[P6547] Muslim Scholars as Agents of Change in the 19th Century

Created by Maariyah Lateef
Friday, 12/03/21 2:00 pm


Muslim scholars are central yet often overlooked actors in 19th century transformations throughout the Middle East and beyond. Far from their contributions being derivative or limited in scope, many members of the ulema were engaged in vibrant scholarly debates relevant to their circumstances. These and other efforts of theirs appealed to both authorities and people on the ground, as they navigated through economic, cultural, and political challenges triggered by global forces, from capitalism to Western imperialism. Helping to move beyond overshadowing this important period with actors imposing external change, this panel aims to highlight the ulema as an important source of productive internal change.

By drawing on a variety of methodological approaches, including ones not utilized often enough when researching the ulema, the papers in this panel demonstrate how various Muslim scholars around the world contribute to our understanding of various larger transformations they were part of. One paper utilizes social historical sources to construct a social biography of the renowned jurist Muhammad Amin Ibn ‘Abidin (d. 1836) to highlight how his experiences deepen our understanding of early 19th century Ottoman lawmaking. Another paper centers on Mahmud al-Alusi (d. 1854) as a “post-classical” scholar whose travelogue both helps us to understand his novel tafsir of the Quran and provides insights into his social context during this transformative century. A third paper highlights how ulema from different backgrounds and ideological currents offered crucial support to Muslims in the Subcontinent as they adapted and navigated crafting a new identity as subjects of British India, and how their opinions linked to and formed the catalyst for intellectual change in the Arab World. A final paper discusses how Ibn ‘Abidin harmonized concerns between Ottoman state and society by formulating a synthesis between the realms of religion, state, and society.


Hist; Law; Philos; Rel Stds/Theo; Socio; Hist; Law; Philos; Rel Stds/Theo; Socio



Samy Ayoub

(University of Texas at Austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Brian Wright

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

Ebadur Rahman

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

Maariyah Lateef

(Brown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter; Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;