Beyond State and Peasant: The Egalitarian Import of Juristic Revisions of Agrarian and Administrative Contracts in the Early Mamlūk Period

in Islamic Law and Society
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Abstract

In this article I argue that Shāfi'ī and Hanbalī jurists forged an agricultural policy beginning in the early Mamlūk period that aimed at securing the rights of peasants. They did so by introducing radical and systematic changes in the doctrines of their schools, applying the highest categories of legal reasoning (ijtihād). An analysis of Shāfi'ī and Hanbalī legal texts reveals that jurists advanced new interpretations of contracts of sharecropping and iqtā' that systematically promoted the interests of landless peasants over the elite. The legal revisions were predicated on developments in the land assignment/taxation system of the early 8th/14th century. Ultimately, the jurists' strategy exploited state innovations in the interest of advancing social and economic objectives that were independent of any centralized political authority or state institution.

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