Islamic Law on Peasant Usufruct in Ottoman Syria

17th to early 19th Century

Author: Sabrina Joseph
Drawing on Hanafi fatawa and legal commentaries from Ottoman Syria between the 17th and early 19th centuries, this book examines the legal status of tenants and sharecroppers on arable lands, most of which were state or waqf properties. Challenging existing scholarship which argues that the status of cultivators gradually eroded after the 16th century, this study explores how jurists balanced the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords, thereby ensuring the adaptability of the Ottoman land system. The work addresses the differences between sharecropping and tenancy arrangements, the limitations that governed state and waqf officials, and the interplay between shariʿa and qanun in shaping land laws. The book also illustrates the doctrinal development of the law and sheds light on notions of 'ownership’, ideas of private vs. public good, and prevailing conceptions of social and economic justice.

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Sabrina Joseph, Ph.D. (2005) in History, Georgetown University, is Associate Professor of International Studies and Co-Chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Zayed University, Dubai, UAE. She has published on tenant land rights in Ottoman Syria and early modern France and on the application of law vis à vis Christians in the shariʿa courts of Ottoman Greece in journals including: Rural History: Economy, Society, Culture and Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.
"The book is an important contribution to the study of the Ottoman reality. [...] ... a mind stimulating book which opens new fields of research in our attempt to comprehend the puzzling Ottoman world." - Demetrios Papastamatiou, in: Journal of Oriental and African Studies 22 (2013), 375-380
All those interested in Islamic law, Ottoman history, and the history of the Middle East and/or Arab world.