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Malissa Taylor

Abstract

Focusing on the province of Damascus, this study shows that individuals of the ʿaskarī class were obligated to pay village taxes in proportion to the amount of property they owned, and that it was the village cultivators who had the primary authority for individuating and collecting these taxes. Providing a detailed picture of the relations between the ʿaskarī class and peasant communities before the rise of the a’yān in the eighteenth century, the study explores how peasants sought to enforce their decisions on these powerful individuals and to what extent they were successful in doing so.

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Mahmood Kooria

Abstract

Ponnāni was a port in southwestern India that resisted the Portuguese incursions in the sixteenth century through the active involvement of religious, mercantile and military elites. In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Ponnāni was the only place where the Dutch East India Company had commercial access into the kingdom of the Zamorins of Calicut. When the Dutch gained prominence in the coastal belt, this port town became the main centre for their commercial, diplomatic, and political transactions. But as a religious centre it began to recede into oblivion in the larger Indian Ocean and Islamic scholarly networks. The present article examines this dual process and suggests important reasons for the transformations. It argues that the port town became crucial for diplomatic and economic interests of the Dutch East India Company and the Zamorins, whereas its Muslim population became more parochial as they engaged with themselves than with the larger socio-political and scholarly networks.

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Paolo Sartori and Bakhtiyar Babajanov

Abstract

How far, if at all, did the intellectual legacy of early 20th-century Muslim reformism inform the transformative process which Islam underwent in Soviet Central Asia, especially after WWII? Little has been done so far to analyze the output of Muslim scholars (ʿulamāʾ) operating under Soviet rule from the perspective of earlier Islamic intellectual traditions. The present essay addresses this problem and sheds light on manifestations of continuity among Islamic intellectual practices—mostly puritanical—from the period immediately before the October Revolution to the 1950s. Such a continuity, we argue, profoundly informed the activity of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan (SADUM) established in Tashkent in 1943 and, more specifically, the latter’s attack against manifestations of religiosity deemed “popular,” which were connected to the cult of saints. Thus, this essay posits that the juristic output of Soviet ʻulamā’ in Central Asia originates from and further develops an Islamic reformist thinking, which manifested itself in the region in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. By establishing such an intellectual genealogy, we seek in this article to revise a historiographical narrative which has hitherto tended to decouple scripturalist sensibilities from Islamic reformism and modernism.

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Michael Morony

Abstract

The present article shows that, according to archaeological and literary evidence, an expansion in mining occurred in the early Islamic world as a result of changes in mining technology at the end of Late Antiquity. The production of gold, silver, copper, iron, and other minerals is shown to have peaked in the eighth and ninth centuries and then to have declined during the tenth and eleventh centuries due to insecurity and/or exhaustion of the mines. Mining development was financed privately, and mines were usually private property.

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Educated with Distinction

Educational Decisions and Girls’ Schooling in Late Ottoman Syria

Christian Sassmannshausen

Abstract

Beginning in the 1850s, the Ottoman Empire’s educational landscape expanded and diversified. During this era of imperial reforms, discourses around education increasingly focused on the importance of female education. This article uses census material from Tripoli in today’s Lebanon to explore the experiences of students in the wake of these shifts. It examines literacy rates across different social and religious groups and the extent to which educational decisions parents made were biased by gender and class. The analysis reveals that the rate of Muslim boys’ literacy was high even before new schools opened starting in the 1850s. As for the post-reform developments, it shows that although around a quarter of propertied families decided to send their sons and daughters to school, a considerable proportion of Muslim and Christian families privileged sons alone. Still, reforms allowed a number of groups in the generations between 1860 and 1910 to achieve higher rates of literacy, including Muslim and Christian girls as well as the children of artisans.

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Chris Wickham

Abstract

Egyptian land tenure in the Fāṭimid period (969-1171) is often assumed to have been based on state ownership of agricultural land and tax-farming, as was in general the case in the Mamlūk period which followed it, and as many Islamic legal theorists rather schematically thought. This article aims to show that this was not the case; Arabic paper and parchment documents show that private landowning was normal in Egypt into the late eleventh century and later. Egypt emerges as more similar to other Mediterranean regions than is sometimes thought. The article discusses the evidence for this, and the evidence for what changed after 1100 or so, and, more tentatively, why it changed.

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Series:

Jennifer Andruska

For some time scholars have debated whether the Song of Songs has connections to the wisdom genre and how this changes our understanding of it. In Wise and Foolish Love in the Song of Songs, Jennifer Andruska shows that the influence of the wisdom genre on the Song is pervasive, running throughout the book, and offers an entirely new understanding of the book’s wisdom message. She demonstrates that the Song has combined elements of the ancient Near Eastern love song and wisdom genres to produce a wisdom literature about romantic love, inspiring readers to pursue a particular type of love relationship, modelled by the lovers throughout the poem, and aiming to transform them, through character formation, into wise lovers themselves.
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Debjani Bhattacharyya

Abstract

The movement of the Hughli River in 1804-5 resulted in the deposition of alluvion along Calcutta’s river banks which unfolded as an ownership crisis for the East India Company. The Company responded by developing new legal categories and administrative language to manage these newly formed lands and thereby fashioning itself as a public agent of Calcutta’s land and landed property. Focusing on specific legal aspects of colonial hydrology that arose in the making of property in these amphibious spaces, the article argues that the soaking ecology of Bengal became a site for productive law-making by creating open-ended possibilities for taking land. It demonstrates how the Company used this new land formation to gradually institute a legal architecture regulating alluvion and dereliction and subsequently subjecting these soaking ecologies to an intricate documentary regime with the aim of disciplining the existing landed property relations in Calcutta. Documenting the haphazard extension and enactment of these new legal doctrines in a mobile landscape illuminates a particular history of the colonial regime of property and the Company-State’s early articulations of a particular type of quasi-eminent domain as a manner of taking land. Pushing a new direction in legal geography, the piece shows how the legal arena became a productive site for geographical knowledge production and legal experimentation in the colony.

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Upal Chakrabarti

Abstract

This essay considers—as an integrated space of discursive practices—disputes over proprietary titles in an obscure locality, debates over the authentic “Indian” proprietary form in British India, and a conceptual recasting of political-economic categories in Britain, over the first half of the nineteenth century. It argues that “property” was produced by this space as a marker of political power/sovereignty, its “indigenous/Indian” form being construed as a field of dispersed, contested, and plural rights. Positing this conceptualization of property as immanent in governance and political economy, this essay questions the dominant historiographic consensus that indigenous social forces aborted all attempts of the Company’s government to introduce a coherent property regime.

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Faisal Chaudhry

Abstract

This article sets out a framework for understanding two key issues in the history of early modern and modern South Asia. First, it addresses the vexed question of the generalizability of the “Western” concept of property to Indo-Islamicate land systems. Rather than beginning from the idea of ‘Islamic property law/relations’ it proposes that we reconstruct concepts relating to the control of the earth’s material substrate in terms of four modes of idiomizing land in the Islamicate tradition. In light of how the latter reconstruction suggests that (Indo-)Islamicate modes of idiomization focused on the produce of land more than land itself, the article then turns to a second issue. This concerns the similarities and differences between the deontic cultures of rights and responsibilities that characterized early modern polities (both in Mughal India and England) and nineteenth-century ones (like metropolitan Britain’s and that emerging from the East India Company’s so-called rule of property in the subcontinent).