All posts by bogacergene2014


BIO: Beshara Doumani is the Director of Middle East Studies and Joukowsky Family Distinguished Professor of Modern Middle East History at Brown University. Doumani’s research focuses on the history of social groups, places, and time periods that have been silenced or erased by conventional scholarship on the early modern and modern Middle East. He helped pioneer the fields of Middle East family history and the social history of the Palestinians. His forthcoming book, The Rightful Beneficiaries: A Social History of Family Life in Ottoman Syria, 1660-1860, questions assumptions about Arab and Muslim families by revealing and then seeking to explain dramatic regional differences in the organization of family life within the same cultural zone. He is also the editor of Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property and Gender. His first book, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900 uses local sources such as family papers and legal records to tell an intimate and textured story of the transformation of Palestinian society during the Ottoman period.


Beshara Doumani is a public intellectual who writes on current events in the Middle East, on the ethics of knowledge production, and on the relationship between culture and politics. He is editor of Academic Freedom After September 11, and recently led a team that produced a strategic plan for the establishment of a Palestinian museum. Doumani comes to Brown after fourteen years at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD from Georgetown University, and was first tenured at the University of Pennsylvania.


ABSTRACT: This paper, a chapter in a book on the social history of family life in the Eastern Mediterranean from 1660s to the 1860s, argues that the family waqf during this period is a sensitive barometer of historically contingent notions of kinship, gender, and property within the larger contexts of Islamic legal traditions and modes of imperial governance. The pervasiveness of its use for “fixing” these notions through the act of endowment, is due to its built-in toolbox of options and preferences that allow individuals to custom-design each waqf, making them highly flexible and expressive legal instruments.   Choices include the timing and purpose of the endowment, the types and extent of properties to endow, who to include or exclude as beneficiaries of the revenues generated by the endowed properties, the particular conditions attached that govern the distribution of revenues, the setting aside of funds for annual enactments of specific pious rituals, the designation of charitable venues following the extinction of the endower’s progeny, and a hierarchy of preferences in terms of who is to administer the waqf.  Taken together, these choices express, among other things, the endower’s vision of what constitutes family, how it should be reproduced, and its proper place in both the material and spiritual worlds.  The family waqf can be fruitfully analyzed, therefore, as a family charter or a mini-constitution that governs not only property relations between kin, but also the moral-disciplinary order of kinship.  Illustrated by case studies, this paper also argues that a mapping of all family waqfs endowed in Tripoli and Nablus reveal striking differences between these two cities.  These differences call into question the existence of a specific Arab, Muslim, Mediterranean, or Syrian family type on which Orientalist, nationalist and Islamist constructions of this region’s past depend so heavily on. Further, the historically contingent diversity and dynamism of family life question the voracity of both Modernization and Focauldian-inspired narratives about the nature of social and cultural transformations supposedly ushered by the ruptures of modernity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They also poses difficult questions about what, exactly, constitutes Islamic cultural, legal, and religious “traditions,” and about how these traditions can be historicized.



BIO:  Brinkley Messick specializes in the anthropology of law, legal history, written culture, and the circulation and interpretation of Islamic law.  He is the author of The Calligraphic State (1993), which was awarded the Albert Hourani Prize of the Middle Eastern Studies Association, and co-editor of Islamic Legal Interpretation (1996). His scholarly articles include “Indexing the Self: Expression and Intent in Islamic Legal Acts,” Islamic Law & Society (2001); “Written Identities: Legal Subjects in an Islamic State,” History of Religions (1998);  “Genealogies of Reading and the Scholarly Cultures of Islam,” in S. Humphreys, ed. Cultures of Scholarship (1997); and “Textual Properties: Writing and Wealth in a Yemeni Shari a Case,” Anthropology Quarterly (1995).

He is at work on a book on the doctrine and court practice of Shari`a law in the pre-revolutionary twentieth-century Islamic state of highland Yemen. He is also interested in a critical review of anthropology’s early disinclination, as a matter of disciplinary identity, to deal with written sources.

He teaches courses on Islamic law; Islam and theory; and Muslim society. In 2009 he received the Outstanding Senior Scholar Award from the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association.



BIO: Will Smiley received his PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge in October 2012. He is currently a third-year JD student at Yale University, and a Graduate Research Associate of the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University. His research focuses on the legal, diplomatic, military, and social history of the Ottoman Empire, with a particular focus on Russo-Ottoman relations and questions of international and Islamic law. His dissertation examined changes in the Ottoman law and practice of captivity and slavery, especially the development of a “prisoner of war” system, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His work has appeared in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, International History Review, Turkish Historical Review, Journal of Ottoman Studies, and Yale Journal of International Law, and has been supported by the Gates Cambridge Trust, the Harvard-Cambridge History Project, the Royal Historical Society, and the Skiliter Centre for Ottoman Studies.


