH)) said: Ask Allah (God) wellness in this life and in the hereafter.
  • The Prophet((PBUH)) said:

“There is no better food than the one whose hands have earned. and the Prophet of God, David, ate from the work of his hand.” Narrated by Bukhari

An essential part of one’s well-being, wellness, and goodness in health is the availability of and accessibility to enough quantity and balanced variety and quality food. Hence, attaining food security is part of a Muslim’s faith and worship.

3. Methodological Approach:

In tackling the subject of food production and food security in Islamic civilization, the management practices and experiences of each era were described and analysed separately and in timely order as follows:

1. Muhammad The Prophet (570–632 CE)
2. The Four Rightly Guided Caliphs (632–661 CE)
3. Iran, Persia (637 CE – present)
4. Umayyad Caliph (661–750 CE)
5. Abbasid Caliphate (750–945 CE)
6. Al-Andalus, Iberia (711-1492 CE)
7. Abbasid Decline and Mongol Invasion (945–1258 CE)
8. Muslim Rule in India and Central Asia (1001-1857 CE)
8.1 India
8.2 Malaysia
8.3 Indonesia
8.4 Bangladesh
8.5 Pakistan
8.6 China
8.7 Russia
9. Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171 CE)
10. The Ayyubid Sultanate (1171-1254 CE)
11. Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517 CE)
12. Safavid Dynasty (1501 to 1736 CE)
13. Ottoman Caliphate (1517–1923 CE)
14. The Mughal State (1526-1857 CE)
15. Post-Abolition of Ottoman Caliphate (1924 until present)

Ottoman Palace Cuisine of the Classical Period (Source)

4. Food Production and Food Security Management in Muslim Civilizations

The following sections include a review of food production and food security management practices and experiences in Muslim civilization including the various Muslim’s civilization eras from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the present time.

4.1 Muhammad the Prophet (570–632 CE)

It is evident that Arabs in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula did not care much about agriculture and were getting the agricultural products they needed through trade and exchange of goods. The palm tree was the most valuable plant for them because it grows in oases scattered between dunes, giving them the best fruits with minimal effort and less water [48].

From time to time, the Arabian Peninsula and because of its desert geographical nature used to face poverty, hunger, and famine during which people were starving and eating leaves, and any animals including dogs. Fatwa was issued allowing Muslims in Somalia, Yemen, and other places paying their Zakat to the hungry Muslim people of the Arabian Peninsula [49].

Three important food production-related approaches were adopted during the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

  • The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) started a specific Islamic practice for enhancing agriculture and food production by granting a vast land from between the Red sea and mountain/rock formations to Bilal-Al-Muzni. Many of the Prophet companions worked in agriculture, and Medina was famous for its farms and orchards, and the Prophet, (PBUH), granted many of his companion’s vast lands to build, cultivate and invest in them, and among these: Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, and Omar bin Al-Khattab, who was given precious land in Khyber, and including Rabia Al-Aslami. [50].
  • The first Muslims during the Prophet (PBUH) time practiced the cultivation of land under an agreement called Muzara’ah. For example, a Muslim cultivates the land of another Muslim with the condition that the cultivator provides seeds, irrigation, and care to land and crop and at the end of the season gives the landowner one third or one-fourth of the harvest [51, and 52],
  • A person was designated named ‘Amil ‘ala sūqor Muhatsib(like a Health and Safety Officer) to regulate marketplaces (the sūq) and other commercial activities in Mecca and Medina [53]. The first Muhtasib in Islam was Sa`id ibn Sa`id ibn Al-`Aas. He appointed by the Prophet (PBUH) after the conquest of Mecca.  The post of Muhtasib was novel as it exists during the jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic) period[54]. Muhtasib’s duties were market observation and to ensure orderliness in the running of the market (consumer protection and fairness, and produce equity and quality) and to dispense justice and accountability according to the Shari‘ah in case of any infringement or disagreement or complaints [55]. The Muhatsibpost became so important that the appointee was chosen by political power (i.e caliph, or sultan). The official position of Muhtasib for towns continued for most periods in the nineteenth century[56].

It was reported that barley production in Medina was sufficient in most years [57, and 58]. However, in some years merchants of Medina used to import wheat, barley, sesame, and chickpeas from the Levant, Syria [59], and raisins from Al-Taif [60].

4.2 The Four Rightly Guided Caliphs (632–661 CE)

The Four Rightly Guided Caliphs did use the approaches adopted during the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) era: granting agricultural land for people to revive, cultivate and develop [61].

Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, May God be pleased with him initiated a new approach for enhancing agriculture and food production: He declared (O people who cultivate/make alive a dead land, it is for him). Dead Land is a land that is not used before and owned by the State or land of dead people that there is nobody reclaimed) [62, and 63].  Accordingly, many people cultivated dead land and so did after him from the caliphs (Othman Ibn Affan and Ali Ibn Aby Taleb).

During the era of Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khatab, may God be pleased with him; the Islamic state was exposed to affliction, called the year Al-Remadah. In the year 18 AH, people in the Arabian Peninsula suffered from severe starvation, poverty, drought, and hunger intensified until the man slaughtered the sheep not to see its ugliness, and the livestock died of starvation.  The famine was associated with the plague. People rushed from the depths of the desert to the city, resided in it, or near it, and sought a solution or help from the Caliph. It was reported that during the year of Al-Remadah as many as 25,000 people had died. Five steps that Omar followed in dealing with this crisis as follows [64, and 65]:

  • He made of himself as an example to people: He did not eat and waited until the rest of the people ate.
  • He established refugee camps for immigrants and provided services and support for them during the year of Al-Remadah
  • He asked for help from countries not affected by famine such as Egypt
  • He asked for help from ALLAH (God) and prayed and asked people to pray to ALLAH for the rain to fall and famine to end.
  • He stopped implementing penalties on people and collecting taxes during the year of famine

In addition, Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khatab used the following measures to enhance agriculture and consequently food production [66]:

  • Granting land to people to be reclaimed and developed [67],
  • Employing abscess (agricultural taxes) money in developing agriculture [68],
  • Benefiting from Zakat funds in developing agriculture [69],
  • Establishment of the flour bank (home) to have strategic storage and equal distribution of it in the time of crisis [70],
  • Seeking help and assistance from the states of the country with ample food production such as Iraq and Egypt (He wrote to Abu Musa Al-Ashari in Al Basra and Omar Ibn Al-As in Egypt for help) [71],
  • After consulting with the poor, Omar established the Bayt al-mal, a welfare institution for the Muslim and non-Muslim poor, needy, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled [72].

Except for the famine year, during the rule of  Caliph Omar Ibn al Khattab poverty was eliminated, and the people lived at a time of total freedom from hunger and want [73].

