[IN PICTURES] A British market inspired by the Islamic model of Madinah
According to Sealey, the idea of hosting a form of "community hub for traders, makers, bakers, artists, growers, street food vendors" had been a long time coming."
This summer saw the revival of an Islamic-based tradition of market trading in the British city of Norwich.
Based on principles established by the early community at the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the new Norwich Free Market operates following several practices designed to encourage fair trading.
In the early days of Islam, markets were “the lifeblood of the community” and the “first bastion of both social welfare and wealth creation,” according to the Open Trade Network, a Norwich-based organization supporting “access to trade and enterprise for all.” Traders at the new market aren’t taxed or charged rental, and undercutting is not permitted.
The initiative is a project of the Open Trade Network, in partnership with the local Ihsan mosque and Islamic Centre. It is driven by members of the local Muslim community, including Jamal Sealey and Rahima Brandt.
The pair had worked together running a soup kitchen during Ramadan earlier this year and delivering to households self-isolating due to Covid-19.
After a successful month, Brandt says they began thinking of what they could do next: “Feeding people continuously, really it’s just like putting a finger in the dam. It’s not going to stop anything, and it’s not going to start anything.”
According to Sealey, the idea of hosting a form of “community hub for traders, makers, bakers, artists, growers, street food vendors” had been a long time coming.”
“It’s something that we were talking about for years, you know, having a large warehouse where people could trade for free and kind of takes the energy away from the supermarkets,” he said.
Dr. Asadullah Yate, professor of Arabic and Fiqh at Weimar University, writes that in traditional Muslim communities, markets “were not a prelude to establishing fixed, structured shops, grocers, engrossers, wholesalers or ‘supermarkets.’ This only hoards and monopolizes commodities to control and manipulate prices.”
The city of Norwich already has a famous, traditional English market that dates back to the 19th century, with permanent stalls in the historic center selling everything from fabric to food.
Yet the new Norwich Free Market, running one day a month, is both an opportunity to support local business and a community-driven response to an urgent need for people affected by the coronavirus.
Some of the stalls are run by traders who set up small businesses after losing their jobs during the lockdown.
Spots are given on a first-come, first-served basis, both at the time of registering and choosing pitch on the day.
Although the principles are based on Islamic tradition, the market still operates along the lines of a traditional English market.
Moreover, Brandt says that the market has been an opportunity for the Muslim community to make a difference in society, and “look after everybody,” Brandt says, especially when there is so much negativity about Islam.
What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments below.