ENIS Spring School 2019

The European Network for Islamic Studies (ENIS)

© Spoonism-Courtesy of Pascal Hachem and Federica Schiavo Gallery


Patronage and Clientelism in the Muslim World

The ENIS Spring School 2019 takes place from Monday March 18th to Friday March 22nd 2019 in Granada, Spain.



The umma is the imagined community par excellence in Islam, based on the principle that all Muslims are equal before God. However, this community is not homogeneous. Within the umma, there always were many hierarchies between the elites and the people, people of pens and swords, leaders and subjects, craftsmen and peasants, men and women, free persons and slaves. And in the contemporary world the umma is cut across by political, national, economic, social and ethnic loyalties. Despite the calls for the unity of the umma, there are numerous practices that reproduce internal hierarchies and loyalties.  Sometimes these practices can be justified theologically by Koranic instructions to help the poor, the elderly and orphans, or by the proclaimed equality of the faithful. They also refer to a socio-economic or symbolic order that they reinforce. Patronage often enters into an economy of salvation and allows the patron to buy his place in Paradise and legitimize his earthly wealth. Patronage and reciprocity are adjacent concepts. Patron-client relationships are based on various modalities of exchange and reciprocity which imbue these relationships with moral undertones.
One of the modalities of the distinction is patronage, which can take various forms depending on the period and region. For the beginnings of Islam, the walāʾ system allowed the integration of non-Arabs as new converts or freed slaves to participate in the Arab-Muslim conquest and benefit from it, or even to exercise power. In pre-modern Islamic society, where the urban network was developed very early on, the social hierarchy was also manifested by evergetism —founding madrasas, building fountains, hospices, dispensaries or hospitals. It also includes the various expressions of Islamic charity —donations to the community of precious objects, books, land or businesses in the form of mortmain goods (waqf or ḥabūṣ), which have played a major role in the social and economic organization of the Islamic Commonwealth up to the present time. The art market may be the most well-known example. Since ancient times, men of power and wealth considered it their duty to sponsor arts for various reasons, one motivation being the prestige they earned by showcasing art in their homes. Modern art is often based on the system of individual and institutional patronage as well which influences considerably the vision and structural foundation of artistic and cultural production today. 
More recently, it is sponsorship or support for charitable NGOs that has taken over traditional forms of charity and has recently taken up ground abandoned by public services of state institutions.. It is sometimes difficult, however, to distinguish the boundaries and points of interference between evergetism, patronage and clientelism, which is one of its expressions. Patronage and clientelism have taken on new forms in present-day political and socio-economic practices behind the semblance of modernity and meritocracy. The discussions about moneyflows from rich Muslim countries to Muslims in Western Europe are often based on the assumption that it creates undesirable dependencies and leads to corruption and influence, thereby ignoring that political reciprocity and favouritism is not at all absent in ‘modern’ societies. Charismatic personalities, with their own network of personal ties, dominate political parties and state apparatuses. Likewise, logics of patronage always undergird the redistribution of services, power, and resources, not only in contemporary rentier states, but in all social formations across the globe.



The organisation of the Granada ENIS Spring School is a joint effort by:


You can download the Booklet (PDF). See "more informations"




More informations

  • Monday 18 March 2019 - 09:00 to Friday 22 March 2019 - 17:00
  • Escuela de Estudios Árabes (EEA), CSIC, Cuesta del Chapiz, 22.C.P. 18010, Granada (España)
  • sophie.bilardello@ehess.fr