4.3. Iran, Persia (637 CE – present)

Agriculture has a long history and tradition in Iran. As early as 10,000 BCE, the earliest known domestication of the goat had taken place in the Iranian plateau.  By 5000 BCE, the wine was being fermented in Iran, and by as early as 7th century CE, the windmill had been invented in Persia for the first time in history [74, and 75].

The average value for Iran’s food production index from 1961 to 2016 was 57 index points with a minimum of 14.6 index points in 1961 and a maximum of 114.6 index points in 2007. The latest value from 2016 is 113.3 index points. For comparison, the world average in 2016 based on 190 countries is 122.4 index points. This index indicates a satisfactory food production level in Iran [76]. Fruits such as the peach first found their way into Europe from Persia,   as did Tulips,  spinach,  and herbs of Persia’. In 400BCE, a form of ice cream was in use in Persia [77].In 2008, Iran exported more than 35,000 tons of citrus fruits to 36 countries. Iran is among the largest producers of berries and stone fruits in the world, especially pomegranates, dates, figs, and cherries [78].

Attention to the food and nutrition status of Iranian people has been made since the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science of Iran (INFSI) was established in1961[79]. In 2005, Iran’s first genetically modified (GM) rice was approved by national authorities. Iran has produced several GM plants in the laboratory, such as insect-resistant maize; cotton; potatoes and sugar beets; herbicide-resistant canola; salinity- and drought-tolerant wheat; and blight-resistant maize and wheat Iran has also a very focused and intensive nanotechnology research program for agricultural applications [80]. Major agricultural exports of Iran include fresh and dried fruits, nuts, animal hides, processed foods, caviar, and spices. Pistachio, raisins, dates, and saffron are the first four export products, from the viewpoint of value [81]. Though Iran provides about 90% of the total agricultural-food products, still as of 2015, Iran is among the world’s top four buyers of wheat, barley and rice, and one of the 10 largest importers of raw sugar [82]. The western and north-western portions of the country have the most fertile soils. Iran’s food security index stands at around 96 percent. The number of people experiencing hunger in Iran is lower than ever before.  However, the government’s goal of agricultural self-sufficiency is unlikely to be achieved due to limits imposed against Iran on international trade which remains essential to feed the population [83].

In 1917-1918, during World War I,  drought-ravaged harvests while occupying British, Ottoman, and Russian troops requisitioned much of remaining food supplies. By some accounts, nearly half the nation’s population may have perished in the resulting famine. Again in 1942-1943, amid World War II, as wartime cereal, meat, and vegetable production fell, Anglo-Soviet occupation forces confiscated large quantities of Iranian food and people suffered from hunger [84].

Because of the American strict sanctions against Iran since 1995, the agricultural sector suffered from the timely update of the technology and equipment required for this sector. Consequently, the agricultural sector is underinvestment, and production practices are old and need modernization. This will result in time to increase sector production vulnerability. Also, ongoing international sanctions exacerbate inflationary trends and impact access to food and its affordability [85].

4.4 Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE)

The Umayyad era was one of agricultural development. For example, in their time in Taif, there were seventy water dams designated and used for irrigation and cultivation of lands [86].In the Umayyad’s era, governors were instructed to survey the agricultural land to collect tax and zakat. They built and maintained water canals, repaired the sewers, and encouraged farmers to cultivate and develop the wasteland. The cultivation of grain, cotton, and sugar cane increased, as did the planting of fruit trees such as grapes, olives, and palms. During that period, we note the creation of gardens and orchards [87].

The first famine attacked Islamic Egypt was during the era of the Umayyad Caliph Abdullah ibn Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan in the year 706 CE. Afterwards, famines occurred at various intervals until the time of the Fatimid’s [88].

Umayyads built dams on rivers and valleys, and constructed water canals and networks. Also, they cleaned canals seasonally and built the archways over rivers to ease the movement of passengers and goods, and to enhance the flow of water [89, and 90]. They built water mills for water supply to agriculture and domestic purposes water[91]. They reclaimed and planted land by the banks of the Nile River, along the Euphrates and Tigress rivers, and Ghouta in Damascus. Also, one of the famous lands reclaimed and cultivated by the Umayyads is the land of the dead in the Levant, which Muawiya bin Abi Sufyan cultivated and made of them into blossoming orchards [92,93, 94, and 95]. Also, buffalo was brought from India to Iraq.[96].

To ensure the supply of food products and materials to the army, the Umayyads relied on the collection of supplies as part of the tribute taxes (Kharaj) imposed on the peasants. They paid taxes (Kharaj) in the form of harvest [97].

The Umayyad Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz established a special charity house that was devoted to feeding the poor, the needy, and the people of Sabeel [98]. He ordered the closure of the statehouse that imposed a tax on the people. Omar also provided loans to farmers to motivate them to serve the land, a measure that resulted in farmers returning to and cultivating their lands and doubling agricultural food production [99].

In conclusion, during the Umayyad’s era, food production was in general ample and food was secured to all people and locations, albeit some limited famine, hunger, or starvation cases occurred.

Agriculture in Muslim civilisation: A Green Revolution in Pre-Modern Times (Source)

4.5 Abbasid Caliphate (750–945 CE)

The caliphs of the first Abbasid era considered agriculture as a priority. They were active in digging and developing water canals and drains and building bridges and arches for waterworks. The lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were among the most fertile parts of the Abbasid state [100]. The Abbasids studied plant types and the viability of the soil for cultivation, and they used different fertilizers for plant types. They had a policy of not to overburden farmers with taxes. In fact, the Abbasid caliphs reduced taxes on farmers. [101].

The Abbasid era was the first to use knowledge tools and methods of agriculture and farming. They adopted and learned from the farming methods of Babylon, the Levant, and Egypt and applied them skillfully.[135]. There was a great interest in experimental scientific cultivation [102]. The development of agriculture led to the development of horticulture. The crops of Iraq were barley, rice, wheat, dates, cotton, sesame, and flax. The production of fruit was pursued as a science and several new fruits were introduced in varying climates [103].

During 8th to the 15th century, the ‘Islamic corridor’ between Europe and Asia improved agricultural practices across Spain, North Africa, and South Asia. The Abbasids took sugarcane from India and spread its cultivation to other parts of the world. They introduced coffee wherever they went. They popularized the use of the Iranian water wheel that uses the strength of draught animals to irrigate farms.[104]. However, the Arabs’ actual interest in planting and botany began in the early Abbasid era, when the Muslim scholars translated the Greek literature on planting and botany. The main period of translation was during the Abbasid rule. The 2nd Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur founded the great library with texts containing Greek Classical texts. Al-Mansur ordered this rich fund of world literature translated into Arabic. Caliph Haroun Al-Rashid invited Scholars from India, Iran, and arranged for translating numerous works into Arabic. He established the legendary library of Bayt al-Hikma “House of Wisdom” [105, and 106].

