Poverty and Charity in Middle Eastern Contexts

Publication Year



Addresses the ideals and institutions through which Middle Eastern societies have confronted poverty and the poor.

Offering insights and analysis in a field that has only recently come into existence, this book explores the ideals and institutions through which Middle Eastern societies—from the rise of Islam in the seventh century C.E. to the present day—have confronted poverty and the poor. By introducing new sources and presenting familiar ones with new questions, the contributors examine ideas about poverty and the poor, ideals and practices of charity, and state and private initiatives of poor relief over this extensive time span. They avoid easy generalizations about Islam and the Middle East as they seek to set the ideals and practices in comparative perspective.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Note to the Reader


Part I: Entitlement and Obligation

1. Poverty and Charity in the Rise of Islam
Michael Bonner

2. Status-Based Definitions of Need in Early Islamic Zakat and Maintenance Laws
Ingrid Mattson

3. The Foreign Jewish Poor in Medieval Egypt
Mark R. Cohen

4 "Prices Are in God's Hands": The Theory and Practice of Price Control in the Medieval Islamic World
Adam Sabra

Part II: Institutions

5. The Functional Aspects of Medieval Islamic Hospitals
Yasser Tabbaa

6. Charity and Hospitality: Hospitals in the Ottoman Empire in the Early Modern Period
Miri Shefer

7. Charity, the Poor, and Distribution of Alms in Ottoman Algiers
Miriam Hoexter

Part III: The State as Benefactor

8. Living on the Margins of Charity: Coping with Poverty in an Ottoman Provincial City
Eyal Ginio

9. The Charity of the Khedive
Mine Ener

10. Imperial Gifts and Sultanic Legitimation during the Late Ottoman Empire, 1876–1909
Nadir Özbek

Part IV: Changing Worlds

11. Al-Tahtawi on Poverty and Welfare
Juan R. I. Cole

12. Islam, Philanthropy, and Political Culture in Interwar Egypt: The Activism of Labiba Ahmad
Beth Baron

13. "The Child Question": The Politics of Child Welfare in Early Republican Turkey
Kathryn Libal

Part V: Welfare as Politics

14. Islamic Redistribution through Zakat: Historical Record and Modern Realities
Timur Kuran

15. Charity's Legacies: Reconsideration of Ottoman Imperial Endowment-Making
Amy Singer

Natalie Zemon Davis



Reviews and Endorsements

“A well-thought-out analysis with the very specific aim of addressing a gap in the historiography of the Middle East.” — Virginia H. Aksan, author of An Ottoman Statesman in War and Peace: Ahmed Resmi Efendi, 1700–1783

“Posing interesting questions and offering imaginative answers, this volume marks a new departure in Middle Eastern scholarship. I am aware of no comprehensive volume on this or a similar subject for the Middle East.” — Nathan J. Brown, The George Washington University

“The individual articles complement one another so that the cumulative effect for understanding poverty and charity in the Middle East across the sweep of its history is quite rich. No existing volume provides such an overview of the topic as does this one.” — Everett K. Rowson, translator of The History of al-Tabari: Volume XXII: The Marwanid Restoration, The Caliphate of 'Abd al-Malik A.D. 693–701/A.H. 74–81

Series Title
SUNY Series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East
State University of New York Press
Cloth: 9780791457375; paper: 9780791457382