Translating Capitalism: How Muslim Jurists and Bankers Invented Shari'a Compliant Finance


ACLS Fellowship Program




"Translating Capitalism" explores the remarkable transformation of Islamic law in the age of financial capitalism. In the past three decades, extensions of global finance in Muslim societies have led to a thriving $3 trillion Islamic banking industry. The book links this rapid financialization to the creation of “Sharī‘a Compliance,” a new legal code that tailors Islamic law to meet the needs of modern finance. It examines how Sharī‘a Compliance was crafted from Islamic law by the Deobandīs, the most influential orthodox Sunnī-Muslim community in modern South Asia. Relying on archival and ethnographic fieldwork inside Pakistan’s madrasas and Islamic banks, "Translating Capitalism" documents how the Deobandīs refashioned Islamic law into an instrument of financial governance. In doing so, it shows how a clerical community seeking to dismantle Muslims’ material and cultural imprisonment in capitalism ended up entrenching it through Islamic law. Challenging symbolic readings that reduce the resurgence of religion in a secular age to identity politics, "Translating Capitalism" provides a fine-grained analysis of Islamic improvisation grounded in texts and ethnography. The book provincializes Eurocentric narratives of “divergence” between Islam and capitalism by illuminating a world of expertise in which religion, law, and finance are deeply entangled.