During the Abbasids successful cultivation of cotton, sugar cane, and berries were observed in some parts of Andalusia and Sicily. Andalusia was famous for growing wheat, barley, corn, and fruits such as oranges, pears, apples, figs, grapes, pomegranates, and peaches, which were frequently cultivated in the plains, and Bananas that are frequently cultivated in the valleys of the Mediterranean, as well as the cultivation of rice, sugar cane and olives. The people of Andalusia cultivated linen and cotton to make clothes, and berries to raise silkworms [107, and 108].

The irrigation schemes and waterworks and networks built during Abbasid’s Islamic Caliph rule still impress modern water engineers[109]. Basra had increased production of crops, such as wheat, barley, rice, dates, sesame, and cotton, as well as vegetables, fruits, and various types of flowers. During the Abbasid Caliphate, Basra became one of the most important ports of food trade [110].

Crops such as wheat, corn, olives, vines, sugar cane, fruit trees, and vegetables were brought from different parts of the world. The state’s wealth (Kharaj tax) from agriculture had reached about three hundred and ninety million in the era of Al-Mamun. This is a clear indication of the sufficiency of food and food production during the Abbasid era [111].

In 832 CEt here was a popular uprising in Abbasid Egypt at the time of Caliph Isa bin Mansour. The poor people of Egypt rose in protest against poverty, hunger, need, oppression and corruption. This revolution was put down by force [112]. Poverty and hunger struck Egypt again the year 343 AH (955 CE) and again in the years 448 AH (1057 CE) and 462 AH (1070 CE) [113].

It is concluded that like with the Umayyads, in the Abbasid era food production was in general ample and food was secured to all people and locations with limited famine, hunger, or starvation cases.

4.6. Al-Andalus Iberia (711-1492 CE)

The Muslim conquest of Iberia was in the year  711 CE during the reign of Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid Ibn Abdul-Malik and their rule ended in 1492 CE [114]. They had a huge impact on Spanish agriculture, including the restoration of Roman aqueducts and irrigation channels, as well as the introduction of new irrigation technologies such as the acequias (qanats or water channels originated in Persia) and the sakia (animal-powered irrigation water wheel). In Spain and Sicily, they introduced crops and foodstuffs from Mesopotamia, Persia and India such as rice, sugarcane, oranges, lemons, bananas, saffron, carrots, apricots, and eggplants, as well as restoring cultivation of olives and pomegranates from Greco-Roman times [115].

Muslim scientists in Al-Andalus and elsewhere contributed written knowledge on agriculture including food production methods, planting techniques, grafting techniques for plants and trees, new irrigation systems, land granting schemes, agricultural calendar planting rotation, various soil types and treatment, land reclamation methods, and enhancement of botany starting it as a science. Among these scientists are: Ibn Baṣṣāl [116], Ibn al-‘Awwam [117, and 118], Ibn Hajjaj al-Ashbili [119], Ibn Hawqal, Abu al-Qasim Muhammad bin Ali [120 and 121], ʿArīb b. Saʿīd al-Kātib al-Qurṭubī[122], Ibn Washiyah, Abu Bakr[123 and 124], Abu’l Abbas an Nabati (Ibn Rumiyya) d. 636 AH/1239 CE[125], Al-Dinuri Abu Hanifa [126], Ibn Al-Bannāʾ, Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad[127], and many others. According to several European scholars, the agricultural system of Muslim Spain, in particular, was:

“the most complex, the most scientific, the most perfect, ever devised by the ingenuity of man” [128, and 129].

The production sources of wheat in Andalusia were given high priority to wheat methods of cultivation, watering, harvesting, and storing. Wheat remained for centuries as a primary commodity trade in the Mediterranean basin [130]. Scientists believe that wheat and barley were the first crops Muslim grew when they came to Andalusia [131]. Also of interest is the importance given by Andalusia’s to quality control. They devised means of controlling wheat quality and monitoring fraud and contamination [132].

The early stages of Muslim migration into the Iberian Peninsula seem strictly related to the appearance of irrigated agricultural terrace systems, one of the most emblematic anthropogenic trademarks of the west Mediterranean landscape. Andalusian people selected the most convenient areas to convert the originally poor soils into soils that could support intensive cultivation. In this way, they set the foundation for establishing some of the longer-lasting agricultural strategies in southern Europe. As a result, the largest irrigated terrace systems presently in use within the Iberian Peninsula are still among the most productive in semi-arid areas [133].

Building procedures of irrigated terraces is a complex matter. The Andalusian terrace building technique used at Ricote implies a quick and intense transformation of the pre-existing environment. The terrain was cleared of vegetation by burning, and local oils were used to fill the terraces, possibly to invert the original soil horizons. Nevertheless, the construction of broad terraces was intending to gain as much cultivable space as possible, but it involves bringing to the terrace location considerable volumes of soil and sediment to build them [134, and 135]. Muslim contributions to the development of Spanish agriculture, included the introduction of new crops, more intensive use of irrigation, soil management, and scholarly efforts in farming innovation [136]. Andalusian Agronomic School (10th-15th centuries) was innovative at its time and helped in developing the agricultural sector in Al-Andalus and neighbouring countries. An example of the school’s agronomist authors was: Arib ben Said, Ibn Wafid, Ibn Hajjaj, Abu l-Jayr, Ibn Bassal, al-Tignari, Ibn al-Awwam, and Ibn Lujun.[137]Agricultural production varied in quantity and quality from one state to another, depending on different geographical conditions, degree of exploitation, and pattern [138].

The first general famine in the history in Andalusia occurred between 748 -754 CE causing continuous drought.  The hunger intensified and the people migrated south to the Moroccan coast Droughts were repeated in 765, 790, 803, and the strongest were in 822 and 868 where people faced severe hunger and famine. Since then, droughts continue to occur with different levels and intensities. [139].

In conclusion, the Muslim contribution to agriculture and food production in Al-Andalus was immense. It led to the enhancement and development of the country and food security.

4.7. Abbasid Decline and Mongol Invasion (945–1258 CE)

During the Mongol control of Iraq, agriculture was neglected, and food production went in decline. In addition, Iraq’s once-extensive irrigation system fell into disrepair after the Mongol invasion, creating swamps and marshes at the edge of the delta and dry, uncultivated steppes farther out. The rapid deterioration of settled agriculture led to the growth of tribally based pastoral nomads [140]. Consequently, irrigation systems were demolished to make agricultural fields revert to pastures for the horses. It was pointed out that the neglect in irrigation systems had resulted in soil salinization and consequently to decline in agricultural food production.[141]. The loss of available food, as a result, may have led to the death of more people from starvation in this area than due to the actual battle. The civilization of the Persian Gulf region did not recover until after the middle-ages[142].

