The Politics of Islamic Law: Colonial Power, Local Authority, and the Negotiated Muslim State


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Political Science


Islamic law has changed radically in the last 150 years. This project focusses on the dramatic transformation of Islamic law during the British colonial period in three cases—India, Malaya, and Egypt—and its effects in the postcolonial state. It argues that colonial and local elites negotiated the scope, content, and meaning of Islamic law in each case, creating new definitions of Islamic law, family, private/public space, and ethnic, religious, and gender identities. Original research shows that Islamic law is a product of political activity, and that legal norms traveled among colonial sites, limiting Islamic law to a narrow scope of private “religious” law, and defining contemporary possibilities for change. This dissertation offers an analysis of Islamic law as local, political, and richly varied.