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Lecture on 16th century Yemen/India Legal Exchange

On Monday, March 25, 2024, at 16:00 (Central European Time), the third lecture in the Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series will take place online (Zoom). The speaker is Mahmood Kooria (Edinburgh University) who will speak on the topic “Indian Problems, Yemeni Solutions? Legal Exchanges in the Sixteenth Century”. The discussant is Roxani Eleni Margariti (Emory University). 


A full description of the event and the registration link for the event can be found here:


The Leiden Yemeni Studies Series, running from January 2024 till June 2025 and sponsored by the Horizon-2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project EMStaD YEMEN, brings together experts on various aspects of Yemen’s history, art and archaeology, politics, economics, sociology, anthropology, and literature, creating an interdisciplinary dialogue about the region. A list of upcoming events is available on the series webpage:

Here is the abstract of the talk:

In the existing literature on Islamic legal history and South or Southeast Asian Islamic traditions, fatwa collections from the “peripheries” of the Muslim world have been largely ignored, despite a considerable presence of such texts in both regions. This paper focuses on two fatwa compilations from sixteenth-century Malabar in southwest India to explore legal exchanges between Indian and Yemeni scholars of the Shāfiʿī school of Islamic law. The collections, titled Ajwibat al-Zabīdiyya li asʾilat al-Kālikutiyya (“Zabīdī Answers to the Questions of Calicut”) and Ajwibat al-ʿajība ʿan al-asʾilat al-gharība (“Wonderous Answers to Rare Questions,”) demonstrate curious patterns within the genre of fatwas. The first collection comprises answers from the same jurist in Zabīd to more than thirty questions he received from Malabar, while the latter consists of questions by a jurist from Malabar to various jurists in South Asia and the Middle East, including Yemen. A connected reading of these two collections, along with some Shāfiʿī fatwa collections from Yemen in the sixteenth century, demonstrates the debates and concerns that traversed thousands of miles between South Asia and South Arabia, and the ways in which Islamic law was remade through continuous conversations between jurists from different linguistic, regional and cultural backgrounds. Addressing juridical questions and answers related to rituals, trade, and agriculture, I argue that the act of posing questions itself was an expression of indigenous religious authority and deeper juridical debates, while the answers reflect an ongoing socio-cultural and economic continuum between the regions facilitated through the Indian Ocean networks of the time.


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