The seventh Ilkhanate ruler, Mahmud Ghazan Khan, (1295-1304 CE) revived the wheels of agriculture after a previously serious collapse. He reduced and even exempted the taxes for the farmers. With the implementation of the irrigation system, farmers were eager and willing to return to the fields. Several irrigations were also built, including a large canal in the Hilla area [143, and 144].

4.8.Muslim Rule in India and Central Asia (1001-1857 CE)

Table 1 shows Muslim population in the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia including representing 50.6 % of the global Muslim population (808.9 million out of 1.6 billion worldwide [145]) which indicates the high importance of this region for development including political and economic future.

Table 1 Estimated population of Muslims in Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia

Country Population in Millions Percent Muslims
Indonesia 274,279 87.2
Pakistan 222,176 96.4
India 1,380,010 13.0
Bangladesh 165,174 90.0
China 1,440,951 5.6
Russia 145,953 11

Data Source: [146, and 147]

4.8.1 India:

A high concentration of Muslims is found primarily in two regions. East Bengal, which eventually became Bangladesh. The second was in the northern stretch of the Indus River, in Punjab, which became Pakistan [148].

These two areas with high Muslim density emerged in a very unique way – through agricultural practices popularized by Sufis amongst marginalized communities. The Sufis helped them to make the arid land cultivable by introducing the Iranian irrigation wheel technology (was known in ancient India as ‘jala-yantra’ or ‘ara-ghatta’, but only in pockets). So, agriculture became widespread. Over several generations, the beneficiaries converted to Islam. It was a cultural transformation that occurred over almost 100 to 200 years. In Bengal, the river delta changed its course, moving westwards [149].

Muslims living in rural areas, mostly small landowner peasants, constitute the majority of the Muslim population in India [150]. Agriculture in North India improved as a result of new canal construction and irrigation methods introduced by Muslims, including what came to be known as the Iranian water wheel, prolonged political instability and parasitic methods of tax collection brutalized the peasantry [151].

India up till now has faced 14 famines in its history the worst the Bengal Famine of 1943. Agricultural production in India is not enough to feed the population (Muslims and non-Muslims). The deficiency in grain production led to a fall in food security [152].

4.8.2 Malaysia: 

Muslims brought to Malaysia new crops such as a higher-yielding variety of cotton, agricultural practices, as well as irrigation methods[153].

Malaysia, although a middle-income country, has been a net food importer in the last four decades. The country has grown to depend more on imports for the most important food especially rice [154]. The domestic consumption of rice increased at an annual rate of 2% during the last decade (1998-2007), but production increased by only 1% during the period. This leads to a gap between production and consumption. Consequently, rice imports increased from 594 million tons in 2000 to 799 million tons in 2007, raising Malaysia’s rice import bill from RM700 million in 2000 to RM 10.1 billion in 2007 [155, and 156].

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing once formed the basis of the Malaysian economy, but between 1970 and the early 21st century their contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) declined from roughly one-third to less than one-tenth. Similarly, the proportion of the labour force engaged in agriculture decreased from about one-half to less than one-eighth over the same period, and the trend has continued. The main causes of this decline were unfavourable weather conditions and the loss of farm labour to urban manufacturing jobs.[157].

There has never been a problem of chronic hunger in Malaysia. Malaysia has shown remarkable economic progress over the past several decades, with poverty falling from 49.3 percent in 1970 to 23 percent in 1989 and 1.7 percent in 2012. One of the key aspects of the New Economic Policy adopted by Malaysia was creating a “Pro-Poor” policy [158].

4.8.3 Indonesia:

The agricultural sector plays a vital role in food production and food security and in supplying the needs of a huge Indonesian population[159].  The islands of Java and Bali account for only 7 percent of Indonesia’s total land area but 60 percent of the population. Agriculture is very intensive on these islands, with up to three crop rotations per year. Despite the recent global economic crises, Indonesia has witnessed steady economic growth in recent years. The country rose to lower-middle-income status in 2009 and has experienced a gradual reduction in overall poverty, from 17 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in early 2010 [160].

As agricultural pursuits altered the natural landscapes; from the rainforest, peatlands, and swamps into arable lands, certainly it poses natural and environmental consequences. Environmental problems such as deforestation and forest and plantation fires, caused by forestry and agricultural sectors in Indonesia, continue to be a persisting problem that needs to be addressed and solved [161].

During World War II (1942—1945), the Indies experienced hardships that included agricultural scarcity and famine. Rice yields and plantation commodities were controlled by the Japanese empire’s military authority. The plantation business which was a major economic sector was relatively shut down during the Pacific War and the ensuing Indonesian war of independence (1945—1949). All efforts in the agricultural sector were focused on meeting the basic needs for food (rice) and clothing (cotton). The Imperial Japanese authority attempted to increase rice and cotton production in the occupied Indies by mobilizing labour. However, scarcity of these essential commodities prevailed and resulted in famine and clothing shortage[162, and 163].

Indonesia has been successful at reducing the number of poor during the past two decades. As a result of the economic crisis, however, the poverty level rose substantially from 15.7 percent of the population in 1996 to 27.1 percent of the population in 1999. The problem was temporary, and poverty has since fallen back to its pre-crisis level. The World Bank estimates that declining food prices (mostly for rice) explain 41 percent of the recovery. The remainder was due to rising incomes. Although the situation has improved, 50 percent of the Indonesian population have incomes of less than US$2 per day and remain at risk [164].

4.8.4 Bangladesh:

Bangladesh is a developing country; so, it is faced with the great challenge of food insecurity. Despite achieving self-sufficiency in food production, a huge number of people experience food [165]. Bangladesh has already made some measures to achieve food security including 1. Investment in the need analysis should be increased, 2. Along with government initiatives, NGOs should also address the challenges regarding food security, 3. The government should develop some strict laws and monitor the implementation of regulations to control the food market and to stabilize the market prices, 4. The government should conduct programs on food security for the poor, and 5. Apart from food security, scientists should carry out nutritional studies to improve the health situation of people in this country[166].

Economic inequality has increased to about 32 percent, i.e. 50 million people still live in extreme poverty. Compounded by inadequate arable land and recurrent natural disasters, Bangladesh has struggled immensely with food insecurity. Despite tripling its rice production, decreasing infant mortality rates, and programs combating malnutrition, 60 million people are still hungry even today and 11 million suffer from acute hunger. Food insecurity in Bangladesh stems from extreme poverty due to underemployment and unemployment, inadequate land access for cultivation, social exclusion, and natural disasters [167].