ABSTRACT:  Drawing on a series of fatwas and imperial rescripts from the Hatt-ı Hümayun and Cevdet collections of the central Ottoman archives, this paper examines the relationship between the Ottoman Empire’s chief jurist, the Şeyhülislam, and the political authorities during a fraught moment in Ottoman history. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Ottoman state was faced with internal turmoil from intertwined networks of Christian and sometimes Muslim rebels, bandits, and dissidents throughout the Balkans. The state responded by elaborating and applying the Hanafi law of rebellion to draw lines between those who could and could not be killed and enslaved. These lines, drawn with attention to the Islamic legal tradition, to the gendered economies of Ottoman slavery, and to military necessities, in turn shaped the social and military context. The paper traces how the Şeyhülislam and his fatwas interacted with the political authorities’ policy considerations and with events on the ground, offering a case study of the relationship between juristic and political institutions in pre-modern Islamic governance.


BIO: Guy Burak is the Middle East and Islamic Studies Librarian at Bobst Library, New York University. Before coming to NYU, Burak was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and at the Islamic Legal Studies Program at the Harvard Law School. His publications appear in IJMES, The Mediterranean Historical Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and Journal of Islamic Studies (forthcoming). His forthcoming book (with Cambridge University Press) deals with the rise of the state madhhab in the Ottoman Empire. He is currently working on a monograph on the history of kanun.

ABSTRACT: My paper will trace the Ottoman introduction of kanun to the Arabic-speaking Middle East in the first decades following the Ottoman conquest of the Arab lands in 1516-17. In particular, it will look at the two supplementary discourses that accompanied the conquest: (1) the Ottoman attempt to invent a Mamluk kanun, despite the fact that the concept was alien to the Mamluk political-legal vocabulary, and (2) the denunciation of the Ottoman kanun as yasa by jurists from the Arab lands. By examining these discourses, the paper intends to draw attention to some particular features of the Ottoman (and in fact post-Mongol) dynastic law and to point to the difference between the Ottoman dynastic law and other forms of sultanic legislation, namely siyasa.


BIO: Kristen Stilt is Professor of Law and History at Northwestern University.  She holds a PhD in History from Harvard University and a JD from The University of Texas.  Her first book, Islamic Law in Action: Authority, Discretion, and Everyday Experiences in Mamluk Egypt, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011.  She is currently working on a research project with a Guggenheim Fellowship on the development of constitutional Islam and a second project on the contemporary animal rights movement in the Muslim world.   


ABSTRACT: Egypt’s new constitution includes a provision that commits the state to take measures to prevent cruelty to animals—the first such constitutional provision in the Muslim world.  Animal rights groups in Egypt have been working for more than a decade to enshrine some meaningful protection for animals in Egyptian law, and since the 2011 revolution, and the abrogation of the constitution, they have been seeking a constitutional provision in the hopes that it will subsequently lead to national legislation.  These groups ground their argumentation in both international norms that recognize and protect the interests of animals and a strong animal welfare current in classical Islamic law.  This presentation will discuss how these activists have blended these two sources of authority, including a discussion of how they have gained and used the support of the highest religious authorities in Egypt and the international animal welfare community.


BIO: Born in Israel, Maya Shatzmiller studied Islamic History and Political Science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She received her Doctorate in 1974 from the university of Aix-en-Provence, France, with a dissertation entitled ‘Ibn Khaldun et les intellectuels Mérindes’. After taking a break to raise a family, she was appointed Professor of Islamic History at Western University, Canada in 1985. Between 1990 and 1996 she held fellowships at the Annenberg Research Institute for Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, the Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University, USA. In 2008-2009 she was a research associate at SOAS, University of London, UK and in 2012-2013 visiting scholar at UCLA, USA. She is on the editorial board of the journals Der Islam(Germany), al-Masaq (UK), Oriens (Netherlands),Miscelánea De Estudios Árabes Y Hebraicos(Granada, Spain),  Studia Khaldunica (Tunis), International Scientific Committee of Islamic Law And International Relations (Bihaç),Grupo De Investigación En Arqueología Medieval Y Postmedieval (Barcelona, Spain). Between 1998 and 1999, she was the director of the Center for Nationalism and Ethnicity, and in 2012 founded the Middle East and North Africa Research Group at Western. In 2003 she was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her publications include Her Day in Court: Women’s Property Rights and Islamic Law in Fifteenth Century Granada (Harvard University Press, 2007), Labour in the Medieval Islamic World (E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1994), L’Historiographie mérinide: Ibn Khaldun et ses contemporains (E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1982), and numerous papers. More recently she has been writing on the subject of economic performance and economic growth in the medieval Middle East.


ABSTRACT: The subject of women’s property rights in the Islamic law is one of those topics, which is frequently, and unjustly, used by the uninitiated to bash and thrash ‘Islam’. In reality it was just the opposite: their property rights were the area of the law, which benefitted medieval Muslim women the most, and by extension the Islamic economy and society. I have outlined in previous work (1) what these rights were and how they were implemented. Women’s rights over property were clearly articulated over the entire period of the formation of Islamic law and regulated by a set of instruments and mechanisms through which property and income flowed to women: the reversed dowry (sadāq), inheritance, gifts, wages, profits from sales, and the acquisition of property rights at the termination of minority status.Islamic law invested property rights in girls from birth and as there was no mandatory common property in marriage, property rights remain theirs for the entirety of their lives. The evidence I examined, court documents and fatwas, shows that the courts regularly enforced women’s property rights.


