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Title: Courting Jurisdictions: Colonial Administration of Islamic Law Pertaining to Arabs in the British Straits Settlements and the Netherlands East Indies, 1860-1941
Authors: Yahaya, Nurfadzilah
Advisors: Laffan, Michael F.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Arabs
Southeast Asia
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the administration of Islamic family law in the British Straits Settlements and the Netherlands Indies through the lens of Arab merchants in colonial courts from 1860 till 1942. During this period, Arab communities tended to seek justice and accountability in colonial legal arenas because they had opportunities to influence colonial legal administration through political and social means. The first chapter explores the collation of knowledge of Islamic law in the Straits Settlements and the Netherlands Indies. While British knowledge of Islamic law was based on existing legal precedents and legal codes brought over from British India that ultimately proved to be of limited use in the Straits due to different schools of law between Muslims in India and Southeast Asia, Dutch knowledge of Islam came from Oriental academies in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indies itself. The second chapter situates Arabs within the complicated plural society of the Netherlands Indies. Inconsistently classified as `Foreign Orientals,' they were subjected to European laws in some matters and local customary laws in others due to their intimate connections with local communities, creating a sense of legal unpredictability. The third chapter examines how Arab petitioners in the Straits Settlements requested British intervention in religious affairs in 1875 specifically in matrimonial matters which led to the promulgation of the Mohamedan Marriage Ordinance that was introduced in 1880. While colonial legal regimes provided repositories of bureaucratized records that were useful for highly mobile Arabs, they placed limitations on institutions such as family endowments (waqf), analyzed in Chapter Four. Banned entirely in the Netherlands Indies, the waqf partially failed in the Straits Settlements for not fulfilling the definition of `charity' amd for contravening the English Common Law which forbade the alienation of immoveable property in perpetuity. These restrictions however provided a boon for beneficiaries who repeatedly disputed the status of waqfs in British courts in the hope that the waqf be declared void so that they could benefit from the sale of the endowments. By focusing on Arabs' legal strategies, the dissertation highlights how European legal systems ultimately rooted diasporic Arabs through legal means in specific locations despite their mobile ways.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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