4.8.5 Pakistan:

Agriculture forms the backbone of Pakistan. It contributes 21% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with an annual growth of 2.7%. About 62% of the rural population of Pakistan still depends upon agriculture for livelihood. Agriculture in Pakistan plays a vital role to ensure food security for a relatively huge and growing population of 185 million people: ranking 6th in the world [168].

The main province for the agricultural production in Pakistan is by far the Punjab province. Punjab covers about 69% of the total cropped area of Pakistan, contributing a major share in the agricultural economy of the country by providing about 83% of cotton, 80% of wheat, 97% of the fine aromatic rice, 63% of sugarcane and 51% of maize to the national food production [169].The most important crops are wheat, sugarcane, cotton, and rice, which together account for more than 75% of the value of total crop output. Pakistan’s largest food crop is wheat. As of 2018, Pakistan wheat output reached 26.3 million tonnes[170].

A small famine took place in 2014 in Sindh due to severe drought, 176 people reported died[171]. However, so far, no major hunger, deaths, or even starvation has been reported in Pakistan and food is ample and available for all[172].

A farmer displays collected wheat grains in Houla, South Lebanon August 1, 2015. REUTERS/Aziz Taher – RTX1MNMB (Source)

4.8.6 China:

Muslims in China were attached to the Chinese way of life and economy including agriculture [173]. The  Chinese peasants and their agriculture during the Muslim empires including the Mongols did not alter much, but instead, empires benefited from their production and taxes [174]. During the Muslim Ming dynasty, the Hongwu emperor took great care to distribute land to small farmers. It seems to have been his policy to favour the poor, whom he tried to help to support themselves and their families [175].

Several famines hit china in the nineteenth and twentieth-century of which the great North China famine (1876-1879) caused by drought during which 9-13 million people died and the 1907 great Qing famine during which about 25 million people died and the great Chinese famine (1959-1961) caused by Floods, Droughts, Typhoons, Insect Invasion during which 15-55 million died [274, 275, and 276]. During famines, China’s agricultural productivity was easily disrupted and susceptible to climate events, natural disasters, population changes, and military conflict.[176]. There is little available in the literature specifically about the impacts of these famines on Chinese Muslims or in general the impact of China’s food production on Muslims in China.

4.8.7 Russia:

In terms of economic development, priority in Russia is granted to agriculture.  It should be noted that Muslims in Russia were not given enough attention by governments. They receive in salary about one-third of that of other Russians. They are in an economically less advantageous position. Therefore, Muslim areas are traditionally poor, agricultural, and underdeveloped. The agricultural practice and food production by Muslims consist mostly of vegetables that were grown on small farms [177]. In general, Muslims in Russia are food secured and no cases of hunger or famine were recorded.

4.9. Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171 CE)

The Fatimid’s established a special department in Egypt that supervised agricultural matters, including providing irrigation methods, seeds, and tillage tools, as well as caring for different peasant’s affairs [178]. The use of cash crops and the propagation of the flax trade allowed Fatimid’s to import other items from various parts of the world [179].  During the Fatimid period there was thriving cultivation/agriculture in Medina and the Taif, so the farms and orchards spread around the two cities enabling them to reach self-sufficiency and meeting their food needs. They exported surpluses in crops to Mecca, which lack agricultural production because of its desert nature [180].

Between 1065 and 1072, famine degraded conditions in Egypt from bad to worse. The Fatimidsauthority began to crumble early in Tripolitania (Libya) as factions struggled indecisively for regional supremacy. The Zirids, Berbers (Algeria) neglected the economy, except to pillage it for their gain. Agricultural production declined, and farmers and herdsmen became brigands. The protracted famine was followed inevitably by plague; whole districts were denuded of population and house after house laid empty [181].

At the end of the Fatimid era, the famines and epidemics, as a result of the low water of the Nile, contributed several times to the lack of security, frequent unrest, and poor conditions in the country [182].

4.10. The Ayyubid Sultanate(1171-1254 CE)

Numerous measures were undertaken by the Ayyubids to increase agricultural production. Canals were dug to facilitate the irrigation of agricultural lands throughout the empire. Also, they successfully used waterwheels for irrigation. Cultivation of sugarcane was officially encouraged to meet the great demand of it by both the local inhabitants and the Europeans. As a result of the Crusades, several new plants were introduced to Europe, including sesame, carob, millet, rice, lemons, melons, apricots, and shallots [183].

During the Ayyubid’s, Egypt suffered in the second half of the twelfth century from the consequences of a terrible famine and the outbreaks of pestilence epidemic which had far-reaching consequences for its demographic development.  The epidemic started in Dimyat in 1150 then spread in Cairo in the year 1179 then raged through all the provinces of Egypt in 1201 and 1202. Following a terrible famine, in 1184 Egypt’s agricultural production was hit by a catastrophic flood of the Nile and consequently, plague broke out and countless people died [184].

During the Ayyubid’s the fief holders (large landowners) were held responsible for the maintenance of dykes and irrigation canals, bridges, and tracks and had to see that the estates assigned to them were properly cultivated. Fief holders supervised the harvest. The peasants were effectively protected by the government, their rents being strictly fixed so that they could not be overtaxed. In general, however, it was more than probable that the reign of the Ayyubid’s was a flourishing period for Egypt’s agriculture. Wheat was exported to the Hijaz and sometimes to Syria [185].

The development of agriculture in Yemen, Ayyubid’s governors and rulers took advantage of the availability of necessary natural and human supports/resources for agriculture including the fertility of the soil, the diversity of the climate and the abundance of water resources led to ample food production. In parts of Yemen, wheat was harvested twice a year on the same land, as was the case for rice in Iraq [186].

4.11. Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517 CE)

Agriculture was the primary source of revenue in the Mamluk economy. Agricultural products were the main exports of Mamluk Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Moreover, the major industries of sugar and textile production were also dependent on agricultural products, namely sugar cane and cotton, respectively. Every agricultural commodity was taxed by the state, with the sultan’s treasury taking the largest share of the revenues; emirs and major private brokers followed. An emir’s main source of income was the agricultural products of his land, and with those revenues, he was able to fund his private corps [187, and 188].

Mamluk’s centralization over agricultural food production was more thorough in Egypt than in Syria and Palestine for several reasons. Among them was that virtually all agriculture in Egypt depended on a single source of irrigation, the Nile, and the measures and rights to irrigation were determined by the river’s flooding, whereas in Syria and Palestine, there were multiple sources of mostly rain-fed irrigation, and measures and rights were thus determined at the local level [189].

