Take Me to Khiva: Sharīʿa as Governance in the Oasis of Khorezm (19th–Early 20th Centuries)

in Islamic Law and Society
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It is commonly held that the settlement of disputes in Muslim-majority areas depended on “judges” and “arbitrators” who settled disputes independently or facilitated reconciliation by means of mediation, either judicial or extra-judicial. In the resulting narrative, the state occupies only a marginal place, at best. In this essay, we contend that this narrative creates an artificial opposition between the Islamic state and sharīʿa, an opposition predicated on the reified notion of Islamic law as the exclusive preserve of Muslim legists (ʿulamāʾ), that is, a self-contained jurisprudence inaccessible to the uninitiated and to state officials. Materials from modern Khorezm call into question the application of this binary interpretive model and shed light on an Islamic juridical field in which Muslims brought their affairs to state officials because they had the power to coerce parties to achieve a settlement and enforce a decision, either formal or informal.

Take Me to Khiva: Sharīʿa as Governance in the Oasis of Khorezm (19th–Early 20th Centuries)

in Islamic Law and Society




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 Kosbergenov“Polozhenie karakalpakskogo naseleniia” 225–7.


 On this view see Fernanda PirieThe Anthropology of Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press2013) 97–103.


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 Seymour BeckerRussia’s Protectorates in Central Asia: Bukhara and Khiva 1865–1924 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press1968) 13–20. Khivan raids into the Kazah steppe prompted a Russian military expedition against the Khivan Khanate in the winter of 1839 under the command of General Perovski. The expedition failed miserably; Alexander Morrison “Twin Imperial Disasters. The Invasions of Khiva and Afghanistan in the Russian and British Official Mind” Modern Asian Studies 48.1 (2014) 253–300. The formation of a discourse on the abolition of the Central Asian slave trade was instrumental in building a consensus in Russia against the Khanate of Khiva. See Aleksandr Matveev “Perceptions of Central Asia by Russian Society: The Conquest of Khiva as Represented by Russian Periodicals” in Looking at the Coloniser: Cross-Cultural Perceptions in Central Asia and the Caucasus Bengal and Related Areas ed. B. Eschment and H. Herder (Würzburg: Ergon 2004) 290.


 Akifumi Shioya“Who Should Manage the Water of the Amu-Darya? Controversy over Irrigation Concessions between Russia and Khiva, 1913–1914,” in Explorations in the Social History of Modern Central Asia (19th–20th Centuries)ed. P. Sartori (Leiden: Brill2013) 111–36.


 Kristin Mann and Richard Roberts“Slave Voices in African Colonial Courts: Sources and Methods,” in African Voices of Slavery and the Slave Trade vol. 2: Essays on Sources and Methodsed. A. Bellagamba S.E. Green M.A. Klein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2016) 134


 LewisDivided Rule8.


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 NielsenSecular Justice in an Islamic State9. The maẓālim courts did not only operate as a court of second instance for cases of judicial misconduct. See now Christian Müller “Maẓālim Jurisdictions at the Umayyad Court of Córdoba (Eighth-Eleventh Centuries CE)” in Court Cultures in the Muslim World: Seventh to Nineteenth Centuries ed. A. Fuess and J.-P. Hartung (London and New York: Routledge 2011) 93–104.


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 Seid-Mukhamed-Rakhim“Khivinskii khan, i ego priblizhennye,” Turkestanskii Sbornik 42 (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia Ministerstva Putei Soobshcheniia 1872) 120.


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 Sergei N. Abašin“Qalïm und mahr in Mittelasien: Die moderne Praxis und die Debatten über Scharia und Adat,” in Rechtspluralismus in der Islamischen Welt: Gewohnheitsrecht zwischen Staat und Gesellschafted. Michael Kemper and Maurus Reinkowski (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter2005) 195–207.


 Yuri BregelAn Historical Atlas of Central Asia (Leiden and Boston: Brill2003) 67 map 33. On the Amu Darya and its waters breaching into the Lavzan in the nineteenth century see Guliamov Istoriia orosheniia:218 292;AkifumiShioya “Irrigation Policy of the Khanate of Khiva regarding the Lawzan Canal. 1. 1830–1873” Area Studies Tsukuba 32 (2011) 116.


 Esaul Lobasevych“Pokazaniia russkikh plennykh, byvshikh v Khive, dannoe 16 iunia Orenburgskomu general-gubernatoru (v 1869–1870),” in Turkestanskii Sbornikvol. 42 (St. Petersburg 1871) 88.


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    A governor’s report to the yasāwulbāshī about the settlement of a dispute, TsGARUz, f. I–125, op. 1, d. 498, l. 94. Courtesy of the Central State Archive of Uzbekistan.

  • View in gallery
    Yasāwulbāshī’s instructions (fatak) to Jumʿa Qulī Yasāwul, TsGARUz, I–125, op. 2, d. 633, l. 53. Courtesy of the Central State Archive of Uzbekistan.

  • View in gallery
    The attendant informs the yasāwulbāshī about the resolution of the conflict, TsGARUz, I–125, op. 2, d. 633, l. 53 ob. Courtesy of the Central State Archive of Uzbekistan.

  • View in gallery
    Muḥammad Yaʿqūb Bāy b. Jabbār Qulī Maḥram’s report to the yasāwulbāshī about the outcome of a dispute heard by qāḍīs in Manāq, TsGARUz, f. I–125, op. 1, d. 498, l. 44. Courtesy of the Central State Archive of Uzbekistan.


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