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Global Hauser Program at New York University School of Law


By the middle of the eighth century CE the Arabs established their dominion from the Atlantic Ocean to west of the Persian Gulf. In the process, they spread Islam and established Islamic law as the law of the land throughout this entire vast territory. Until the rise of the Turkish Ottoman Empire between the 13th the 16th centuries CE, that territory included North Africa (both Egypt and the Maghreb), Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Arabia. The era of the pre-Ottoman Arab domination of those lands roughly coincides with the Middle Ages. During that time, centres of economic and financial activity were located in the Near East in the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates as well as along the river Nile; this respectively coincides with modern-day Iraq and Egypt. It was observed that the business practices and instruments that had developed throughout those lands during that period heralded the bill of exchange, both as a mechanism for the transmission of funds and as a negotiable instrument. These Islamic instruments, the law that governs them, and hence the grounds of the aforesaid thesis are the focus of this paper.