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Authors: Ghosh, Saumyashree
Advisors: Laffan, Michael ML
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Indian Ocean littoral
Law and Political Theory
Shafi'i Muslims
South Asia
South India
Subjects: History
South Asian studies
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation reconstructs the history of one of India’s earliest Muslim communities in the South Indian coasts of today’s Tamilnad and Kerala who were largely autonomous of any Muslim sovereign or imperium. These Muslims also practiced the Shafi‘i school of Islamic law rather than the Hanafi school that was followed by the majority of Sunni Muslims in India. Their longue-durée experience of non-Muslim rule sheds new light on political theories and practices of South Asian Muslims and offers an untold history of jural colonization in the British Empire. The narrative centers on the institution of Muslim judgeship (qadiship) that emerged as a bastion of Shafi‘i power in the region. It explores how Shafi‘i jurists had to rethink classical jurisprudential norms to empower the learned Muslims (the ‘ulama) as alternative sources of authority so they could elect and dismiss local qadis as leaders of the community. Once the British Empire claimed the mantle of the Mughal Empire, it had to domesticate the Shafi‘i ‘ulama by bringing their qadis under direct imperial control. The colonized Hanafi law or the Anglo-Muhammadan law could not subsume Shafi‘i institutional practices. The dissertation examines the limits of the Anglo-Muhammadan law in the Madras Presidency and Shafi‘i activism in the littoral and the Indian Ocean rim. And in that vein, it challenges the long-standing assumption that the British Empire subsumed the qadi in the colonial court structure to transform the Shari‘a into religious, personal law. The dissertation argues that in order to reckon with Shafi‘i power, the British Raj had to reckon with the ways in which the operation of Muslim law was always tied to the question of territoriality and reappoint titular qadis to qualify British India as a Muslim abode (dar al-Islam), an opinion then extant among the Hanafi and Shafi‘i ‘ulama in India. The measure was devised to mitigate possibilities of Muslim political subversion and safeguard the territorial sovereignty of the British Empire. The findings are based on legal manuals and responsa of Muslim jurists and jurisconsults, writings of/on leading ‘ulama from the region, documents of the British Empire, and travelogues of European travelers.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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