BioMahmood Kooria is a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden. Earlier, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Dutch Institute in Morocco (NIMAR), Leiden University, and a joint fellow at the IIAS and African Studies Centre (ASC), Leiden. He did his PhD at the Leiden University Institute for History on the circulation of Islamic legal ideas and texts across the Indian Ocean and Eastern Mediterranean worlds. He has published several articles and has edited a volume with Michael Pearson entitled Malabar in the Indian Ocean World: Cosmopolitanism in a Maritime Historical Region (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Within the early centuries, Islam had brought a vast majority of non-Arab population in its abode from the shorelines of the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Ever since, they have contributed to the fundamental formulations of Islam in various ways. Yet their contributions remain largely unacknowledged, and the scholarship on Islamic law is emblematic of this trend. This project explores the ways in which the Indian Ocean Muslims contributed to the making of Islam and its laws, with a special focus on matriarchal system. It will inquire how the interconnections among them help us understand many crucial facets of Islamic law which otherwise has been understood as inflexible and patriarchal, since so far it has been analyzed exclusively through an Arab lens. How did these peripheral Muslims construct their own versions of Islam, often in conflict and by compromise with the dominant perceptions and narratives, as seen in the matriarchal Islamic system in the Indian Ocean? While the system connected Muslim traders and sailors by hosting them through marriages, it also raised serious questions at the jurisprudential practices evolved in the Middle East through its peculiar practices of property ownership, kinship relations and marital norms. Both the system and the discourse around it show strong inter-Asian and Afro-Asian components, which also have been ignored in the predominant anthropological literature. Connecting all these thematic nodal points, this project aims to conceptualize “the Indian Ocean Islamic law” in the context of transregional genealogies of social and intellectual connections.