Among the responsibilities of a Mamluk provincial or district governor were repopulating depopulated areas to foster agricultural food production, protecting the lands from Bedouin raids, increasing productivity in barren lands (likely through the upkeep and expansion of existing irrigation networks), and devoting special attention to the cultivation of the more arable low-lying regions[190].

Documentation supported with data focusing on Mamluk’s Caliph experiences in fighting poverty and hunger was found in which the role of pious endowments (waqfs) and charity in sustaining the poor and their food, education and medical care needs was emphasized [191].

4.12. Safavid Dynasty (1501 – 1736 CE)

The twin bases of the domestic economy during Safavid’s were pastoralism and agriculture. Agriculture was divided between the Turcoman tribes, who were cattle breeders lived on the move where they found grass and water, and the Persians, who were peasants and settled agriculturalists [192].

During the three centuries 1500-1800 of the Safavid’s rule of Persia, the technology, organization, and ethnography of Persian agriculture, animal husbandry, manufacturing, and accounting underwent moderate or partial change [193]. Two kinds of agricultural organizations existed simultaneously. Sharecropping (mozāraʿa), in which the proprietor provided land, water, seeds, and the like and divided the harvest with the peasants according to the agreement.  The system in which the beneficiary was granted the right to specific revenue from a precisely defined parcel of land is called eqṭaāʿ. Claims to revenues from the larger eqṭāa frequently led to the appropriation of the land, which, though contrary to Islamic law, reflected actual power relations [194].

The land was distributed during Safavids to army officers and to the rich who leased it to farmers under the so-called “crop-sharing agreement” between whoever was the landlord, and the peasant [195]. This agreement consisted of five elements: land, water, animals, seed, and labour [196].

4.13. Ottoman Caliphate (1517–1923 CE)

A banquet was given by the commander-in-chief Lala Mustafa Pasha to the janissaries in Izmit, 5 April 1578. Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS H1365, fol. 34b. (Source)

Food and industrial self-sufficiency were achieved for the inhabitants of all Ottoman provinces. Therefore, the Ottoman-controlled provinces enjoyed self-sufficiency in daily food necessities during the period from the middle of the sixteenth century to the second half of the eighteenth century [197].

The Ottomans built a large railway network. Among others, the railway network increased agricultural production, distribution, and availability over the whole domain [198]. They controlled vast fertile agricultural lands, including the fertile plains of the Levant, the Danube river basin, the Tigris and Euphrates basins, the Nile Valley, the Asia Minor Plains and North Africa. All these regions were famous for their fertile soil, an abundance of water, and rich food production. Agricultural production was diverse. Wheat and other grains were dependent on the plains of the Levant, Egypt, and Anatolia. Olive oil was produced in the Levant, Anatolia, and the Balkans. Greece, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Some parts of North Africa were known for their grapes, figs, cherries, peaches, pears, apples, peaches, quince, almonds, and others. Livestock was no less important than agricultural production. Herds of sheep, goats, cows, camels, and water buffalo were abundant in the Balkan Highlands, Asia Minor, the Levant, and the Nile Valley. Animal and plant sources generated industries for food production as well for silk, wool, and soap [199, and 200].

The Ottoman government sought to ensure that its armies would be properly fed and clothed [201, and 202]. However, wars required most men to leave work in agriculture causing neglect of agriculture. Locusts also struck crops in Syria in 1915 [203],  causing a shortage of supplies. Because of army priority, some of the provinces received a third of their requirement leading to food shortages, starvation, and insecurities [204].

Turkey is leading Muslim countries in producing agricultural commodities and products, such as dairy products, fruits, and vegetables and second in meat and meat products, in cereals, cash products, fibres, watermelons, and beets and third in producing palm oil [ 205, and 206].

4.14. The Mughal State (1526- 1857 CE)

The Mughal State collective wealth was based on agricultural taxes[207].  According to historical reports, the political decline of the Mughal State led to a decline in agricultural productivity.

Indian agricultural production increased under the Mughal State.  Export might be one of the reasons for that increase. The Mughal government funded the building of irrigation systems across the State, which produced much higher crop yields and increased the net revenue base, leading to increased agricultural production.  A variety of crops were grown, including food crops such as wheat, rice, and barley, and non-food cash crops such as cotton, indigo, and opium. By the mid-17th century, Indian cultivators have begun to extensively grow two new crops from the Americas such as maize, and tobacco [208].

The decline of the Mughals led to overall supply-side problems, which drove up food prices (especially grains), leading to nominal wages, and a decrease in textile prices, which led to India losing a share of the world textile market to Britain even before it had superior factory technology [209, and 210].

The Decca famine of 1630–1632 was a famine in the Deccan Lateau,  Khandesh, and Gujarat. The famine was the result of three consecutive staple crop failures, leading to intense hunger, disease such as the plagues, and people displacement in the region including peasants leaving the country [211]. About three million people died in Gujarat in the ten months famine ending in October 1631 while another million died around Ahmednagar [212]. Measures employed by the Mughal and Afghan rulers to fight famine in Kashmir were insufficient due to geographic obstacles and corruption in the Mughal administration [213].

Although the Mughal State invested and enhanced agriculture and food production in the ruled areas of the Indian subcontinent leading to high productivity, their State decline, and dissolution took away with it most of the progress made and caused sharp downward trends in food availability and the economy as a whole [214].

4.15.  Post-Abolition of Ottoman Caliphate (1924 CE until present)

The Ottoman Caliphate was abolished on 3 March 1924 [215]. The Arab territory was divided immediately after the victors of the First World War by the Sykes-Picot Agreement,  resulting in the creation of British and French protectorates [216].   The rapid decline of the Ottoman state before and after the war eventually, led to economic stagnation [217, and 218]. In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama stated that apart from crude oil, the total export of the entire Greater Middle East with its 400 million populations roughly equals that of Switzerland [219].  It was indicated that the food production problem in the Arab world is one of the developments. The size of the food gap in the 1970s was about $10 billion; today it is about $20 billion [220].

Over time, food production in most Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries was gradually replaced by services and, to a lesser extent, by industrial activity. The average share of agriculture in their total GDP amounted to only 10.4% in 2014, gradually declining from around 16.3% at the beginning of 1990s. Various policies, structural, climatic, and geographical factors were behind this state of affairs [221]. Food safety services are at an all-time high, new, and emerging threats to the food supply are being recognized; and consumers are eating more and more meals prepared outside of the home [222].