In this paper my intention is to explore the effect of women’s property rights on economic performance in the light of recent new work by others and myself. I focus on two aspects, women’s wage labour and women’s reproductive behaviour, linking women’s property rights to the economic efflorescence of Islamic societies.


Recent work by Pamuk and Shatzmiller (2) has shown that high wages, which persisted for at least 300 years in Iraq and Egypt, raised standard of living there to a level that regularly was twice the subsistence level. I suggest that income generated by women was part of the picture and could be explained by their employment in the new textile and the garment industry. The new manufacturing industries offered women the possibility to engage in extensive wage labour, and contributed to the rise of income of the household as a whole. All calculations of GDP from now on will have to take into account the income generated by women and the role of women’s property rights in the process.


The second issue is related to population size, rise and decline, equally important component of economic performance.  A considerable amount of statistical evidence points to small Muslim families, with the number of children limited to an average of 2- 1,5 children per family and very few polygamous marriages. I suggest that the low fertility rate of Muslims in the medieval period had to do with women’s standard of living and women’s property rights over their reproductive capacity.


Bassim Musallam has argued for the Islamic context, as others have done for Europe, Herlihy for instance, that fertility rates declined sharply after the Black Death, linking birth rate to issues such as pessimism about the future of mankind. While certainly reasonable explanation, recent literature points in another direction (3). In the case of late medieval Europe it was women working in animal husbandry who had to remain unmarried, lowering fertility rates and leading to lower population pressure and higher wages. The evidence on labor shortages and high wages links this model to reproductive behaviour in the Islamic environment as well. Theory (4) suggests that as women make gains in economic terms and their standard of living rises, their fertility declines. In our case, Islamic law accommodated women’s rising standard of living with a set of property rights over the body. These include the right to either consent or refuse the use of birth control by the husband, which gives them control over the rhythm of births, the right to be paid for breast feeding their babies in marriage, which allows them control over timing and sequence of pregnancies, and the right to be paid for the custody and care of young children. Low birth rate was the result.


While property rights are not the only answer to the ills which plague Muslim women’s status today, a great deal could be learned about the quality and vitality of Islamic law from gaging the role they played in the medieval Islamic society and economy. 



1.               Maya Shatzmiller, Her Day in Court: Women’s Property Rights and Islamic Law in Fifteenth Century Granada, Harvard Studies in Islamic Law 4 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2007).

2.               Şevket Pamuk and Maya Shatzmiller, “Plagues, Wages, and Economic Change in the Islamic Middle East, 700-1500,” The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 74, no. 1 (March 2014), pp. 196-229.

3.                Nico Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim Voth, “How the West ‘Invented Fertility Restriction,” American Economic Review, 103 (6): 2227-64.

4.               Oded Galor and David N. Weil, “Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond,” American Economic Review, 90: 806-828, (September 2000).


BIO: Martha Mundy taught anthropology at Yarmouk University, the American University of Beirut, and the London School of Economics and held visiting teaching appointments at UCLA and Lyon 2 Lumière University.  At Yarmouk University she helped to found the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and to publish work produced in the Institute.  At LSE she developed teaching in legal anthropology and published with colleagues edited collections: with Tobias Kelly, Law and Anthropology (2002) and with R. Alain Pottage, Law, Anthropology, and the Constitution of the Social: Making Persons and Things (2004).  Her major publications are Domestic Government (1995) and, with Richard Saumarez Smith, Governing Property, Making the Modern State: Law, administration and production in Ottoman Syria (2007).   Mundy is presently Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Research Associate with the Interfaculty Graduate Environmental Sciences Program at the American University of Beirut


ABSTRACT: If one wishes to move away from the terrifying dyad of modern sovereignty (the people and the law-state), what resources are there in Islamic jurisprudence for another imagination of political life?  The question is not banal for without it one constantly measures and moulds ‘Islamic law’ against the triumphant measure of the modern state – a disastrous criterion for humanity.  Thus, in this paper, I shall examine sympathetically the more classical dyad of custom and fiqh text.  That dyad, one hastens to add, subsumes a triad wherein custom is both the custom of society/ies and the custom of government, each productive of norms to be judged within an Islamic juridical textual tradition.   In the paper, I shall begin with my own initiation into such a conceptual world in North Yemen some forty years ago.  But then in a more (or less) disciplined manner I shall characterize and contrast the treatment of these issues in two texts by arguably the two most distinguished juridical thinkers of the 18-19th and 20-21st centuries respectively: Nashr al-`arf fi-bina’ ba`d al-ahkam `ala ‘l-`urf  of the Hanafi Muhammad Amin Ibn `Abidin (d. 1836) and al-Ijtihad bain asr al-madi wa-afaq al-mustaqbal of the Shi`i marja Muhammad Hussain Fadlallah (d. 2010).  In abstract terms (and in the spirit of Arendt in On Revolution) this conceptual construction of the sources of law is inherently no more constraining of revolutionary law-making than is the dyad, the people and the law-state, at the heart of constructions of modern sovereignty.