[P5945] Transformations of Islamic law in the Modern Period: From Colonial to Post-Colonial

Created by Aaron Rock-Singer
Wednesday, 10/07/20 11:00 am


How and why has Islamic law changed over the course of the modern period? This panel, entitled “Transformations of Islamic law in the Modern Period: from Colonial to Post-Colonial,” explores both continuities and ruptures in legal reasoning in the 19th and 20th centuries. Historians and anthropologists of Islam have debated the breadth and depth of this shift: while one side of the debate emphasizes the ways in which new modes of political, social and economic organization transformed Islamic law, the other argues for the continued relevance of a diachronic Islamic ethical tradition that includes but is not limited to legal observance. In parallel, scholars of colonial and post-colonial history have challenged a previous generation of research that emphasized the rupture between these two periods by showing significant continuities in legal reasoning, gender roles and the composition of elites. This panel seeks to bring these two debates together by foregrounding the ways in which Islamic law developed under colonial rule and how its logic and structure persisted in some instances and was transformed in others through the transition to national independence.

To do so, we explore the negotiation of the Islamic tradition from Egypt to Afghanistan to the Netherlands Indies (present day Indonesia). The presenters eschew a singular focus on the Arab world or a tendency for scholarship on Islamic law to silo itself geographically between an Arab “center” and non-Arab “periphery.” The first paper examines the emergence of the Egyptian Shari?a Supreme Court (al-Mahkama al-‘Ulya al-Shar‘iyya), and its role in transforming Islamic judicial practice in the late 19th and early 20th century. The second paper then moves from Egypt to Indonesia, charting the ways in which the Arab Diaspora in the Netherland Indies sought to exert their influence on fellow Muslims by seeking to generalize particular interpretations of Islamic law. The third paper shift northward, analyzing how government ministers in newly independent Afghanistan and legal scholars in British India debated the expansion of female education and longstanding interpretations of Islamic law on this matter. Finally, the last paper returns to the Middle East, tracing how Salafis across region transformed the longstanding boundary between acts of worship (‘Ibada) and Custom (‘Urf) between 1930 and 1990. Collectively, these papers thus cast light on the political shifts, demographic migrations and intellectual transformations that have underlaid changing understandings of Islamic law between colonial and post-colonial periods.





Samy Ayoub

(University of Texas at Austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Aaron Rock-Singer

Aaron Rock-Singer is a social and intellectual historian of Islam and the Modern Middle East. He received his B.A from the University of Pennsylvania (2007), his M.Phil from St. Antony’s College, Oxford (2010) and his Ph.D from Princeton’s Department...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Elizabeth Lhost

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