Cosmopolis of law: Islamic legal ideas and texts across the Indian Ocean and Eastern Mediterranean Worlds


Mahmood Kooriadathodi

PhD defended at: 

Leiden University


In this dissertation, I explore the circulation of Islamic legal texts and ideas between the Indian Ocean and Eastern Mediterranean worlds, which shared a “cosmopolis of law”. In the study, I primarily focus on the internal and external dynamics of legal textual circulation, its respective impacts on the intellectual trajectories of the Muslim communities over time and place, and the evident textual traditions developed in the Islamic world. I focus mainly on such Shāfiʿīte manuals like Minhāj of al-Nawawī (1233–1277), Tuḥfat al-Muḥtāj of Ibn Hajar (d. 1566) and Fatḥ al-Muʿīn of al-Malaybārī (d. 1583?). I ask how these interconnected texts help us a) understand the dis-continuity within the Shāfiʿī school, 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 school’s spread across the Indian Ocean and eastern Mediterranean worlds. I also ask how a particular school emerged into a standard form of legal practices in South and Southeast Asian and East African coasts. In the context of scholarly-mercantile connections at such nodal points as Damascus, Cairo, Mecca, Ḥaḍramawt, Zanzibar, Malabar and Java, I read this textual corpus in order to understand the shared trajectories of Islamic law across maritime Asia and Africa.