Mahmood Kooria

PhD candidate at Leiden University. Research project: Ocean of Law: Circulation of Islamic legal texts and ideas across the Indian Ocean World. Supervisors: Prof. dr. Jos Gommans and Prof. dr. L.P.H.M. Buskens.

Ocean of Law: Circulation of Islamic legal texts and ideas across the Indian Ocean World


My doctoral dissertation is on the movement of Islamic legal texts and ideas between the Middle East, South-, and Southeast-Asia. Along with the merchants who travelled in between the Middle East and the Far East, the scholars and missionaries also moved with books and ideas, contributing to the growth of a network of Islamic texts. There has been a huge increase in the study of Islam’s law since the second half of the last century. In this background, my study would primarily focus on the questions about the movement of legal texts, its respective impacts over the intellectual trajectories of the Muslim communities over centuries, and the evident textual traditions developed in the Islamic world through textual progenies for which the oceanic scape functioned as an highway of intellectual interactions and scholarly networks. In the emerging academic interests over maritime histories, I too lay my research since this is a study of transoceanic movement of ideas. I focus mainly on such Shāfiʿīte manuals, commentaries, and abridgments like Minhāj al-Talibīn of Yahya bin Sharaf al-Nawawī (1233–1277), Tuḥfat al-Muḥtāj of Ibn Hajar al-Haytamī (d. 1566) and Fatḥ al-Muʿīn of Zayn al-Dīn al-Malaybārī (d. 1583?). I ask how these interconnected texts with a long tradition helps us a) understand the continuity and discontinuity within the Shāfiʿī school since the thirteenth century, b) answer why certain textual genealogies became more significant in the traditional legalist synthesis of texts and practices of both everyday religious lives of laypersons and legal engagements of fuqahā, and c) analyze the Shāfiʿī school’s spread across the Indian Ocean and eastern Mediterranean worlds. I also ask how a particular school of Islamic law emerged into a standard form of legal practices in South and Southeast Asian coastal townships in pre-modern times itself and how it developed into a full-fledged legal culture in those regions where Muslims were remarkably active in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. We should keep in mind that most scholars who dealt with the Islam or Muslims in the Indian Ocean world have made only passive references to the spread and existence of Shāfiʿīsm. In the context of scholarly-mercantile connections at such nodal points as Damascus, Alexandria, Cairo, Aden, Ḥaḍramawt, Malabar, Aceh and Java, I would try to read this textual corpus.


Last Modified: 16-04-2015