The Arab region has an arable land area of 197 million hectares, and currently, 80 million hectares are cultivated, only about 40%of the total. The cropland area (arable land and permanent crops) increased by only 16.3 millionha – from 49.32 millionha in 1961 to 65.6 millionha in 2008 [223], or an increase of 0.61 percent annually. About 23% of agricultural production represents seasonal crops and 4.9% permanent crops. Workers in agriculture, represent 23% of the total workforce in the Arab region, and the number is constantly declining due to migration from the countryside to the city [224]. Seven countries (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, and Tunisia) contribution to Arab agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to 85 percent in 2008 [225, and 226].

Sudan could be one of the world’s great breadbaskets. Instead, land disputes and steep food prices have pushed it to the brink. Sudan, for example, owns two hundred million acres of the most fertile agricultural land in the world, and tremendous water wealth, from rivers, groundwater, and rain [227].

In many of the low rainfall regions of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Central Asia, most of the exploitable water is already withdrawn, with 80–90 percent of that going to agriculture, and thus rivers and aquifers are depleted beyond sustainable levels. Water tables are declining as farmers abstract over and above rates of replenishment from recharge and aquifer leakage [228].

The agricultural sector in some Arab countries such as Somalia and Sudan is a basic source of their national income, while there are other countries, the agriculture sector is a lesser source of their national income.  For example, the gross domestic product in the Islamic world is 3483 billion dollars for the year 1999 AD. The highest country in the Islamic world in terms of its gross domestic product in Indonesia (602 billion dollars), followed by Turkey (425 billion), then Iran (340 billion) [229].

Data indicates that food production was decreasing, the import of grain from 2009 until 2016 was increasing for all grain types. An alarming figure was the percent of self-sufficiency in four major grain products which were about 33%. The percent of self-sufficiency in four major grain products decreased by one third from 2009 until 2016 (e.g., for cereals self-sufficiency was 46% in 2009 and decreased to 37% in 2016). The export of grain products was insignificant. The gap between produced and needed for consumption was covered by import which makes the Arab region dependent on suppliers who might use it for their political or economic interest [230, and 231]. For the non-grain products, self-sufficiency percent is much better due to its reliance on small farms [232]. The production of Tubers and roots, Pulses, Vegetables, and Fruits for the Arab region was greater or mostly doubles the import while the picture was reversed for Sugar and Oils and Fats.

The agricultural and food intra-Arab trade and export has decreased from 2014 to 2016. On the other hand, agricultural and food intra-Arab import was stable during the same period [233].  This represents a negative factor in the attempts to attain food security by those countries. This also means that cooperation between Arab region countries to alleviate the gap between food production and consumption need much enhancement. The Arab food gap is characterized by the fluctuation from year to year of agricultural production (plant and animal) and the volume of consumption and the fluctuations in the international prices of food commodities [234].

North Africa and the Middle East, which contains 6% of the world’s population, attracts a third of its wheat purchases. From Morocco to Egypt, the highest consumption rate in the world is recorded: 100 kilograms of wheat per person per year. Five countries produce more than half of the world’s wheat (India, China, Russia, the United States, and the European Union) [235].

The average food production index for 2016 based on 191 countries was 122.4 index points. The indicator is available from 1961 to 2016 [236, and 237].  According to the published Index, about 37% of the listed Muslim countries are below the global food production index average. A result indicating the need for much investment and improvement in food production quantities, means, and aspects is needed.

The World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) ranked the Middle East in October 2014 as the only region in the world where the number of hungry people has increased [238]. According to a joint report by the World Bank and FAO released in 2009 [239], Arab countries are the largest importers of wheat in the world.

It was concluded that the failure to follow the integrated method of reform is the reason for the failure. The integrated approach to the proposed reform includes the development of irrigation methods, pricing and financing policies, agricultural lending, agro-industry, and animal production [240].

Five Muslim countries were identified by priority and in order as the highest in food production. These were Turkey, Indonesia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Iran. All Muslim countries need to integrate and coordinate with these five their food needs and food production, food transfer, and food exchange mutually whatever is possible to attain better food security [241, 242, and 243].

5. Food Insecurity in Islamic Civilization

Food insecurity is usually a problem in developing countries than in developed countries as the latter often have in place the requisite mechanisms for food production, storage, and distribution. Many Muslim countries face problems of inadequate food production, insufficient food supplies and storage, and inefficient food delivery systems. Hence, they have to depend on massive imports from other outside countries to meet their basic food requirements and needs [244, and 245].

Almost one-fifth of the world’s population is Muslim. Consequently, comprehensive food production and food security management plans in Muslim countries should be well thought out and formulated, institutionalized, checked for implementation, and fully implemented and maintained with time and place. [246]

In 1906, a severe hunger took place in Najd (during the Ottoman caliphate rule), that year was called the year of hunger or famine [247].

A study sheds light on the multi-facetted dynamics of conflict and food insecurity in the ESCWA region. It assessed the food security situation in conflict-stricken countries and related it to the potential mutual transmission mechanism(s) between conflict and food insecurity [248].

Recent figures indicate that the percentage of what is imported by Arab countries ranges between 40% and 90% of consumed foodstuffs, which makes them the highest importer of foodstuffs in the world The Arab world’s imports of food bill are expected to increase from 56 billion dollars in 2011 to 150 billion in 2050 [249]. Therefore, reducing food imports and/or increasing local food production needs to be a prime policy item and a priority strategy element in Muslim countries.

5.1 Guest Houses

One successful and articulate Muslim way of facing hunger and helping the poor, was the guesthouses (Dar Al-Aldiyafeh in Turkey and the Takiyeht in Palestine) in which food is handed out, free of charge, to specific groups and individuals.  The Ottoman Public Kitchen (or guest houses or hospices) were constructed throughout the Ottoman territories, from the fourteenth century into the nineteenth. An investigation of these kitchens reveals a nexus of patronage, charity, and hospitality [250]. In Hebron, Palestine, Al-IbrahimiyahTakiyeht, or guest house named after Prophet Ibrahim was founded 1279 and since then it offers food to poor individuals and poor families, free to charge, three times a day. You enter the guest house, no question is asked, only you receive a warm welcome and fine hospitality. At the guest house, you either sit and eat or take away the food.  Al-IbrahimiyahTakiyeht is supported by the Islamic Endowment Funds in Palestine and outside. It was estimated that the Takiyeht serves between four and thirteen thousand meals daily or 289 thousand meals in the holy month of Ramadan [251, and 252]. In most cities in Palestine Takiyehts are open every day in the holy month of Ramadan offering complete meals to the poor. Travellers visiting the city are also benefiting and eating at the Takiyehtsor the guest houses, representing a long-standing tradition of hospitality.

