Family, Law, and Society: Syriac Christians in the Abbasid Caliphate


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Near Eastern Studies


When non-Muslims in the medieval Middle East began to make frequent use of Muslim judicial institutions, Syriac Christian bishops perceived this as a threat to communal boundaries and their own authority. In response, they developed a tradition of Christian marriage law in order to define a community of lay believers distinct from the Muslim and Jewish neighbors with whom those lay people shared many practices. This project argues that, in seeking to mark Christian communal belonging and religious difference in marital practice, the bishops adopted ethical norms and legal analytic techniques similar to those of their Muslim contemporaries. An endeavor meant to distinguish the rhythms of Christian social life from that of Muslims thus entailed a convergence of Christian and Muslim intellectual traditions.