[P6465] New Approaches to Islamic Law across the Indian Ocean

Created by Alexandre Caeiro
Friday, 12/03/21 11:30 am


The field of Indian Ocean studies has grown exponentially over the last two decades due to the development of new methodologies and the emergence of novel archives. Islamic law has featured in this reconfiguration of the field in two main ways.

An important number of studies examined the transregional travels of Islamic legal texts and their implications for everyday practices of law within and beyond the state apparatus. Some scholars argued that Islamic Law provided a structure that made commercial life in the absence of sovereign courts possible. In minority contexts, the elaborations of local Muslim jurists provided a mechanism for the articulation of specific forms of Islam attuned to customary practices and commercial imperatives.

A different body of work brought to light how qadis applied Islamic law, in particular for periods when court records were systematically developed in the shadow of European empires. This scholarship has highlighted how colonial reforms drew on the Islamic legal tradition and the expertise of Muslim scholars. Particular attention was devoted to the tribulations of Muslim family life in rapidly changing political contexts.

Despite this interest in Islamic law, fatwa collections have remained relatively under-explored in the literature on the Indian Ocean. It is nevertheless clear that fatwas have been an important part of the social, economic and political life of Muslim communities throughout the Indian Ocean. Fatwa-seekers routinely sent requests for legal advice to a variety of religious authorities. These fatwas circulated alongside other texts, commodities, and actors, shaping an Islamic legal cosmopolis whose contours scholars have just begun to delineate.

This panel takes seriously the historical, sociological, and legal content of the fatwa requests and responses. We treat fatwas not only as evidence of the ethnic, linguistic, and ideological divides that reverberated across the Indian Ocean, but also as robust sources for social, legal, and intellectual history across juridical traditions and historical contexts.

Each paper engages with the fatwa genre in order to examine the alternative legal imaginaries, structures of religious authority, moral geographies, and senses of belonging that they convey. The presentations focus on fatwas in diverse languages, times and places, including Arabic texts produced in the Gulf and in Malabar and mobile Urdu texts originating in Delhi. The papers bring to the conversation a shared interest in the social life of Islamic legal texts, and a commitment to studying those trans-regionally in the Indian Ocean world.


Law; Law; Law; Hist; Law; Hist; Law




Amal Ghazal

(Doha Institute for Graduate Studies)
Associate Professor, Department of History, Simon Fraser University. Director, Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures at Simon Fraser University.
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Alexandre Caeiro

(Hamad Bin Khalifa University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Mahmood Kooria

(Leiden University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Elizabeth Lhost

(Dartmouth College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Noorudeen Pattasseri

(Hamad Bin Khalifa University)
Noorudeen Pattasseri completed his Master of Arts in Islamic Studies - Islamic Civilization and Societies Concentration from the College of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University. He did his first Master of Arts in Islamic Studies from the University...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;