5.2 Food Wastage

According to the FAO data, the average food wasted by an individual Arab is estimated at 250 kilograms per year, compared to about seventy kilograms in other regions, at a time when about 11.2% of the population is undernourished (79.4 million) The amount of food waste generated in Ramadan by Muslims is significantly higher than in other months [253]. FAO regional adviser on agricultural industries and infrastructure for the Near East and North Africa indicated that one of the reasons for wasting food in the region is due to social habits such as excessive generosity when holding banquets, and exaggeration in making food during the holidays, many of which end in the garbage [254].

5.3 Food Insecurity

It was reported that 37% of the population of the Islamic world live below the poverty line, equivalent to approximately 504 million people, and their proportion to the world’s poor is 39%.[255]. This represents important and alarming figures for decision-makers in those countries to take actions either in their drought encounter projects and/or in their economic development plans and/or in their political reforms and human rights projects.

Food insecurity along Islamic civilization including hunger, famine, poverty, and starvation took place along epidemics in distinct cases, places, and years.  Going through the documented cases of famine, it was found that along documented history among Muslim countries famine was repeated more than two times in Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Spain, Turkey, and Iran.  Also, it is obvious that famine is not attached to Muslim countries per name but attached to specific conditions such as:

  • Lack of precipitation and/or low rivers water levels (droughts) or floods (e.g., Egypt and Sudan)
  • Economic crisis or decline
  • Political instability: wars (being civil or conquer by an outside power), genocides, military occupation, siege, and colonization, etc.

It was also concluded that despite the marked improvement in some items of food production in the Arabic region, there has become almost unanimous that the food crisis in the Arab world has reached critical limits that have become a real threat to the security and stability of the Arab region economically, socially and politically [256].

Global Hunger Index (GHI) survey of 119 countries all over the world indicated in the 2017 GHI report that 43 countries or 9.9% of the global population are with low GHI hunger level, 24 countries with 10-19.9% GHI or with moderate GHI hunger level, 44 countries or 20-35 GHI or with serious GHI hunger level, 7 countries with GHI 35-50 or alarming GHI hunger level, and 1 country with GHI over 50 or extremely alarming hunger level [257]. This result indicates that 6.7 % of the countries surveyed still with alarming or extremely alarming hunger level and need support and attention.

Another important factor in food insecurity is political instability. It was indicated that many factors cause political instability.  Conflicts over-controlling land are perhaps the most common including wars, military occupation, military coups, genocides, and colonization which the case in many developing countries [258].

In conclusion, food insecurity and/or famine is manageable if its causes were taken into consideration and encountered. Accordingly, Muslim Imams or leaders need to work systematically to reserve water for food production and minimize the effects of floods and/or droughts and command people to work extensively in food production until food security is achieved.

6. Concluding Remarks

There are numerous conclusions and recommendations to be made from this study. These include:

  • Good experience and positive attitude towards achieving food security were generally found amongst leaders throughout Muslim civilization. However, a comprehensive systematic approach to attain it was not used nor developed, although it exists in the Quran and the prophetic tradition.
  • Food production and food security management plan in Muslim countries should be well thought out, institutionalized, checked for implementation, and fully implemented and maintained
  • It was difficult to assess food production and food security over most of the Islamic eras. Most literature found on the subject matter was descriptive and illustrative and rarely included physical data on food availability, production, and use.
  • Collected information on food security indicated that over the various eras of Islamic civilization food was available and affordable most of the time. Hunger and famine were very limited, and case connected.
  • The quality of information dealing with farming in the form of reference books and encyclopedias covering, which covers irrigation methods and systems, how to plant and grow, and how to take care of plants and feed them, and how to graft trees, how to compost manures, and other was available in the literature on Islamic civilization and detailed in good quality.
  • Reviving idle (dead) land or the land of the dead was an early and distinctive experience and practice of Muslim States leaders to enhance agriculture and food production.
  • It was clear that much is needed to be done on the technical part of food production, distribution, and stability to reduce and/or eliminate the occurrence of famine. However, equally important is to satisfy and justify the human needs and human rights.
  • Reducing food imports and/or increasing local food production needs to be a prime policy item and a priority strategy element in Muslim countries.
  • To attain food security in the Muslim world or Arab region, it is necessary to increase food production as well as to have the political well and cooperate and integrate trade/exchange, and transfer food production and products between Muslim and/or Arab countries.
  • Achieving the necessary agricultural production in Islamic history was based on two main pillars: collecting the abscess (kharaj) tax from farmers to support the state’s treasury and feeding the army (the tax was sometimes collected as a percentage of the product) and the second was feeding the parish
  • Food insecurity and/or famine is manageable if its reasons being taken in consideration and encountered Accordingly Muslim Imam or leader needs to work systematically to reserve water for food production and minimize the effects of flood and/or droughts and order his people to work extensively in food production until food security is achieved.
  • One of the greatest contributions of Muslims to agriculture to a single country was in Spain. They brought with them new crops developed intensive and advanced irrigation systems, developed plant growth means including pest control, managed soil and its fertigation, and wrote scholarly books and encyclopedias in promoting farming innovations and sciences that still in use until the present time.
  • Food wastage in the Arab region as well as by Muslims all over the globe is high due to social habits; therefore, there is a high need for awareness and knowledge building to change Muslim’s attitudes and beliefs towards food conservation and extravagance.
  • Poor smallholder farmers dominate agricultural production mostly in many Islamic non-Arab countries and need special attention and support through stable institutions and funds to minimize their income uncertainty, social vulnerability, and food insecurity.
  • The spread of the Coronavirus epidemic all over the world revealed the fragile state of some countries for providing food to their citizens during the epidemic. This calls for the need of all countries to be prepared for disasters, whatever they are, before they happen?
  • The approached used by the Caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab to combat and manage famine represents a good Islamic example to follow.
  • The establishment and operation of guest houses for facing hunger and helping the poor supported by Muslim endowment funds and/or charity represent another good, successful, and articulate Islamic example to follow.

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Marwan Haddad is Professor of Environmental Engineering since 1999.  Chaired Civil Engineering and directed the Water and Environmental Studies Institute (WESI) at An-Najah National University (ANU) in Nablus, Palestine. He has MSc in Structural Civil Engineering, MSc in Sanitary Engineering and a PhD in Environmental Civil Engineering. Has over 40 years of professional experience in the Mediterranean region in the water, sanitation, and environmental sector. Has a solid understanding of the water sector’s stakes, challenges and development opportunities, mainstreaming adaptation and mitigation strategies and policies in development plans and water management with IFIs and international organisations. Led numerous national and regional study teams and projects related to water and sanitation. Published more than 200 technical papers in national and international journals and has participated in hundreds of seminars, conferences and workshops, showing the water situation and providing institution-building initiatives nationally, regionally, and internationally.


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