Current Institutional Affiliation
Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows, History, Dartmouth College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
Between Community and Qanun: Documenting the Practice of Islamic Law in 19th C. British India

My project explores the role of Islamic legal practitioners—namely qazis (judges) and muftis (jurisconsults)—in the modernization of law in 19th-century British India. The expansion of the bureaucratic state and the introduction of new evidentiary protocols required trustworthy individuals who could produce authentic and verifiable legal documents. Based on extensive archival research and the introduction of previously-unused sources, I suggest that after protracted negotiations with Company and Crown officials, qazis were able to carve a space for themselves and their profession within this new document-based legal system. Traditional narratives often cast the 19th century in terms of increasing Anglicization, following the introduction of the Indian Penal Code, and the Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure in the 1860s, but despite the ascendancy of Anglo-Indian law and legal procedure, other forms of legal activity persisted. While qazis petitioned government officials for appointments, muftis worked to fulfill other religio-legal needs but their ability to do so also relied on state recognition. Drawing upon evidence from colonial and vernacular archives, my project considers the history of Islamic law not through the lens of marginalization and minoritization but through its enduring resilience and persistent relevance within the colonial courts. Looking at the practice of Islamic law, and the circulation of legal practitioners, documents, and litigants, my dissertation traces this transformation through the lives and livelihoods of qazis and muftis as they worked at the crossroads of British and Islamic legal systems.