Adapted from The Living Quraysh, Int. Qst. J (2008) by Professor Ahmad Ahmad, University of California, Santa Barbara
As its name reflects, Institution Quraysh is grounded firmly in tradition, with guiding principles derived from the legacy of the ancient Quraysh tribe of Arabia. Throughout their history, the Quraysh were guided by the concepts of unity, justice, and collective action. We seek to emulate these principles through our work, bridging differences, and connecting people in Arabia.
At the dawn of the 6th Century, the Quraysh were the dominant tribe in Arabia. The unprecedented proliferation of trade, science, and arts heralded by the dawn of Islam thrust the Quraysh to a position of international prominence. To this day, the Quraysh occupy a special place in the Arab and Muslim collective consciousness, revered for their inimitable contribution to the development of codes, alliances and practices that continue to shape our world. However, even before being elevated to such lofty heights, the Quraysh were known throughout pre-Islamic Arabia for their strong legal and business traditions.
In the Quraysh experience, the three guiding elements of unity, justice and collective action constituted a comprehensive worldview. Trade, cultural and religious festivals, and the need to co-exist with one’s neighbours, all demanded collaboration, efficient communication, and equitable legal conventions. This in turn laid the foundation for interdependence, and unity.
The very word ‘Quraysh’ is said to come from the Arabic word for gathering or getting together, taqarrush, relating to the efforts to unite the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula. The spirit of taqarrush would prove to be central to the growth of Arab and Islamic civilisations, whereby people of different nations and races where brought together under one banner, exhibiting ‘diversity within unity’.
The pursuit of justice runs deep in Quraysh’s history, as shown by the Fudul Pact (Hilf al-Fudul), a 6th Century bill of rights protecting visiting merchants in Mecca from abuse by the locals. With this, the Quraysh elders established that justice takes precedence over bonds of blood and ancestry. Numerous other Pacts, or ahlaf, offer examples of negotiated conventions addressing different concerns ranging from regulating access to resources, such as water, to the protection of property, and the resolution of social and familial disputes. Trade protections were a recurrent feature of the pre-Islamic Quraysh. In most cases, the protection was offered to foreign merchants, who shared neither the Quraysh’s language nor their pre-Islamic pagan religion. A frequent statement in the negotiation of these trade conventions was, “Your rights must be equivalent to your responsibilities,” thereby exemplifying the equitable basis of Quraysh’s relations with others.
WORKING WITH OTHERS
For many generations, Quraysh tradesmen sold their merchandise only in Arabian markets, mostly in Mecca’s trade come religious festivals. Ultimately, however, the Quraysh convinced the Byzantine Empire to open its markets to Arabian products.
This institutional open exchange, or ilaf, would alter fundamentally the course of history. Not only did it connect Arabian and Byzantine markets, but it also encouraged the exchange of ideas. By the time of their adoption of Islam, the Quraysh, and Arabia itself, were firmly part of a wider world with a myriad of different peoples, languages, and traditions. After the spread of Islam to the Levant, Egypt, and beyond, the legacy of ilaf fulfilled itself through the creation of complex networks of religious and secular interactions throughout the entire region.
Atlantic Ocean to the Himalayas. Arabic also came to be used by European intellectuals who studied Arab literary and scientific texts, and especially by European merchants who traded with the Arab lands of the Mediterranean. Moreover, the legal and economic traditions first laid down in Arabia informed and influenced practices and behaviours wherever Arabs and Muslims were to be found. As such, even though time has seen the political centre of gravity move far from the homeland of the Quraysh, their legacy continues to permeate and guide legal, business, and interpersonal relations across the globe.
It is this noble example to which iQ aspires.