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Lecture | Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series

Indian Problems, Yemeni Solutions? Legal Exchanges in the Sixteenth Century

Monday 25 March 2024
Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series
Online via Zoom

In the existing literature on Islamic legal history and South or Southeast Asian Islamic traditions, fatwa collections from the “peripheries” of the Muslim world have been largely ignored, despite a considerable presence of such texts in both regions. This paper focuses on two fatwa compilations from sixteenth-century Malabar in southwest India to explore legal exchanges between Indian and Yemeni scholars of the Shāfiʿī school of Islamic law. The collections, titled Ajwibat al-Zabīdiyya li asʾilat al-Kālikutiyya (“Zabīdī Answers to the Questions of Calicut”) and Ajwibat al-ʿajība ʿan al-asʾilat al-gharība (“Wonderous Answers to Rare Questions,”) demonstrate curious patterns within the genre of fatwas. The first collection comprises answers from the same jurist in Zabīd to more than thirty questions he received from Malabar, while the latter consists of questions by a jurist from Malabar to various jurists in South Asia and the Middle East, including Yemen. A connected reading of these two collections, along with some Shāfiʿī fatwa collections from Yemen in the sixteenth century, demonstrates the debates and concerns that traversed thousands of miles between South Asia and South Arabia, and the ways in which Islamic law was remade through continuous conversations between jurists from different linguistic, regional and cultural backgrounds. Addressing juridical questions and answers related to rituals, trade, and agriculture, I argue that the act of posing questions itself was an expression of indigenous religious authority and deeper juridical debates, while the answers reflect an ongoing socio-cultural and economic continuum between the regions facilitated through the Indian Ocean networks of the time.

Mahmood Kooriadathodi

Mahmood Kooriadathodi teaches at the Department of History, University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and holds research positions at Leiden University (the Netherlands) and the University of Bergen (Norway). Earlier, he was a Visiting Professor of History at the National Islamic University in Jakarta (Indonesia), Visiting Assistant Professor at Ashoka University (India) and a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL), and the Dutch Institute in Morocco (NIMAR). His research specializations are the premodern Indian Ocean world, Afro-Asian connections, matrilineal Muslims, and Islamic legal history. He has authored Islamic Law in Circulation: Shafi`i Texts across the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean (Cambridge University Press, 2022), and co-edited Malabar in the Indian Ocean World: Cosmopolitanism in a Maritime Historical Region (Oxford University Press, 2018) and Islamic Law in the Indian Ocean: Texts, Ideas, and Practices (Routledge, 2021).

The Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series is supported by the Horizon-2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project EMStaD YEMEN.

An overview of all events in this series can be found on the series page.

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