Western influence has dominated the areas of trade and finance in the Muslim world. Traditional Islamic contracts and financial instruments have been replaced by Western financial instruments and institutions through either colonialism or capitalism. The wholesale adoption of the French Civil Code (or the Napoleonic Code) by most Middle Eastern countries demonstrates the magnitude of the European commercial influence. However, most of the world’s Muslim countries are poor. In the year 1000, the economy of the Middle East was at least as advanced as that of Europe, but by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind, in living standards, technology and economic institutions. By the nineteenth century, modern economic institutions began to be transplanted to the Middle East, but even in the twenty-first century, the Middle East’s economies have not caught up with those of the West. In other words, the transplanting of the Western commercial system into the Middle East did not automatically produce wealth. In short, over the past two centuries the Middle East has failed to modernize economically even as the West surged ahead. The reasons for this are complex and divergent. In The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East, Timur Kuran, a Turkish-American economist at Duke University, argues that Islam, liberated from stagnant interpretation and practice, is very adaptable to modern institutions.
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